Umbra Fisk

Ask Umbra®

Advice for Living Green

Yours is to wonder why, hers is to answer (or try). Send your green-living questions to Umbra.

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Umbra Fisk is Grist Research Associate II, Hardcover and Periodicals Unit, floors 2B-4B.


Umbra on electric cars

Dearest Umbra, Why are electric cars considered so great? They don’t pollute the air where they are driven. But certainly when they are plugged in they use energy from a power plant, which does pollute and also contributes to global …


Umbra on washing your car

Dear Umbra, What can I do about washing my car in a more eco-friendly way? Is phosphate-free soap enough, or should I just suck it up and go to the drive-through car wash every time? Katie North Carolina Dearest Katie, …


Umbra on dropping out of society

Dear Umbra, Although I have always been one to conserve, recycle, etc., it is only in the last year that I have realized the extent of the catastrophe coming upon us in terms of climate change. I am 40-something, live …


Umbra on carpooling to a reunion

Dear Umbra, You have told us, in no uncertain terms, that traveling by train is better ecologically than traveling by car. Several members of my family plan to carpool to an upcoming family reunion 600 miles away. I have considered …


Umbra on eco-friendly tents

Hi Umbra, When I posted this question locally, I started a brouhaha about owning a car. Hopefully you can answer more succinctly — any suggestions for a tent made out of reasonably friendly materials? Alex BernardinSan Francisco, Calif. Dearest Alex, …

Umbra on running and pollutants

Dear Umbra, I am a runner, and in the summertime it is difficult for me to run during the day because of the heat. Unfortunately, it’s a no-no for me to run in green spaces late at night because they …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on writing to reps about climate change

Dear Umbra, I want to send a letter to my local representatives about global warming and how our whole city and state should take part in stopping it, but I don’t know what to say or how to approach this. …


Umbra on car trade-ins

Dear Umbra, I’m the not-so-proud owner of an 18-year-old Honda Civic — great car in that it gets 39 mpg, has a decent amount of zip, and generally runs well. However, it needs some mechanical work, the paint and some …


Umbra on fridge-freezer efficiency

Dear Umbra, Are there any environmental advantages to the refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom and the fridge on the top? Annette Indianapolis, Ind. Dearest Annette, There are three fridge/freezer configurations: side by side, bottom freezer, and top freezer. …