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 organic fabric

    Dear Umbra, First let me say that I just discovered your column and have been happily spending most of my time reading your archives. Excellent stuff! I am a total fabric geek; I love to make my own clothes and …

  • Umbra on smoke detectors

    Dear Umbra, How should we safely dispose of old smoke detectors? Don’t they have small amounts of radioactive material in them? We tried bringing them to our town’s recycling center, which refused them, and the board of health would not …

  • Umbra on gift cards

    Dear Umbra, I received a gift card this holiday season from a friend to a company which I generally avoid due to its subpar eco-practices. Since my friend has already given the money to this company, do I forgo my …

  • Umbra on raw milk

    Dear Umbra, My husband was raised with milk straight from the cow that he milked himself every morning, so he and his parents are very into organic milk. However, I am concerned about the benefits/dangers of some of the milk …

  • 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 …