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.

Umbra on smelly CFLs (and mercury too)

Dear Umbra, We have been replacing our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, but we notice that the compact fluorescents have an odd smell. Are they emitting something we should know about? Compact fluorescent …

Umbra on CFLs and dimmers

Dearest Umbra, Are there compact fluorescent bulbs for lights on dimmer switches? Why can’t I use regular CFLs in dimmers? Dimly, Julia L. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Dearest Julia, I feel like my brain is squinting …

Umbra on couches

Dear Umbra, I am in the market to buy a new couch (our current couch is older than me — it’s 27!). Is it better to buy a “green” couch, a couch from a mainstream …

Umbra on ethanol

Dear Umbra, I’m a little amazed by all the bandwagon-jumping going on over E85 ethanol. I wonder if a corn-based fuel can be sustainable over the long term, given the general risks of farming and …

Umbra on canola oil

Dear Umbra, I recently saw “organic canola oil” on a salad dressing bottle. I looked up the origin of canola oil, and it looks like it is a genetic modification of rapeseed. I thought organic …

Umbra on the cost of organics

Dear Umbra, How come it’s so expensive to go organic? I could swing it by myself by eating a bare minimum of food, but I’m charged with feeding consume-mass-quantity types who favor the traditional American …

Umbra on composting weeds

Dear Umbra, I’ve been weeding the garden and yard, and got to thinking about some of the more invasive plants. I’ve heard that not everything goes in the compost pile, but what weeds can I …

Umbra on building a deck

Dear Umbra, It’s spring, my house turns 100 years old this year, and I would like to celebrate by adding a deck. But what type of building materials should I choose? Wood, plastic, or composite? …

Umbra on global warming and you

Dear Umbra, I love the scientific ins and outs, really I do, but what oh what can we do about global warming? And I mean us ordinary folks with a house and mortgage and some …