Ask Umbra®

The New York Times calls Umbra Fisk "a trailblazer in the field of eco-advice columnists" and "the arch online sage of the new green age." Her latest passion: kale smoothies ... no, sorry, civic engagement, because getting political is the only way we'll get a planet that doesn't burn and a future that doesn't suck. Ask Umbra a question here.

  • Umbra on biking with kids

    Umbra, Your columns have opened up a whole new world on transport by bike. I don’t have a question but am considering purchasing our second Xtracycle for our family. I can carry our toddler and all our groceries, or another …

  • Umbra on kiddie pools

    Dear Umbra, Regarding your obsession with vinyl, as pertains to summer parenting: Greenpeace’s thorough Vinyl Alternatives list indicates that no good alternatives to vinyl kiddie pools exist. Do you think it is worth it to put a huge effort into …

  • Umbra on carbon calculators

    Dearest Umbra, I recently heard an interesting interview on NPR, and the speaker was talking about how, to stop global warming, all humans would have to limit their carbon emissions to just one ton of carbon per person, per year. …

  • Umbra on the impacts of biking

    Dear Umbra, A couple of your recent columns have been about this novel idea of biking as the end-all in green transportation, but how green is biking, especially when you go out to buy a new one? If you switch …

  • Umbra on biking in a skirt

    Dear Umbra, I was really energized by your column on cargo bicycles. I still own a car, but I drive it less and less, mostly to haul stuff and to travel when I want to wear a nice dress. So, …

  • Umbra on water conservation

    Dear Umbra, We are doing a NW Earth Institute discussion course on sustainability here at work, and someone asked, “Is it necessary for us to conserve water here in Portland despite seeming abundance and replenishment? If so, why?” My response …

  • Umbra on tent caterpillars

    Dear Umbra, In beautiful Virginia, this is the time of year that the caterpillars start making their “tents” in branches of shrubbery and trees in our yards. Conventional wisdom has been to destroy them, as they will surely eat the …

  • 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 …