Editor’s note: This week Grist celebrates the 10th anniversary of our Ask Umbra advice column. Today, we look at the topics that have gotten the most traffic over time, to find out what really gets our readers hot and bothered. Are you a fellow fretter? Seek relief: Ask Umbra.
10. Diapers. Cloth or disposable? Almost as hot a topic as its life-choice opposite, overpopulation, this dilemma causes major angst. Turns out both options kind of … stink. So pick one and go with it, or give diaper-free parenting a shot. (Let us know how that goes.)
9. Power strips. We felt as proud as a parent watching a school play when we saw that home energy use was a consistent area of concern. The moral is: Use a power strip and unplug chargers and other vampire appliances. You’ll save energy, save money, and save us from gently reminding you for the zillionth time.
8. Recycling. Readers regularly wonder if X item is recyclable (condoms! coffee cups! car seats!). Umbra is only too happy to rummage for an answer, before dropping her inevitablest piece of advice: Check with your local authorities to be sure.
5. Toilets. As demonstrated earlier this week, bodily functions are a never-ending source of fascination. In fact, while no such queries made the Top 10, we were pees’d to see that toilet seat covers and pee rags cracked the Top 20, with peeing in the shower not far behind.
4. Cooking. We were chewing over the idea of making a meal based on the most popular food questions you had asked. But then we realized: Green organic bananas plus pink slime plus BPA in canning lids = a recipe for distress.
3. Liquor. OK, we admit it, questions about adult beverages don’t figure anywhere near the Top 10. But in a sense they’ve been the life of the party: Plastic or paper for Jell-O shots? Does it hurt waterways to pour beer down the drain? Is it better to buy beer in cans or bottles? Are there organic liquors? What can I do with my vast collection of wine corks (and what kind of plastic is used for those newfangled bottle-stoppers)? You might be a bunch of lushes, but such a conscientious bunch of lushes there never was.
2. Light bulbs. How many Grist readers does it take to change a light bulb? Come up with the best punchline, and we’ll send you the efficient bulb of your choice. Limited time offer.
1. Plastic. A highly scientific review of the Top 40 Umbra Columns of All Time reveals that a full 20 percent have to do with plastic, mostly plastic bottles. The thousands of words spilled on that topic boil down to this: Don’t buy ’em! We’ll drink to that.