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.

For even more green goodness, you can follow Umbra on Twitter (@AskUmbra) or become a fan on Facebook.

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


Umbra on phosphates in detergents

Dear Umbra, Why haven’t phosphates been removed from dishwashing detergents like they have been from laundry detergents? I know they make your clothing look brighter, but what do they do for dishes? Natalie Waddell-Rutter North East, Pa. Dearest Natalie, Phosphates …


Umbra on LEDs

Dear Umbra, Where are the LED replacement bulbs for normal household incandescents? They’re supposed to be more efficient, cheaper, cooler, longer-lasting, and less toxic, right? So why aren’t there any LED bulbs similar to CFLs? I’ve been looking around but …

Umbra on oil drilling and seismic activity

Dear Umbra, How is drilling for oil affecting the stabilization of our planet? I wonder how much all the drilling is disturbing the earth’s crust. Could this be part of the problem causing tsunamis, earthquakes, and tidal waves? Susan Milliner …


Umbra on motivating teenagers

Dear Umbra, I’m an officer for my high school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, and we stress academic importance and help our community by doing service projects. I’m trying to get a service project going in support of the …


Umbra on greener golfing

Dear Umbra, I am getting an early start on my Christmas shopping this year, and always try to find sustainable gifts whenever possible. My father is an avid golfer. I have been pleased to see that the golf community’s efforts …

Umbra on toxic schools

Dear Umbra, My four-year-old daughter is attending a brand-new preschool program in a brand-new building this fall. Nothing was missed in setting up the school for the best possible education for young minds. Unfortunately, it’s filled with all those toxic …

Umbra on fire-fighting chemicals

Dear Umbra, Nearly every day, I can hear slurry bombers (planes that dump bright pink goo at the edges of fires) zooming overhead. I think the bright pink goo is a flame retardant, which seems to recently have gotten a …


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, …