Umbra Fisk

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Advice for Living Green

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

Umbra on carpooling to a reunion

Dear Umbra, You have told us, in no uncertain terms, that traveling by train is better ecologically than traveling by car. Several members of my family plan to carpool to an upcoming family reunion 600 miles away. I have considered trying to talk them into taking the train instead, but face the following problem: It would cost about $130 each, round-trip, and involve inconvenient hours guaranteed to annoy the elder generation. The car will cost about $40 each, round-trip. I myself, having a very tight budget, am considerably swayed by this, and have no doubt they will be also. Consequently, …

Umbra on eco-friendly tents

Hi Umbra, When I posted this question locally, I started a brouhaha about owning a car. Hopefully you can answer more succinctly — any suggestions for a tent made out of reasonably friendly materials? Alex BernardinSan Francisco, Calif. Dearest Alex, There’s plenty to say about friendly tents, and nary a brouhaha in sight. Since I’m not sure from your question what you want the tent to be friendly to, or exactly what you want to use it for, let’s take a broad look at some of the options. A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Photo: iStockphoto In terms of the …

Umbra on running and pollutants

Dear Umbra, I am a runner, and in the summertime it is difficult for me to run during the day because of the heat. Unfortunately, it’s a no-no for me to run in green spaces late at night because they are dark, deserted, and thus quite unsafe. So this leaves me the option of running in busy areas of the city after the sun has gone down. At these hours, the traffic is usually light, which makes for a more pleasant run — but I’m wondering about air quality. Do car exhaust and other pollutants stick around close to the …

Umbra on writing to reps about climate change

Dear Umbra, I want to send a letter to my local representatives about global warming and how our whole city and state should take part in stopping it, but I don’t know what to say or how to approach this. Please help! Hillary Schwartz Birmingham, Ala. Dearest Hillary, Hmm, I can think of a few things to say. But you might get escorted out of Alabama if you put them in a letter. Post haste. Photo: iStockphoto So on to more constructive advice. First, some general tips. A handwritten or typed letter is more effective (and prettier) than email. It’s …

Umbra on car trade-ins

Dear Umbra, I’m the not-so-proud owner of an 18-year-old Honda Civic — great car in that it gets 39 mpg, has a decent amount of zip, and generally runs well. However, it needs some mechanical work, the paint and some of the upholstery are shot, and the AC runs on Freon. I’ve reached the point of analysis paralysis in deciding whether to fix this car up or trade it in. At what point do you give up the ghost on an older car? And how bad would it be if I got the old car painted? Driven to distraction, Renee …

Umbra on fridge-freezer efficiency

Dear Umbra, Are there any environmental advantages to the refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom and the fridge on the top? Annette Indianapolis, Ind. Dearest Annette, There are three fridge/freezer configurations: side by side, bottom freezer, and top freezer. In models with comparable storage volume, the least efficient is the side by side. Top and bottom models, on the other hand, are fairly close in their efficiency advantage, performing about 10 to 20 percent better than side-by-side models. Which is a fortunate discovery, since side-by-side models are hideous and have pathetic amounts of freezer storage. Speaking purely from a …

Umbra on countertops

With the home remodeling boom, we keep wondering: what is the best countertop choice? We’ve gone through a couple homes since getting married, and are now considering building our own. Laminate, Formica, butcher block, concrete, granite, plastic, composite, tile … they all have their own durability merits and drawbacks, but from creation to home health, which is the friendliest? Leonie Mowat and Greg Overley North Las Vegas, Nev. Dearest Leonie and Greg, I guess I’m missing out on the home remodeling boom, and after you finish this house, you should ignore future remodeling booms. Find something you like now and …

Umbra on CDs and MP3s

Dear Umbra, As I was carrying a stack of CDs from the car into my home, my sister laughed and showed me the size of her MP3 player, which contains well over 100 times the music at a fraction of the size. Environmentally, which causes less of an impact? I hear that all these (non-recyclable) portable devices are terrible for the environment, and I’ve had some of my CDs going on (gasp!) 15 years. Downloading seems like it produces less waste, but the type of waste that is generated is what concerns me. Kas SutDavis, Calif. Dearest Kas, If the …

Umbra on recycling tapes and videos

Dear Umbra, What to do? I’m a child of the late ’70s, and one of the last to remember what it was like to exchange a mix tape at age 15. Now I’m hitting my 30s, and realize I still have that Color Me Badd tape. I really want to chuck it, but don’t have the heart to put it in the trash. What’s a girl to do? Where can I send my shamefully-bad-taste-in-music tapes? Patricia O. North Plainfield, N.J. Dearest Patricia, Hey, sis, what’s this? Photo: iStockphoto. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure. We can’t say it often enough. …

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