Q. I was recently in the pots and pans section at Target and came across Greenpan, a supposedly eco-friendly nonstick pan. Is this for real, or just more eco hype? – Emily, New York
A. With so much green washing going on these days, we can’t blame you for being a little skeptical. Actually though, Greenpan’s eco-claims do seem legit. One of the reasons Greenpan is green is that it’s products are 100 percent PFOA- and PTFE-free. Traditional non-stick pans like Dupont’s Teflon-based nonstick cookware use PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which is a synthetic chemical that’s used to manufacture PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). PFOA is infamous for its ability to kill birds when its fumes are released into the air, according to research by the Environmental Working Group. It’s also has the potential to be a health concern, according to the American Cancer Society. This is part of the reason why Dupont announced its plans to phase out PFOAs in its cookware.
Greenpan also claims (and this checks out, too, as far as we can tell) that production of Thermolon-coated cookware releases 60 percent fewer greenhouse gases than does production of traditional PTFE-based non-stick technology. That’s because it cures more quickly, and at lower temperatures.
There are a few caveats. Through a copywriting error on the Thermolon site, there was a myth about one of the ingredients in the ceramic non-stick coating. The pans' ingredients include silicon — not silicone. The former is a naturally occurring chemical element, according to LiveScience, and it has many electrical and industrial uses. One of the more relevant concerns about this type of pan is the amount of heat it can handle. A recent review by CenturyLife.org addresses the heat issue as well as the habit of chipping. (Also, Thermolon’s non-stick formulation is not the product of nanotechnology, as this story said at one point. It turns out that one of the company’s copy writers slipped in that description because it “sounded high-tech,” not because it was true.)
If you have doubts, go with more tried and true options like glass or cast iron cookware. The most important detail to remember (environmentally speaking) is that if you don’t need cookware, don’t buy it just because some new product has come out. After all, using what you’ve got is usually the most eco-way to go.
Story by Jessica A. Knoblauch. This article originally appeared in Plenty in September 2008 and now resides on MNN. Copyright Environ Press 2008