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 composting weeds

Dear Umbra, I’ve been weeding the garden and yard, and got to thinking about some of the more invasive plants. I’ve heard that not everything goes in the compost pile, but what weeds can I toss in? I’m fairly new …


Umbra on building a deck

Dear Umbra, It’s spring, my house turns 100 years old this year, and I would like to celebrate by adding a deck. But what type of building materials should I choose? Wood, plastic, or composite? In my market there is …

Business & Technology

Umbra on global warming and you

Dear Umbra, I love the scientific ins and outs, really I do, but what oh what can we do about global warming? And I mean us ordinary folks with a house and mortgage and some percentage point of kids and …


Umbra on organic cashews

Dear Umbra, I work in a grocery store. Recently a customer refused to purchase our cashews because they weren’t organic. Does it really matter if nuts are organic? Are they sprayed with chemicals during production? Did the customer have a …

Umbra on herbicides and lawns

Dear Umbra, My husband just spread some very toxic weed-killer on our lawn, and I told him there must be a safer way to get rid of weeds. Our children and pets were not allowed on the lawn for 24 …

Umbra on herbicides

Dear Umbra, How do herbicides (organic, if such exist, or non-organic) work? David Burch South Bend, Ind. Dearest David, Herbicides are considered a subcategory of pesticides, for all you confused by my last pesticide comments. Herbicides kill plants with a …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on water vapor and climate change

Dear Umbra, Coming from a scientific background, I was under the assumption that water vapor was the worst — or you could say the best — at causing global warming. Do you believe this to be false, and if not, …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on the greenhouse effect

Dear Umbra, Man-made greenhouse gases are blamed for recent global-warming trends. But man-made greenhouse gases account for only 5 percent of the greenhouse effect. Water vapor, over which civilization has virtually no control, accounts for some 95 percent of that …

Climate & Energy

A climate-change compendium

Dear Umbra, I know you don’t make up questions, but in this instance I think it’s acceptable. Could you suggest a collection of resources on climate change? I think it might help us all get better educated on this vital …