Umbra Fisk

Ask Umbra®

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 prioritizing organic purchases

Hi Umbra! I just recently became a stay-at-home mom. Life is bliss, except for the one-income household we now have (my husband brings home the tofu-bacon). Now that we have very limited funds I cannot afford to buy all organic …


Umbra on salt

Dear Umbra, What’s up with salt, environmentally speaking? Is it good for the Dead Sea if I buy Dead Sea salt (but then it travels halfway around the world)? Am I getting trace amounts of Bad Stuff in any sea …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on wave power

Hello Umbra, I just read a little bit about wave power and was wondering what you think the future potential is for this clean and never-ending energy source? Peter Blomquist Orlando, Fla. Dearest Peter, Wow. I’m a sucker for anything …


Umbra on feeding birds

Dearest Umbra, Every winter I take pleasure in putting out birdseed to feed the backyard wildlife. I purchase the easily available, run-of-the-mill, found-at-my-local-hardware-store type of seed. My question is, in the big picture … am I doing more harm than …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on tidal power

Dear Umbra, Much is made of wind, solar, geothermal, and even wave power, but why doesn’t anyone talk about tidal power? It has more power than wind for the same turbine, without the eyesore of turbines, is totally renewable, and …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on refrigerator downsizing

Dear Umbra, Two of our favorite Brit-coms are Keeping Up Appearances and As Time Goes By. It is hard for an American not to remark that in both households, which seem quite affluent, the refrigerator is short, and fits beneath …


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 …