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 on biodiesel vs. hybrids

Dear Umbra, I live in Massachusetts and am trying to decide whether to buy a hybrid or a biodiesel. Since it is cold here, I would need to use 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel in the winter. How …

Umbra on commuting choices

Dear Umbra, I have three choices in how I travel the 15 or so miles between my house and my job: car, light rail, and ferry. Each one, depending on the time and the day, has its advantage in terms …

Umbra on resolutions for 2009

Dearest Readers, A Happy New Year to you all. I hope that you look back fondly on 2008, and have big happy plans for 2009. I do. You and I may have similar happy plans, in fact. I plan to …

Umbra on eco-actions for kids

Dear Umbra, In my city, environmental awareness might as well be some late-night, budget infomercial that nobody thinks about except to laugh at. I’m trying to organize a series of interactive presentations in area schools to educate and engage kids …

Umbra on eco-friendly detergents

Dear Umbra, Like a good guilt-ridden liberal, I’ve switched to supposed earth-friendly dish detergent. And, on the basis of previous Ask Umbra columns, I don’t rinse my dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Here’s the thing: About 10 …

Umbra on homegrown meat

Dear Umbra, I try to eat as many vegetarian meals as possible, but I haven’t “gone all the way” yet, mostly because my in-laws (whom my husband and I live with at the moment) raise beef, chickens, and hunt deer; …

Umbra on children’s art supplies

Hey Umbra, I’ve got a niece with a second birthday coming up and I’d like to get her a present that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer or TV. So, I thought, how about an art set? What …

Umbra on e-books

Dear Umbra, I have noticed that digital book readers have started to enter the market and wonder if they are more ecologically sound than conventional books. I am interested in buying one but suspect that they are full of metals …

Umbra on store-brand organics

Hey Umbra, What with organic foods being so expensive, I’m often tempted to buy the store-brand organic produce that’s cropping up lately. Are the store brands as good (i.e., pesticide free) as any other brand of organic food? I can’t …