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 planning a lawn

    Umbra, I’m not a big fan of lawns, but I do want some nice grass cover on at least part of my yard, especially the steep slope on the side of the house. I was looking into native grass species, …

  • Umbra on energy-hog roommates

    Dear Umbra, My roommate takes 45-minute showers, does 10 loads of laundry a day, and spends her days watching show after show on TV. What is a nice or subtle way to get her to “cool down” (she didn’t like …

  • Umbra on rooftop gardening

    Dear Umbra, Growing your own vegetables is supposed to be healthy and good for the environment, but I live on a heavily trafficked avenue in Manhattan and my plants stay on my roof. Should I be worried that dirt from …

  • Umbra on Earth Day office parties

    Dear Umbra, Earth Day seems like a good opportunity to raise environmental awareness in the office. Do you have any ideas for an Earth Day office party? The best I can come up with is vegan cupcakes in the park …

  • Umbra on video games saving the world

    Dear Umbra, Does the increasing use of video games as a form of recreation bode well for the environment? Fewer people using real resources means less of an impact on the world. Tadeusz Rockville, Md. Dear Tadeusz, Now that is …

  • Umbra on library furniture

    Dear Umbra, I work in an academic library that has just received funding to purchase new furniture for the first time in over 20 years. As such, the committee examining this is very interested in purchasing stuff that will last …

  • Umbra on long, hot showers

    Dear Umbra, The biggest waster of energy in our house right now is our 15-year-old daughter, whose never-ending daily showers must surely be responsible for warming the planet another half-degree. No matter how loudly we bang on the bathroom door …

  • Umbra on organic vs. natural foods

    Dear Umbra, I’m trying to convince my sister that there is a difference between all-natural and organic products, and she doesn’t think there is. I’m pretty sure there is a difference, I just don’t know what it is. I look …

  • Umbra on trash bags

    Dear Umbra, I am attempting to wean myself off plastic bags. I am also aware of the environmental impact of brown paper bags. So we are OK with cloth grocery bags, but can you suggest an alternative that can be …