Ask Umbra®

The New York Times calls Umbra Fisk "a trailblazer in the field of eco-advice columnists" and "the arch online sage of the new green age." Her latest passion: kale smoothies ... no, sorry, civic engagement, because getting political is the only way we'll get a planet that doesn't burn and a future that doesn't suck. Ask Umbra a question here.

  • Umbra on salt

    Dear Umbra, What’s up with salt, environmentally speaking? Is it good for the Dead Sea if I buy Dead Sea salt (but then it travels halfway around the world)? Am I getting trace amounts of Bad Stuff in any sea …

  • Umbra on wave power

    Hello Umbra, I just read a little bit about wave power and was wondering what you think the future potential is for this clean and never-ending energy source? Peter Blomquist Orlando, Fla. Dearest Peter, Wow. I’m a sucker for anything …

  • Umbra on feeding birds

    Dearest Umbra, Every winter I take pleasure in putting out birdseed to feed the backyard wildlife. I purchase the easily available, run-of-the-mill, found-at-my-local-hardware-store type of seed. My question is, in the big picture … am I doing more harm than …

  • Umbra on tidal power

    Dear Umbra, Much is made of wind, solar, geothermal, and even wave power, but why doesn’t anyone talk about tidal power? It has more power than wind for the same turbine, without the eyesore of turbines, is totally renewable, and …

  • Umbra on refrigerator downsizing

    Dear Umbra, Two of our favorite Brit-coms are Keeping Up Appearances and As Time Goes By. It is hard for an American not to remark that in both households, which seem quite affluent, the refrigerator is short, and fits beneath …

  • Umbra on radiant heating

    Dear Umbra, We’re trying to build a really small house and be really economical as we do it. Radiant floor heating sounds practical for the first floor, although it’s expensive. What do you think about radiant floor heating, pluses, minuses, …

  • Umbra on mercury in CFLs

    Dearest Umbra, For the past 10 years or so I have been patiently and methodically replacing the incandescent light bulbs in my house with the more efficient compact fluorescent ones. Even though they cost more than incandescents, I have been …

  • Umbra on biodegradable products

    Dearest Umbra, With biodegradable corn-plastic products like clothes hangers, credit cards, and trash bags, we are led to believe there are good alternatives to plastic that can be thrown out guilt-free. But doesn’t all trash get put in landfills that …

  • Umbra on replacing toilets

    Dear Umbra, I’m selling my house in Los Angeles and my toilet is not low-flow. One of the inspectors is trying to tell me I need to replace my toilet with a new low-flow. Well, I know the old ziplock …