Umbra Fisk

Ask Umbra®

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 library furniture

Dear Umbra, I work in an academic library that has just received funding to purchase new furniture for the first time in over 20 years. As such, the committee examining this is very interested in purchasing stuff that will last …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on long, hot showers

Dear Umbra, The biggest waster of energy in our house right now is our 15-year-old daughter, whose never-ending daily showers must surely be responsible for warming the planet another half-degree. No matter how loudly we bang on the bathroom door …


Umbra on organic vs. natural foods

Dear Umbra, I’m trying to convince my sister that there is a difference between all-natural and organic products, and she doesn’t think there is. I’m pretty sure there is a difference, I just don’t know what it is. I look …


Umbra on trash bags

Dear Umbra, I am attempting to wean myself off plastic bags. I am also aware of the environmental impact of brown paper bags. So we are OK with cloth grocery bags, but can you suggest an alternative that can be …


Umbra on toxic yoga mats

Dear Umbra, I own a yoga studio and our mats are wearing out and in need of replacement. What’s the best alternative for buying new mats? And if I do get new mats, what’s the best option for disposing of …


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, …