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 CFL recycling

Dear Umbra, So what happens to compact fluorescent light bulbs in the hands of the “hazardous-waste people”? Is the mercury reclaimed and reused, or merely hidden “away” (wherever that is)? John GearLansing, Mich. Dearest John, …


Umbra on old clothes

Dear Umbra, I promise that I searched the archives before emailing you, so hopefully you haven’t already answered this question. I’m wondering about the best way to dispose of old clothes and shoes — the …


Umbra on moving

Dear Umbra, Is there such a thing as “green movers”? I want to transport furniture from L.A. to Seattle and wonder if any movers use biodiesel vehicles or something like that. Andy Luk Seattle, Wash. …


Umbra on shower curtains

Dear Umbra, You have successfully instilled the fear of all things vinyl in me. Now the big question is: with what do I replace my old vinyl shower curtain? We have a cotton one at …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on replacing light bulbs

Dear Umbra, I am reluctant to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs because that means tossing out not only used-but-still-working incandescent bulbs, but also the brand-new bulbs I have waiting in the closet. Is it …


Umbra on farmers’ markets and food stamps

Dear Umbra, Do organic grocers take food stamps? Do farmers’ markets? If not, what do ecologically/health-minded people on fixed incomes do? David Burch South Bend, Ind. Dearest David, Did you know that in many states …

Climate & Energy

Umbra on personal fans

Dear Umbra, So the weather is turning hot again. I got my electric fans out of the closet. On the back of these, there are no indications of what amount of electricity they use. Could …


Umbra on smelly CFLs (and mercury too)

Dear Umbra, We have been replacing our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, but we notice that the compact fluorescents have an odd smell. Are they emitting something we should know about? Compact fluorescent …


Umbra on CFLs and dimmers

Dearest Umbra, Are there compact fluorescent bulbs for lights on dimmer switches? Why can’t I use regular CFLs in dimmers? Dimly, Julia L. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Dearest Julia, I feel like my brain is squinting …