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.

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 …

Umbra on green donations

Hey Umbra, With strict instructions from me, my parents decided to skip most of the presents this Christmas and give me the big-ticket item I had requested: money to give away. They’ve given me $1,000, far more than I expected, …

Umbra on (inherited) fur coats

Oh advice maven on all things green, I have a problem! I live in a very cold climate (read: Great White North) and my mother recently gave me my grandmother’s old fur coat. It is the warmest thing I have …


Umbra on Camelbaks

Dear Umbra, Recently, I’ve started to try to avoid plastics (especially plastic water bottles). For Christmas, my brother gave me a Camelbak-type water bottle. How safe is this? I assume it’s as bad as most plastic water bottles. Timothy Kearney …