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 toxic yoga mats

    Dear Umbra, I own a yoga studio and our mats are wearing out and in need of replacement. What’s the best alternative for buying new mats? And if I do get new mats, what’s the best option for disposing of …

  • Umbra on burning paper

    Dear Umbra, We heat our house primarily by wood, in an efficient, EPA-rated woodstove. My question is this: We recycle all of our paper, paperboard, cardboard, etc., but would it be better to burn it? As it is, we drive …

  • Umbra on transporting coffee by bike

    Dear Umbra, Now that there are promises that the snow will melt someday, I’m dreaming about biking again — to work, to the farmers’ market, to church, etc. However, my sweet husband loves to make me coffee and send it …

  • Umbra on tap water

    Umbra, I was wondering where the H2O from the tap comes from, and where it goes to. Beth Swarthmore, Pa. Dearest Beth, It comes from and goes back to the water cycle, which I’ve been reading a lot about in …

  • Umbra on joining a CSA

    Umbra, I have heard mention of community-supported agriculture programs but don’t really know what they are. The name sounds very cool, but can you let me in on the specifics? Bryties Redding, Calif. Dearest Bryties, The springtime alarm is sounding, …

  • Umbra on organic honey

    Dear Umbra, I was looking for a nice, local, organic honey to use in reworking some recipes so that they didn’t use sugar. So I headed to Whole Foods, and was stuck looking at a honey in a plastic container …

  • Umbra on pearl production

    Dear Umbra, I’m nearly drowning in jewelry ideas for my valentine, but wary of mined gemstones. Do you know anything about the ecological impact of cultured pearls, or the faux “shell pearls”? Swimming to the Surface Slowly Portland, Ore. Dearest …

  • Umbra on organic bananas

    Dear Umbra, Why are organic bananas always smaller and almost always greener than non-organic? BG Tallahassee, Fla. Dearest BG, Hmm. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables often differ in appearance from their conventionally grown kin. They’re the hippies of the produce …

  • Umbra on communal clothes drying

    Hello Umbra! I’m a college student working to make my school greener and would like to purchase a few relatively sturdy, high-volume clothes drying racks to place in our laundry rooms so that students have an alternative to using the …