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 cooking oil, again

    Dear Umbra, You missed a fantastic opportunity to promote biodiesel use of the cooking oil. There are many people collecting frying oil from restaurants and the like, and perhaps the reader could find a person collecting as well. Check newspaper …

  • Umbra on living Christmas trees

    Hi Umbra, I’m surprised that in your column on Christmas trees, you didn’t mention the option of living trees, although I know they cannot be subjected to our warm indoor temperatures for very long. Can you discuss the option of …

  • Umbra on used cooking oil

    Dear Umbra, It’s always nice to look through cookbooks and to watch cooking shows that feature yummy deep-fried food, and I have often been tempted to try and cook my own creations. However, no one ever seems to mention what …

  • Umbra on reheating coffee

    Dear Umbra, As a web developer for a certain respectable online magazine somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, I drink a lot of coffee to keep me alert and my very demanding employers happy. However, in my constant imbibing of the …

  • On organic Christmas trees

    Dear Umbra, Is there such a thing as an organic Christmas tree? How chemical-intensive is conventional Christmas-tree farming? If I want a Christmas tree, what’s the most eco-friendly way to go? Your fan, Lisa Seattle, Wash. Dearest Lisa, Since you …

  • Umbra on green hotels

    Dear Umbra, My husband and I are Americans who own a small budget hotel in Rome, Italy. We try to be as eco-friendly as possible: our cafe is local, organic, and vegetarian, we use compact fluorescent bulbs where we can …

  • Umbra on fireplace ashes

    Dear Umbra, What should we do with ashes from the fireplace? I’ve heard that they’re great for the garden and I’ve heard that they may not be so good for the garden. Are they a good replacement for salt on …

  • Umbra on cats and birds

    Dear Umbra, I have three cats, and live in a close-in suburb of Boston. I love the cats dearly, and let them outside during the day to wander about, and generally not have to live an indoor, sedentary, boring life. …

  • Umbra on power strips

    Q. Hi Umbra, Around the table at lunch today, my colleagues and I were discussing ways to conserve and be more energy efficient. We’ve all heard that “dormant” appliances still draw energy. We’ve all been told we should plug some …