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 cookbooks

    Dear Umbra, I am trying to eat local foods within the seasons, but most of my cookbooks include ingredients from multiple seasons in a single recipe. Can you offer any cookbooks or advice for finding more seasonal recipes? Yours locally …

  • Umbra on food-waste collection

    Dear Umbra, Are any communities collecting food waste — potato peels, meat scraps, corn husks, etc. — for recycling? Is there a market for such material? Wendy S. Far Hills, N.J. Dearest Wendy, Yes and yes. Multiple communities collect food …

  • Umbra on compost and climate

    Dear Umbra, I was explaining to my neighbor (who doesn’t even recycle) why he shouldn’t throw out a bag of leaves with his trash. Just to clarify, he asked what to do with it. I explained composting; he doesn’t want …

  • Umbra on composting with worms

    Dear Umbra, I recently moved into a studio apartment in an urban area. I used to compost in my backyard but don’t have that option anymore. I looked into getting a worm bin to use inside my apartment, but the …

  • Umbra on unused fireplaces

    Dear Umbra, We have a gas fireplace and a new baby girl, so we have decided to not use the fireplace this winter. What is the best way to keep the cold air from coming in through the fireplace? JeffRochester, …

  • Umbra on soap

    Dear Umbra, Every time I’m lathering with Dr. Bronner’s hemp castile soap, I wonder, what is castile soap? And how is it different from my bar of olive oil-based soap from the farmers market, or my partner’s Dove? Finally, does …

  • Umbra on straw-bale homes

    Dear Umbra, Do you recommend building straw bale homes? And/or can you insulate an existing home with straw bales on the outside of the home and then finish it using siding, wood, or stucco? I wonder why this renewable, economical, …

  • Umbra on deflecting eco-insults

    Dear Umbra, Whenever I pick up a piece of trash a friend has thrown on the ground, or ask them where their recycling bins are, they call me a dirty tree-hugging hippie. This doesn’t bother me, since I know I …

  • Umbra on eco-themed Halloween costumes

    Dear Umbra, Every year my friends and I throw a big Halloween party, and I had the amazing idea of dressing up as Sarah Palin. Unfortunately, I just found out that’s currently the most popular costume in my city (and …