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.

For even more green goodness, you can follow Umbra on Twitter (@AskUmbra) or become a fan on Facebook.

Umbra Fisk is Grist Research Associate II, Hardcover and Periodicals Unit, floors 2B-4B.

Climate & Energy

Umbra on inefficient windows

Dear Umbra, I am lucky enough to have a home I really love and food to feed my family and my pets. However, the home has one major energy flaw: it is older and has huge, single-pane window/walls with aluminum …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on window manufacturers

Dear Umbra, We are looking into replacing some of our windows. Any thoughts on which companies are more environmentally friendly, not just in the energy-efficiency of their windows, but in the manufacturing process (Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, recycling materials, etc.)? …


Umbra on dripless candles

Dear Umbra, My family is a big fan of dripless candles. They’re beautiful and don’t provide piles of wax that tempt fingers into creating little messes. Can you tell us how these candles work and if they are environmentally “safe”? …


Umbra on Halloween

Dear Umbra, What do you recommend handing out to the trick-or-treaters this Halloween? I would like to avoid the wasteful packaging and additives found in store-bought goodies. I’d bake my own treats, but I doubt parents would let their kids …


Umbra on PVC substitutes

Dear Umbra, I know to avoid PVC, but it’s difficult to know all the places it lurks. Is all vinyl PVC, or are there PVC-free vinyls? What options are there for waterproof but PVC-free materials (I have children who wet …


Umbra on battling cockroaches

Dear Umbra, Help! I’m having a mysterious cockroach problem. I found four in my apartment in two weeks, and not in the expected places: one in a stack of papers (I know, I should pay my bills faster), one near …


Umbra on dryer sheets

Dear Umbra, You mentioned toxic dryer sheets in your recent column on clothing, but without a reference to how they are toxic, etc. Lisa Milligan Fayetteville, Ark. Dearest Lisa, I appreciate the brevity and directness of your query. I’ll strive …


Umbra on chocolate

Dear Umbra, Although I buy most of my chocolate as fair trade or organic, I was wondering if you might enlighten me on the politics and economics of the chocolate (cocoa) industry. Where is most of it grown? What are …


Umbra on synthetic fabrics and kids

Dear Umbra, I have just recently learned about all these plastic-awareness issues and now wonder about polyester clothing, or any human-made fabric for that matter, on my children (three girls: 3, 5, and 7 years old). If plastics can leach …