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 advises on running shoes

    Q. Hi Umbra, I’m a long-distance runner in need of a new pair of shoes. I’m looking for the company with the most sustainable practices. Any suggestions? I’ve heard some promising things from different companies (e.g., Nike’s shoe-recycling program, ASICS’ …

  • Umbra advises on tuna and mercury

    Dear Umbra, Big, mature tuna have a lot of mercury in their bodies and are often caught with longlines that snag endangered sea turtles and sea birds; smaller juvenile tuna have less mercury, swim near the surface so they can …

  • Umbra on mean drivers and other questions

    Dear Umbra, Your kindness article inspired a question: Is it possible that pesticides make people mean? Perhaps because their bodies sense that they are under attack? The parking lot behavior at regular food stores versus organic stores serves as my …

  • Umbra on composting mucus and other conundra

    Dear Umbra, My girlfriend and I are having a bit of a disagreement. When she is in the kitchen she uses paper towels to wipe her nose. She then proceeds to put the used paper towel into the compost bin …

  • Umbra on burning wood and gas

    Hey Umbra, I’m from Quebec and there is a movement underway to prohibit the new installation of wood burning fireplaces. I’m curious about how much carbon is produced by burning a cord of wood in a fireplace, compared to a …

  • Umbra on the other greenhouse gases

    Dear Umbra, I have heard and am beginning to understand one of the biggest movements of social change occurring right now: we need to reduce our carbon footprint. I have also heard that while carbon is our most abundant greenhouse …

  • Umbra on hot tubs

    Cool your jets. Dear Umbra, We purchased a home with an existing four-person, 500-gallon wooden hot tub with a two-stage electric pump. When should a hot tub be turned off to save energy? City Light recommends that our tub be …

  • Umbra on water softeners

    Dear Umbra, I live in an area that has fairly hard water. The calcium build-up on the sink faucets, shower enclosures, and even the dog water bowls is really bad, and hard to remove. So I have considered a full …

  • Umbra on catchy Earth Day slogans

    Dear Umbra, My work colleagues are trying to think of a catchy slogan to celebrate Earth Day this year. We typically plan a week of activities to educate and increase awareness of the benefits of being green. However, we are …