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.

Climate & Energy

Umbra on water conservation

Dear Umbra, We are doing a NW Earth Institute discussion course on sustainability here at work, and someone asked, “Is it necessary for us to conserve water here in Portland despite seeming abundance and replenishment? If so, why?” My response …

Living

Umbra on tent caterpillars

Dear Umbra, In beautiful Virginia, this is the time of year that the caterpillars start making their “tents” in branches of shrubbery and trees in our yards. Conventional wisdom has been to destroy them, as they will surely eat the …

Living

Umbra on buying eco-products in bulk

Dear Umbra, Why can’t I find environmentally friendly products (laundry soap, shampoo, etc.) in bulk packaging? It seems like there are many companies that make products that are not so hard on the planet, but they are only sold in …

Food

Umbra on plastic bottles and BPA

Dear Umbra, I’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about the dangers of certain kinds of plastic bottles. What’s the lowdown? Thirstily, Ginger Littleton, Colo. Dearest Ginger, Always happy to be your source for the lowest lowdown around …

Food

Umbra on soil health

Dear Umbra, I asked about fava beans about two weeks ago, and have not had a response back. I have had no luck researching it myself, and would really appreciate a response. I asked at what point in the plant’s …

Living

Umbra on lead and gardens

Dear Umbra, In your reply to the question about pollution and rooftop gardening, you talked a fair amount about lead pollution. Since gasoline is no longer leaded, and since it’s container gardening that wouldn’t have any lead paint in it, …

Living

Umbra on cargo bikes

Hi Umbra, After reading your article on the amazing Thermos, coffee, and bicycle commuting, I thought I should alert you (if you’re not already alerted) to the Xtracycle (or S.U.B.) as a means for everyday, super-utilitarian biking. I replaced my …

Living

Umbra on hauling goods by bike

Hi Umbra, Love your column. I’m a daily bicycle commuter and coffee achiever. Here’s a cool mug and handlebar mount [for the reader who asked about transporting coffee]. Cheers, John Denver, Colo. Dearest John, Thank you. Take a look at …

Living

Umbra on planning a lawn

Umbra, I’m not a big fan of lawns, but I do want some nice grass cover on at least part of my yard, especially the steep slope on the side of the house. I was looking into native grass species, …