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 co-housing

Dear Umbra, How does one begin to gather a group of people to live in a modern city commune? My dream is to own in common an energy-efficient and sustainable house or apartment building inhabited …

Umbra on LED holiday lights

Dear Umbra, Suppose I replace all my many old, tangled, not-so-efficient holiday lights with the newer LED lights. These are supposed to be better for the environment. What is the best way to dispose of …

Umbra on green roofs

Dear Umbra, Our garage is in need of a new roof. We would like to build a “living roof” and are wondering where to start. Our long-term plan is to convert the space into an …

Umbra on composting feminine products

Dear Umbra, OK, the kitty-litter thing pushed me over the edge. I know you are sick of writing about gross, yucky things, but I had to ask: if kitty litter is compostable, what about biodegradable …

Umbra on low-flow flushing

Dear Umbra, I live in an apartment. What can I do to reduce the amount of water that is flushed in the toilet? The landlord will not fix it. AudreyBrookline, Mass. Dearest Audrey, Ooh, more …

Umbra on composting toilets, again

Dear Umbra, I’m attempting to “green” my home, room by room. I’ve heard of low-flow toilets, but someone just told me about composting toilets. Do they smell bad? Will my grandmother use it or ask …

Umbra on heating with bathwater

Dear Umbra, After a hot bath, I leave the water in the tub so the heat will go into the room. My husband says the heat saved is inconsequential. How would one calculate the BTUs …

Umbra on climate confusion

Dear Umbra, Any chance that the most extreme of the peak-oil folks are correct, and that in spite of our thoughtlessness, we just won’t have enough oil to totally destroy the ozone layer? Dan WassonPittsburgh, …

Umbra on coffee

Dear Umbra, I am a seriously indulgent coffee drinker. Lately, there have been a ton of “green” coffee shops popping up. I like to support local coffee shops, and I want to believe that they …