Ask Umbra®

The New York Times calls Umbra Fisk "a trailblazer in the field of eco-advice columnists" and "the arch online sage of the new green age." Her latest passion: kale smoothies ... no, sorry, civic engagement, because getting political is the only way we'll get a planet that doesn't burn and a future that doesn't suck. Ask Umbra a question here.

  • Umbra on cooling your car

    Dear Umbra, Is it more efficient to drive down the highway with my windows down or the air conditioner on? I know the air conditioner decreases gas mileage, but I bet having my windows down at 75 miles per hour …

  • Umbra on weeding

    Dear Umbra, We moved into a suburban neighborhood in Ft. Collins, Colo., last year and I began my usual organic gardening practices. I created a beautiful flower garden in our front yard, but I still receive complaints from my neighbors …

  • Umbra on lawn and garden pesticides

    Dearest Umbra, Goddess of Green Knowledge, A few years ago, a farmer friend of mine argued that more pesticides and chemical fertilizers are applied to suburban lawns and gardens than are used in commercial agriculture. I can see how this …

  • Umbra on clothing

    Dear Umbra, My nephew says that new clothes and other apparel that come from foreign countries are treated with toxic chemicals to avoid various types of fungal or insect contamination, and upon arriving at the loading dock of your favorite …

  • Umbra on flushing medications

    Dear Umbra, I work with a number of older women who try to be environmentally conscientious. When it comes to discarding outdated medications though, there seems to be conflicting advice. Medical doctors tell me that all such medicines should be …

  • Umbra on chlorinated swimming pools

    Umbra, I recently managed to mangle my knee and am going through all the 4,673 steps necessary to unmangle it and make it happy and functional again. One of the things my doctor advised me to do was swim. Well, …

  • Umbra on recycling beer bottles with lime wedges

    Most Honorable Umbra, Knower of All Green Things: Am I unwittingly hampering the recycling process by twisting that lime wedge into my bottle of beer? The dang things are tough to get back out! Humbly yours,Jill Brooks Dearest Jill, Please …

  • Umbra on hybrid cars

    Umbra, hi, With Honda having just released its gas-electric hybrid Civic in the U.S., many enviros are scrambling to buy one. But one question that hasn’t been answered to my knowledge is whether the total amount of energy, pollution, mining, …

  • Umbra on grocery bags

    Dear Umbra, At the grocery store, when they ask “Paper or plastic?” (and you have left your eco-friendly organic cotton tote bag at home), which is the lesser of two evils as far as total pounds of pollutants per bag …