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.

For even more green goodness, you can follow Umbra on Twitter (@AskUmbra) or become a fan on Facebook.

Umbra Fisk is Grist Research Associate II, Hardcover and Periodicals Unit, floors 2B-4B.


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 …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on solar funding

Dear Umbra, I have been looking high and low regarding ongoing tax credits and incentives for solar installations on private residences. I may be looking for something that doesn’t even exist, but the rumors certainly …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on passive solar

Dear Umbra, Not to belabor the home heating series, I’m considering installing a masonry stove. I’ve read that they’re quite efficient, though costly to build. What’s your take in relation to the other options you’ve …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on solar hot-water systems

Dear Umbra, I would like to change to solar heating for providing some of our electricity requirements, particularly for hot water. Can you advise me how to go about it? Leela Pienaar Grahamstown, South Africa …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on thin-film solar panels

Dear Umbra, I read that thin-film solar panels are now being produced on a wider scale. I always hear that they can be sandwiched into window glass, but are there any companies that are actually …


Umbra on seltzer bottles

Dear Umbra, I love drinking fizzy water, especially in the summer, but I am appalled to learn that the plastic bottles use petroleum in their production. Plus, hauling them home from the supermarket burns gas. …


Umbra on returnable bottles

Hi Umbra, I’ve been wondering lately what happened to the returnable bottles that were so common up until some point in the ’70s. Why did the legislation go away? Does reusing bottles use less energy? …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on albedo

Hi Umbra, Can we make small changes to increase the albedo in the Northern Hemisphere? Choose white or light-colored autos (white is safer, anyway), white or light-colored roofs. Could we float white “islands” (recycled Styrofoam) …

Umbra on cane toads

Dear Umbra, I’m currently studying in Australia. I was recently in Queensland, where as you probably know, cane toads are a huge problem. There are over 200 million of the toxic toads, and this invasive …