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 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? As it is, we drive …


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 me coffee and send it …


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 reading a lot about in …


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, The springtime alarm is sounding, …


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 honey in a plastic container …


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 Surface Slowly Portland, Ore. Dearest …


Umbra on organic bananas

Dear Umbra, Why are organic bananas always smaller and almost always greener than non-organic? BG Tallahassee, Fla. Dearest BG, Hmm. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables often differ in appearance from their conventionally grown kin. They’re the hippies of the produce …


Umbra on communal clothes drying

Hello Umbra! I’m a college student working to make my school greener and would like to purchase a few relatively sturdy, high-volume clothes drying racks to place in our laundry rooms so that students have an alternative to using the …


Umbra on house siding

Dear Umbra, I have been a homeowner for five years and gradually I am upgrading the 25-year-old house to be more green. I have finished replacing the single-pane windows with Energy Star-rated double-pane windows. Now I am turning my attention …