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 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 …

Umbra on hybrid myths

Dear Umbra, Could you help me clear up a rumor about cars? I’ve heard that although hybrids reduce your carbon footprint because they use less gas, the process for mining the nickel in the hybrid batteries produces far more pollution …

Umbra on buying big cars

Dear Umbra, I’m in need of a new car. I’d love to get a Prius, but I often need more passenger seats than the Prius has. What is the most environmentally friendly and responsible choice for a driver who needs …

Umbra on Method cleansers

Dear Umbra, I’ve noticed lately that Method cleaning products are now being sold in a number of different retail outlets, whereas before they were only sold in Target. This shouldn’t seem too weird in our every-store-sells-the-same-thing world, but seeing these …

Umbra on toxins in your body

Dear Umbra, I saw an infomercial late at night about these foot pads that you wear to sleep and they will “remove toxins from your body.” I didn’t know who else to ask, so you win that lottery. Do we …

Umbra on eco-conversions

Dear Umbra, In all sorts of corporate environmental reports, you see claims that compare apples to oranges — “By reducing our emissions by X pounds this year, we’ve saved the equivalent of 17 gazillion trees.” Or “If every person in …

Umbra on diet soda

Dear Umbra, My name’s Jon and I’m a diet pop addict. My diet right now is 70-80 percent local, organic, or both, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to getting my fix. I drink several 20-ouncers a …

Umbra on calculating CO2 weight

Dear Umbra, I know CO2 is a gas as other greenhouse gases are, and gases are sometimes lighter than air. So I’m wondering: how can gases be weighed in tons? That’s a hell of a lot of gas to weigh …

Umbra on driving versus flying, again

Dear Umbra, Your recent answer to the plane/train question prompts me to ask something that has always bothered me but that my little old brain can’t figure out on my own. I know that planes are worse than other forms …