Ask Umbra®

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 driveways

Dear Umbra, What is the most eco-friendly driveway material? Jean K.Newington, Conn. Dearest Jean, Other than “no driveway because no car,” dunno. I can tell you all the characteristics possessed by a good eco-friendly driveway material, but no single material …

Umbra on shifting to vegetarianism

Dear Umbra, I recently became a vegetarian for environmental reasons. Everyone says I should start eating soy products and tofu. But doesn’t soy come from evil industrial farms in Iowa? I thought the idea was to increase biodiversity, not just …

Umbra on small steps with big impacts

Dear Umbra, This year my family is not in the position to make any major CO2-reducing changes. We will not be purchasing a new car, a smaller house, or more efficient appliances. And honestly, with two small children living in …

Umbra on the importance of voting

Dear Umbra, I have a friend who is a fellow environmental studies major, and he says he’s not going to vote because he “doesn’t agree with the system.” I’ve had numerous discussions with him about how important it is to …

Umbra on wine bottle stoppers

Dear Umbra, Here’s a question I couldn’t find an answer to in the Grist archives: What kind of plastic is being used for the corks in wine bottles? If I decide to put a bottle in the cellar for several …

Umbra on cruise control

Dear Umbra, To cruise or not to cruise? That is the question. Is it more fuel efficient to use cruise control when driving, or does it use more gas to use the cruise? Carrie Waterloo, Ontario, Canada Dearest Carrie, Whether …

Umbra on being an energy-efficient renter

Dear Umbra, I’m an apartment dweller in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it doesn’t get too cold or too hot. Still, my energy bill is much too high for my liking and I’m wondering what I can do to …

Umbra on bedbugs

Dear Umbra, I desperately need your help. My house has become infested with bedbugs! I’m trying to find an environmentally friendly way to get rid of them. I’ve tried a thorough cleaning and tried using diatomaceous earth (fossil shell flour) …

Umbra on recycled vs. certified paper

Dear Umbra, Our office is trying to develop an environmental paper procurement policy, and we were wondering which component is most critical — certification by the Forest Stewardship Council, or recycled content? If you could help us understand which is …