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 offsetting emissions from flatulence

Dear Umbra, I was wondering if there is any information about the average CO2 emissions from human flatulence. My friend (and I really do mean my friend, I’m not just trying to hide that it’s …

Umbra on garden hoses

Dear Umbra, I’m diligently avoiding PVC plastics, but cannot find a good quality non-PVC garden hose. We have particularly high water pressure, so we need a hose that can withstand the pressure. I only need …

Umbra on taking the next step

Dear Umbra, I’ve noticed that often you tell people “don’t sweat the small stuff” and suggest they focus on the major issues (transportation, housing, etc.). What about those of us who already do that, and …

Umbra on personal actions that make a real difference

Dear Umbra, What are some everyday things I could do to protect the environment? Like choosing plastic or paper, that kind of thing. DominickSpokane, Wash. Dearest Dominick, Your good question has a surprising answer, and …

Umbra on biodiesel vs. straight veggie oil

Dear Umbra, I have the opportunity to convert a 1979 non-turbo Mercedes into a non-diesel. The question I have is: to which should I switch, biodiesel or vegetable oil? I can’t seem to find out …

Umbra on true hybrids

Dear Umbra, I read the New York Times article that reported auto manufacturers are using hybrid technology to boost power rather than improve mileage. It specifically mentioned the Honda Accord, claiming that the mileage difference …

Umbra on baking soda

Dear Umbra, I liked your column about homemade cleaning products. I have a question, though: What’s up with baking soda? It’s frequently bandied about as an eco-friendly cleaner, but I have no idea what it …

Umbra on computer recycling

Dear Umbra, Do you have any suggestions for locating a computer-recycling service in the Piedmont area of North Carolina? Janet Fortune Dearest Janet, Frankly, I couldn’t even have located the Piedmont area of North Carolina …

Umbra on oil subsidies

Dear Umbra, Grist keeps mentioning that the U.S. government gives large subsidies to oil companies, but doesn’t go further into what these subsidies are. I can’t make a good argument against the government’s subsidizing Big …