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The ultimate Ask Umbra guide to a red, white, and green Fourth of July.

Independence Day can be a dazzling carnival of guilty pleasures, especially for a concerned environmentalist.

Ask Umbra: I can’t get off the floor. What do I do?

A suspiciously familiar reader needs help with a serious case of civic withdrawal.

Which type of stovetop is the most energy-efficient?

Which stovetop is most efficient, a reader from B.C. wonders -- and advice maven Ask Umbra cranks up an answer.

How clean do my recyclables really need to be?

When a reader from Vermont asks Umbra Fisk for help unraveling the mysteries of recycling, our fearless advice maven takes the case.

Detergent pods are handy, but I can use them with a clean conscience?

A reader from Houston wonders what those cute little laundry soap-pods are actually wrapped in -- and asks advice maven Umbra Fisk whether they do more harm than good.

My city banned plastic bags — now where am I supposed to recycle them?

A zealous city banned plastic bags -- then got rid of the bag-recycling bins too. Stuck with a bunch of bags, a reader asks advice maven Umbra Fisk how to handle the situation.

Do this cleaning product’s eco-claims actually mean anything?

Wondering what "eco-friendly" and "natural" really mean on product labels? Advice maven Ask Umbra dusts off a few common terms.

Do this cleaning product’s eco-claims actually mean anything?

Wondering what 'eco-friendly' and 'natural' really mean on product labels? Advice maven Ask Umbra dusts off a few common terms.

Here’s what a year of green advice boils down to

What a year for burning questions! Advice maven Umbra Fisk reviews the top topics that had readers asking for eco-help in 2015 -- and reminds us all of a few ways to live greener.

What is that freakin’ dial on my radiator?

A frustrated expat writes back home to Ask Umbra how his radiators work. Though she's no building super, she is a super-sleuth -- and she tracks down an answer to help him keep his cool.

How much energy does a soda machine waste?

You love your Coke, but what's it costing the planet? Among other things, a whole lot of wasted energy. Advice maven Ask Umbra explains.

The secret ingredient in your homemade jam may be coming from the lid

Sure, there's less BPA in use these days -- but, a reader asks Umbra, what about the plastics that replaced it in our cans and bottle tops?

Floss is good for your teeth — but is it bad for the environment?

A reader asks for alternatives to plasticky, over-packaged dental floss. Umbra sinks her teeth into some answers.


Dave from Traverse City asked about the word umbrage. It’s the emotion that erupts when someone feels offended, aggrieved, or insulted. It often appears in the form, “I take umbrage at that.” It comes from the Latin umbra, a shadow.Show More Summary

Ask Umbra: Is the Ice Bucket Challenge a waste of water and money?

A reader wonders how much water has been wasted to raise money for ALS. Umbra says it's a drop in the bucket.

Ask Umbra: Is “canned air” bad for the planet?

A reader threatens to use an air duster to clean her office. "Drop the spray can and step away from the computer," says Umbra. "We don't want anyone to get hurt."

Ask Umbra: How can I green up my back-to-school shopping?

A reader frets that his buying binge could be bad for the planet. Umbra says this three-ring shopping circus can really get you in a bind.

Ask Umbra: Am I a bad person for wanting to flee to the suburbs?

A reader is considering running for the hills following a rash of shootings in his city neighborhood. Umbra breaks down his options.

Ask Umbra: Will Teflon pans poison my food?

To stick or non to stick. That is the question. Umbra says 'tis nobler to stick.

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