Umbra Fisk

Ask Umbra®

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 weather-stripping

Dear Umbra, With rising heating costs on the horizon, we’re looking to install a storm door, seal gaps, etc., around the house to prevent air leaks and increase efficiency before old man winter arrives. What are some good resources (how-to’s, …


Umbra on eating locally in winter

Dear Umbra, I live in New Hampshire, and I am getting ready for the long, cold winter. I try to eat locally, but with no year-round growing season here and such a dense population, most of the food comes from …


Umbra on environmental busybodies

Dear Umbra, A friend recently said I should “walk the talk” by replacing my synthetic clothes (purchased before I saw the environmental light, as it were) with new things made entirely of organically grown fibers. I thought about this, and …


Umbra on travel mugs

Dear Umbra, I am putting together a fundraiser for the Environmental Law Association at the George Washington University Law School, whereby I intend to sell coffee mugs. If you saw all the paper cups that get thrown away at my …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on inefficient windows

Dear Umbra, I am lucky enough to have a home I really love and food to feed my family and my pets. However, the home has one major energy flaw: it is older and has huge, single-pane window/walls with aluminum …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on window manufacturers

Dear Umbra, We are looking into replacing some of our windows. Any thoughts on which companies are more environmentally friendly, not just in the energy-efficiency of their windows, but in the manufacturing process (Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, recycling materials, etc.)? …


Umbra on dripless candles

Dear Umbra, My family is a big fan of dripless candles. They’re beautiful and don’t provide piles of wax that tempt fingers into creating little messes. Can you tell us how these candles work and if they are environmentally “safe”? …


Umbra on Halloween

Dear Umbra, What do you recommend handing out to the trick-or-treaters this Halloween? I would like to avoid the wasteful packaging and additives found in store-bought goodies. I’d bake my own treats, but I doubt parents would let their kids …


Umbra on PVC substitutes

Dear Umbra, I know to avoid PVC, but it’s difficult to know all the places it lurks. Is all vinyl PVC, or are there PVC-free vinyls? What options are there for waterproof but PVC-free materials (I have children who wet …