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.

Climate & Energy

Umbra on oil and plastic

Dear Umbra, How much oil is used to make a pound (or some other comparable measure) of typical plastics? Melody Evans Paris, Ill. Dearest Melody, Ah, Paris. Is it as lovely in the springtime as …


Umbra on chlorine

Dear Umbra, So I’ve been buying unbleached diapers for my baby, using chlorine-free laundry and dish soaps and non-chlorine bleached paper, and generally thinking that’s better for me and the environment. Then I go swimming …


Umbra on landfills vs. incinerators

Hi Umbra, Is there an environmentally preferable choice between sending your trash to a landfill or an incinerator? I know to think of the three R’s first, but what’s the better way to dispose of …


Umbra on disposing of toxic chemicals

Dear Umbra, Now that I’ve caught the environmental bug, I don’t know what to do with the toxic cleaning products (e.g., Ajax) that I have on hand. As a bulk buyer, I’ve got 5 to …

Umbra on insulation, again

Dear Umbra, You’re wrong, you can blow in insulation yourself. At every Home Depot I’ve been to, you can buy either fiberglass loose-fill insulation or cellulose loose-fill insulation, and you can also rent the machine …

Umbra on boiling water for tea

Dear Umbra, My roommates seem to be constantly boiling water for tea. We’ve got a gas stove, a microwave, and an electric teakettle. However, we don’t know which option is most efficient. Any ideas? Kate …

Umbra on air quality and temperature

Dear Umbra, Is there a relationship between air quality and temperature? I thought about this on my bike ride to work this morning when the smell of exhaust from cars seemed more potent, and the …


Umbra on love and kindness

Dear Umbra, Sorry to hear you are under the weather. Hope you are fully jauntified soon! Brian Plymouth, Minn. Dearest Brian, Thank you so much for this note, and thank you to the other people …


Umbra on convincing colleagues to turn the lights off

Dear Umbra, I’m always hollering at my friends and colleagues to turn off the lights when they leave the room. Considering my business is green-related, it blows me away that my staff can’t seem to …