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 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 6 bottles in my garage. …

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 that you use to blow …

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 R.Syracuse, N.Y. Dearest Kate, Idears-R-Me, …

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 fumes were certainly more visible …


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 who wrote in wishing me …


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 get a handle on flicking …


Umbra on fireplace inserts

Dear Umbra, Our fireplace is terribly drafty when we’re not using it, and not very functional when we do. Despite the cheery blaze, most of the heat seems to go up the chimney. I tend to burn those “green” coffee …


Umbra on pellet stoves

Dear Umbra, I am a policy analyst with Californians Against Waste, a recycling advocacy group. Just wondering why pellet stoves were not considered in your wood stove analysis. I have one and feel that overall they rate well compared to …


Umbra on insulation

Dear Umbra, I recently discovered that our attic is not insulated. While I live in the fairly warm climate of San Diego, we’ve been hit by a cold spell the last few weeks and I’ve cranked on the heater. I’d …