Dear Umbra,

I am getting married and would like to register for some socially and environmentally responsible household and kitchen items: pots, pans, etc. I found plenty of resources on organic cotton and hemp, but other than that I have come up with nothing!

Paige Doughty
Cambridge, Mass.

Dearest Paige,

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This is a potential stumper. First we would have to figure out every possible thing that might be wrong with the pots and pans in our lives, not to mention blenders and teaspoons. Then we would have to figure out if anyone has made better ones, then find a registry selling these items. There is apparently a market for green brides such as yourself — check out Organic Weddings, which has links to a couple of registries that might help get you started — but I’m going to go at household goods from another angle: durability.

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They love their cast iron!

Photo: iStockphoto.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you assemble your durable dowry. No vinyl, people, that’s final! Recycled materials are better than virgin materials, with your best hope for pans being recycled aluminum. (Reused wares are the best, but hardly feasible for a registry.) And don’t go for Teflon, an excellent example of a non-ecological pan. I’ve received oodles of letters about Teflon lately, and I’ll tell you right now: I hate Teflon, and you should scorn it too. It is not durable. It always starts to crack and peel, and then instead of a 35-year pan you have a solid-waste problem.

If you’d like a few lovely nonstick pans, I highly recommend cast iron, which rocks out if well maintained. For the rest of your registry, research the best, strongest goods. Some of it might be simple: a glass carafe is better than a plastic carafe. Real wood lasts longer than particle board. Bamboo is, in general, better than non-certified wood. I don’t know exactly what else you want in swag, but perhaps there are some items that could be made by local or micro-enterprising global artisans. And keep an eye out for alternate versions of electric appliances: I’ve seen hand-crank blenders, juicers, and coffee grinders in my hunt through the www on your behalf. Or you could hire a WWE wrestler to juice your carrots!

Mainstream kitchen gadgets are rated by Consumer Reports (you have to pay for online access, but your library will have back issues), and I also like Consumer Search, although they have fewer categories. Cook’s Illustrated is another good resource (again, back issues or subscribe online). The mag is twee, but they often endorse inexpensive items.

My job would not be complete without encouraging two anti-registry actions. One is, be sure you actually need all the items for which you register. Watch out for the shopping vortex, which can suck you into an insane world where each Thneed seems vital to existence. Two is, think about offering your guests an option to donate to a cause in your name. Any cause will do — all roads lead to the environment.