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 organic honey

Dear Umbra, I was looking for a nice, local, organic honey to use in reworking some recipes so that they didn’t use sugar. So I headed to Whole Foods, and was stuck looking at a honey in a plastic container …


Umbra on pearl production

Dear Umbra, I’m nearly drowning in jewelry ideas for my valentine, but wary of mined gemstones. Do you know anything about the ecological impact of cultured pearls, or the faux “shell pearls”? Swimming to the Surface Slowly Portland, Ore. Dearest …


Umbra on organic bananas

Dear Umbra, Why are organic bananas always smaller and almost always greener than non-organic? BG Tallahassee, Fla. Dearest BG, Hmm. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables often differ in appearance from their conventionally grown kin. They’re the hippies of the produce …


Umbra on communal clothes drying

Hello Umbra! I’m a college student working to make my school greener and would like to purchase a few relatively sturdy, high-volume clothes drying racks to place in our laundry rooms so that students have an alternative to using the …


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 …