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.


Umbra on organic vs. natural foods

Dear Umbra, I’m trying to convince my sister that there is a difference between all-natural and organic products, and she doesn’t think there is. I’m pretty sure there is a difference, I just don’t know …


Umbra on trash bags

Dear Umbra, I am attempting to wean myself off plastic bags. I am also aware of the environmental impact of brown paper bags. So we are OK with cloth grocery bags, but can you suggest …


Umbra on toxic yoga mats

Dear Umbra, I own a yoga studio and our mats are wearing out and in need of replacement. What’s the best alternative for buying new mats? And if I do get new mats, what’s the …


Umbra on burning paper

Dear Umbra, We heat our house primarily by wood, in an efficient, EPA-rated woodstove. My question is this: We recycle all of our paper, paperboard, cardboard, etc., but would it be better to burn it? …


Umbra on transporting coffee by bike

Dear Umbra, Now that there are promises that the snow will melt someday, I’m dreaming about biking again — to work, to the farmers’ market, to church, etc. However, my sweet husband loves to make …


Umbra on tap water

Umbra, I was wondering where the H2O from the tap comes from, and where it goes to. Beth Swarthmore, Pa. Dearest Beth, It comes from and goes back to the water cycle, which I’ve been …


Umbra on joining a CSA

Umbra, I have heard mention of community-supported agriculture programs but don’t really know what they are. The name sounds very cool, but can you let me in on the specifics? Bryties Redding, Calif. Dearest Bryties, …


Umbra on organic honey

Dear Umbra, I was looking for a nice, local, organic honey to use in reworking some recipes so that they didn’t use sugar. So I headed to Whole Foods, and was stuck looking at a …


Umbra on pearl production

Dear Umbra, I’m nearly drowning in jewelry ideas for my valentine, but wary of mined gemstones. Do you know anything about the ecological impact of cultured pearls, or the faux “shell pearls”? Swimming to the …