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 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 …


Umbra on avoiding vinyl

Hi Umbra! I’ve been in denial about vinyl. Blue Vinyl, the movie, got me thinking, but unfortunately I space out and lie to myself. I even have bought those recently popular adult toys that advertise as being vinyl in large …


Umbra on staying positive

Dear Umbra, I am a new but faithful reader of your excellent column. I’ve learned a lot, but one thing I’ve noticed is that there never seems to be an upside to the answers. Now, this may be just because …

Business & Technology

Umbra on green-company buyouts

Dear Umbra, So glad you were ransomed. (I happily did my bit.) I’m worried that the gentle-on-the-environment start-ups are taking the money and running. First our favorite toothpaste, Tom’s of Maine, sold out to Colgate (I think) and now Burt’s …

Umbra on vinyl records

Umbra, I know that PVC is bad, and vinyl records are PVC (right?), but is there any harm in keeping the records I already have, or should I get rid of them? And if so, what’s the best way to …


Umbra on choosing a college

Dear Umbra, I am a high school junior this school year. I am currently researching what college to attend. One major decision in your school choice should be choosing a college that is strong in the field of your study. …


Umbra on paper plates

Dear Umbra, Maybe you can help settle this dispute between my husband and me. He likes to use paper plates for quick/short meals like toast in the morning, cheese and crackers in the evening, etc. He claims that he’s saving …


Umbra on leather vs. pleather shoes

Hi Umbra, As a devoted vegetarian, I try to make it a point to avoid leather footwear. However, after too many hours of deep thought on the subject, I am now conflicted about the environmental ramifications of my choice to …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on nuclear vs. coal

Dear Umbra, I work for a certain large environmental organization, and I have often had to deal with the issue of nuclear and coal-fired power plants. If ever asked which is better, we are officially supposed to say “neither.” But …