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 kayak materials

Dear Umbra, I’m planning on kayaking the Inside Passage next summer and am having a hard time deciding what kind of boat to get. Are there any environmental reasons to choose a kayak material? Mostly I’m torn between plastic, which …


Umbra on reducing consumption

Dear Umbra, If recycling requires energy to turn one’s discarded waste into usable products, and “climate solutions take precedence over garbage-production concerns,” as you wrote in June, why are we so focused on recycling and not on reducing our initial …


Umbra on owning multiple cars

Dear Umbra, Your recent column suggested that the questioners sell one of their two cars, but I can’t help wondering how much good that does for the environment, especially weighed against the annoyance cost of not having a second car …


Umbra on recycled toilet paper

Dear Umbra, The few brands of recycled-content toilet paper available are nasty. Why is it so difficult to manufacture TP that’s not from virgin trees but doesn’t feel like bark on one’s sensitive skin? What exactly is the technological barrier …


Umbra on phosphates in detergents

Dear Umbra, Why haven’t phosphates been removed from dishwashing detergents like they have been from laundry detergents? I know they make your clothing look brighter, but what do they do for dishes? Natalie Waddell-Rutter North East, Pa. Dearest Natalie, Phosphates …


Umbra on LEDs

Dear Umbra, Where are the LED replacement bulbs for normal household incandescents? They’re supposed to be more efficient, cheaper, cooler, longer-lasting, and less toxic, right? So why aren’t there any LED bulbs similar to CFLs? I’ve been looking around but …

Umbra on oil drilling and seismic activity

Dear Umbra, How is drilling for oil affecting the stabilization of our planet? I wonder how much all the drilling is disturbing the earth’s crust. Could this be part of the problem causing tsunamis, earthquakes, and tidal waves? Susan Milliner …


Umbra on motivating teenagers

Dear Umbra, I’m an officer for my high school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, and we stress academic importance and help our community by doing service projects. I’m trying to get a service project going in support of the …


Umbra on greener golfing

Dear Umbra, I am getting an early start on my Christmas shopping this year, and always try to find sustainable gifts whenever possible. My father is an avid golfer. I have been pleased to see that the golf community’s efforts …