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.

Lumen Essence

Can I mix and match different types of eco-friendly lightbulbs?

When a reader wonders whether he has to switch out all the CFL bulbs in his kitchen at once, Umbra sockets it to him.

Tanks for Nothing

Are automatic toilets wasteful?

Umbra swirls around the topic of bathrooms, drought, and those seemingly unavoidable gratuitous flushes.

Writer's Sunblock

Should I stop plugging in my laptop?

Umbra sheds a little light on solar chargers.


Should you get it on with flaxseed oil lube?

A reader wonder about natural lubes. Umbra glides through the options.


In times of drought, should I use hand sanitizer instead of washing my hands?

Choosing hand sanitizers over the old scrub-and-rinse may conserve water, but it might not banish germs, either. Umbra digs up the dirt.


Should I feel good about choosing clothes made from wood?

Cloth fiber from trees! Sounds like a good deal for the planet -- and it can be, says Umbra. But there's a few "gotchas" to consider.


What’s the best way to heat things up at home?

We’re talking about water molecules, of course. Umbra gets into hot water.


I’m off the water grid, so do I still need to take short showers?

If you're living off the water-system grid, do you still need to worry about conservation? Umbra dowses for answers.


Is it OK to ship recyclables cross-country — if landfill is the alternative?

Sure, sending trash far away burns more carbon than recycling it locally. But recycling it far away still beats trashing it. Umbra sorts the tradeoffs.