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 seltzer bottles

Dear Umbra, I love drinking fizzy water, especially in the summer, but I am appalled to learn that the plastic bottles use petroleum in their production. Plus, hauling them home from the supermarket burns gas. …

Umbra on returnable bottles

Hi Umbra, I’ve been wondering lately what happened to the returnable bottles that were so common up until some point in the ’70s. Why did the legislation go away? Does reusing bottles use less energy? …

Umbra on albedo

Hi Umbra, Can we make small changes to increase the albedo in the Northern Hemisphere? Choose white or light-colored autos (white is safer, anyway), white or light-colored roofs. Could we float white “islands” (recycled Styrofoam) …

Umbra on cane toads

Dear Umbra, I’m currently studying in Australia. I was recently in Queensland, where as you probably know, cane toads are a huge problem. There are over 200 million of the toxic toads, and this invasive …

Umbra on fighting pests with pests

Dear Umbra, I have a pest problem in my backyard — specifically, some tiny (but apparently hungry) insect is making lace out of my basil leaves. I do not want to use pesticides for many …

Umbra on graduation gifts

Dear Umbra, The recent question about a senior gift to the school got me wondering: what are some green gift ideas for graduates? Misty Boyd Tahlequah, Okla. Dearest Misty, Cash. You could help them set …

Umbra on class gifts, again

Dear Umbra, My class also wants to give a greener gift when we graduate in 2008. We are starting to plan, and though your suggestion of solar power is awesome and very true, that will …

Umbra on online shopping

Hi Umbra, A friend and I were recently discussing a conundrum about purchasing products from companies that have physical retail outlets and online purchasing, like The Body Shop. Which is the most ecologically sound option? …

Umbra on watering the yard

Dear Umbra, Thanks for your good advice about water conservation. You failed to mention the largest (unnecessary) water user in most U.S. homes: outdoor plant watering. While Grist readers may be eco-wise enough not to …