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 returnable bottles

Hi Umbra, I’ve been wondering lately what happened to the returnable bottles that were so common up until some point in the ’70s. Why did the legislation go away? Does reusing bottles use less energy? It seems like it would, …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on albedo

Hi Umbra, Can we make small changes to increase the albedo in the Northern Hemisphere? Choose white or light-colored autos (white is safer, anyway), white or light-colored roofs. Could we float white “islands” (recycled Styrofoam) in our lakes and oceans …

Umbra on cane toads

Dear Umbra, I’m currently studying in Australia. I was recently in Queensland, where as you probably know, cane toads are a huge problem. There are over 200 million of the toxic toads, and this invasive species has been killing off …


Umbra on fighting pests with pests

Dear Umbra, I have a pest problem in my backyard — specifically, some tiny (but apparently hungry) insect is making lace out of my basil leaves. I do not want to use pesticides for many reasons, not the least of …

Umbra on graduation gifts

Dear Umbra, The recent question about a senior gift to the school got me wondering: what are some green gift ideas for graduates? Misty Boyd Tahlequah, Okla. Dearest Misty, Cash. You could help them set up a retirement account. With …


Umbra on class gifts, again

Dear Umbra, My class also wants to give a greener gift when we graduate in 2008. We are starting to plan, and though your suggestion of solar power is awesome and very true, that will not be possible at my …


Umbra on online shopping

Hi Umbra, A friend and I were recently discussing a conundrum about purchasing products from companies that have physical retail outlets and online purchasing, like The Body Shop. Which is the most ecologically sound option? Local store: most likely drive …

Umbra on watering the yard

Dear Umbra, Thanks for your good advice about water conservation. You failed to mention the largest (unnecessary) water user in most U.S. homes: outdoor plant watering. While Grist readers may be eco-wise enough not to water their plants, nor even …


Umbra on gifts for your school

Hi Umbra, I’m the senior president for my high school class. My cabinet and I want to leave a “green” gift to the school. We would like it to be something that is on campus or easily visible. Can you …