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 buying eco-products in bulk

Dear Umbra, Why can’t I find environmentally friendly products (laundry soap, shampoo, etc.) in bulk packaging? It seems like there are many companies that make products that are not so hard on the planet, but they are only sold in …


Umbra on plastic bottles and BPA

Dear Umbra, I’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately about the dangers of certain kinds of plastic bottles. What’s the lowdown? Thirstily, Ginger Littleton, Colo. Dearest Ginger, Always happy to be your source for the lowest lowdown around …


Umbra on soil health

Dear Umbra, I asked about fava beans about two weeks ago, and have not had a response back. I have had no luck researching it myself, and would really appreciate a response. I asked at what point in the plant’s …


Umbra on lead and gardens

Dear Umbra, In your reply to the question about pollution and rooftop gardening, you talked a fair amount about lead pollution. Since gasoline is no longer leaded, and since it’s container gardening that wouldn’t have any lead paint in it, …


Umbra on cargo bikes

Hi Umbra, After reading your article on the amazing Thermos, coffee, and bicycle commuting, I thought I should alert you (if you’re not already alerted) to the Xtracycle (or S.U.B.) as a means for everyday, super-utilitarian biking. I replaced my …


Umbra on hauling goods by bike

Hi Umbra, Love your column. I’m a daily bicycle commuter and coffee achiever. Here’s a cool mug and handlebar mount [for the reader who asked about transporting coffee]. Cheers, John Denver, Colo. Dearest John, Thank you. Take a look at …


Umbra on planning a lawn

Umbra, I’m not a big fan of lawns, but I do want some nice grass cover on at least part of my yard, especially the steep slope on the side of the house. I was looking into native grass species, …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on energy-hog roommates

Dear Umbra, My roommate takes 45-minute showers, does 10 loads of laundry a day, and spends her days watching show after show on TV. What is a nice or subtle way to get her to “cool down” (she didn’t like …


Umbra on rooftop gardening

Dear Umbra, Growing your own vegetables is supposed to be healthy and good for the environment, but I live on a heavily trafficked avenue in Manhattan and my plants stay on my roof. Should I be worried that dirt from …