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.


Should you get it on with flaxseed oil lube?

A reader wonder about natural lubes. Umbra glides through the options.


In times of drought, should I use hand sanitizer instead of washing my hands?

Choosing hand sanitizers over the old scrub-and-rinse may conserve water, but it might not banish germs, either. Umbra digs up the dirt.


Should I feel good about choosing clothes made from wood?

Cloth fiber from trees! Sounds like a good deal for the planet -- and it can be, says Umbra. But there's a few "gotchas" to consider.


What’s the best way to heat things up at home?

We’re talking about water molecules, of course. Umbra gets into hot water.


I’m off the water grid, so do I still need to take short showers?

If you're living off the water-system grid, do you still need to worry about conservation? Umbra dowses for answers.


Is it OK to ship recyclables cross-country — if landfill is the alternative?

Sure, sending trash far away burns more carbon than recycling it locally. But recycling it far away still beats trashing it. Umbra sorts the tradeoffs.


Rechargeable batteries: Which are the most eco-friendly?

There are many ways to juice your gadgets without throwing away mountains of dead batteries. Umbra charges through the options.


When the Big One hits, here’s some of the gear you’re going to need

Disaster prep isn't a realm in which to get too obsessive about sustainability, but it makes all sorts of sense to stock your own kit, Umbra advises.


Balloon releases at college football games? Sack that custom

A reader wants to know how his college's customary balloon swarm affects the environment. Umbra offers a crash course.