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.

Climate & Energy

Umbra on tidal power

Dear Umbra, Much is made of wind, solar, geothermal, and even wave power, but why doesn’t anyone talk about tidal power? It has more power than wind for the same turbine, without the eyesore of …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on refrigerator downsizing

Dear Umbra, Two of our favorite Brit-coms are Keeping Up Appearances and As Time Goes By. It is hard for an American not to remark that in both households, which seem quite affluent, the refrigerator …


Umbra on radiant heating

Dear Umbra, We’re trying to build a really small house and be really economical as we do it. Radiant floor heating sounds practical for the first floor, although it’s expensive. What do you think about …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on mercury in CFLs

Dearest Umbra, For the past 10 years or so I have been patiently and methodically replacing the incandescent light bulbs in my house with the more efficient compact fluorescent ones. Even though they cost more …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on biodegradable products

Dearest Umbra, With biodegradable corn-plastic products like clothes hangers, credit cards, and trash bags, we are led to believe there are good alternatives to plastic that can be thrown out guilt-free. But doesn’t all trash …


Umbra on replacing toilets

Dear Umbra, I’m selling my house in Los Angeles and my toilet is not low-flow. One of the inspectors is trying to tell me I need to replace my toilet with a new low-flow. Well, …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on fireworks

Dear Umbra, Our family has always lit a fair amount of fireworks for our 4th of July celebration. I would like to encourage my family and friends to find other ways to celebrate due to …


Umbra on water filters

Dear Umbra, I drink a lot of water. I have a food-grade stainless-steel canteen, and I filter my tap water via a Brita. I try to minimize my purchase of plastics, and I try to …


Umbra on peeing at the beach

Dear Umbra, When at a beach with no bathrooms, is it better, environmentally speaking, to urinate in the ocean or behind a sand dune? Tom Greenville, N.C. Dearest Tom, A good, silly summer question to …