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.

Living

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 radiant floor heating, pluses, minuses, …

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 than incandescents, I have been …

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 get put in landfills that …

Living

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, I know the old ziplock …

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 the CO2 emissions that will …

Living

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 avoid plastics being anywhere near …

Living

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 consider as regards our impact …

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 do. Is there some website …

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 discussed? What about other alternative …