American pots and pans
Lodge Cast Iron Cookware is made in Tennessee, lasts forever, cooks food at high temperatures extremely well without burning and, oh yes, it does not need to be washed. Just tidy it up a bit before storing. The company is also making adjustments to lessen its impact on the environment.
Glass baking-ware manufacturer Anchor Hocking of Lancaster, Ohio, has been made in the U.S.A. since 1905. Its microwave-safe measuring cups, indispensable baking dishes, bread pans and casseroles are the backbone of any kitchen. Glass is green - natural and recyclable. Anchor Hocking is dedicated to reducing its packaging, too (but hey, it is glass, after all).
Every family has at least one member who owns a Nesco roaster that can be pressed into service for Thanksgiving dinner, graduation parties and reunions. Nesco, originally a Milwaukee company, is still operating in Two Rivers, Wis., along with the brands American Harvest and Open Country Camp Cookware. While you're greening your kitchen, think about Nesco's pressure cooker - reduces cooking times up to 70%. Its American Harvest-brand food dehydrator offers another way besides canning to preserve the bounty from your garden. And the Nesco roaster is still available in a number of different sizes.
The Brazilian cookware company Tramontina bought the former Mirro factory in Manitowoc, Wis., in 2005, forming Tramontina USA. The company makes a line of good pots and pans similar to All-Clad.
Shopping bags and zipper pouches from BlueQ are made from 95% recycled woven polypropylene. The zipper pouch is large enough to hold shampoo, makeup and other flotsam for a trip or a sleepover, while the shopping bag can double as an overnight bag or catchall. Pop Deluxe also carries Jenny Wren's reusable cloth gift wrap, based on the Japanese practice of furoshiki, wrapping up gifts - or even groceries - in squares of reusable fabric.
Use them or lose them
After the big "25 random things" meme invaded Facebook this spring, the "Get rid of 50 things" anti-clutter meme is now sweeping households nationwide. Remember not just to pitch what can be re-used by someone else. The City of Madison's Madison Stuff Exchange allows you to give worthy items away or swap with other like-minded de-clutterers. Friends of the Madison Public Library accepts gently used books, magazines, DVDs and CDs; proceeds fund library programs. The Jail Library Group (JailLibraryGroup@gmail.com) also accepts books and magazines for inmates. Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and Easter Seals accept donations of just about everything - although that pre-Windows computer you still have in the basement is a notable exception. Make sure you wipe your data off the hard drive and don't leave it at the curb for trash collection. Madison requires you to bring computers (and TVs) to one of its two drop-off sites (4602 Sycamore Ave. or 1501 W. Badger Rd.; $10 fee), or utilize services like File 13 (608-848-0013, pickup available, 35 cents a pound). The Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts larger home objects like sinks, cupboards, doors, windows and light fixtures (call 608-661-2813 to see if they need what you have).
Jolt of joe
If you love espresso, but the deluxe DeLonghi makers strike you as an electric appliance you don't need on your kitchen counter, and the simple metal stovetop version befuddles you, the Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker is ready to enter your life. It's made by Aerobie, a company that otherwise makes flying discs, footballs with fins and toys for dogs like the Squidgie Ball. If that doesn't convince you, know that it was invented by engineer Alan Adler, who discovered that water temperature, brief immersion times and thorough filtering were the essential elements at play with excellent coffee brewing. The Aeropress is something like a French press, only it uses a (paper) microfilter, and the grounds are pressed at the bottom, not the top, of the maker. The result is a non-bitter, grit-free espresso. You don't need a barista degree in tamping, either. Other reasons to be impressed: The Aeropress is manufactured in California. And the espresso takes just 30 seconds to make. You'll have time left in the morning to throw the Squidgie Ball for Rover. (Orange Tree Imports, $30.)