Issue Section: Ask Umbra

No butts about it: Your cigarettes kill everything

Dear Umbra, I’m a full-time environmental activist living on an anti-aviation protest camp. When I first came here, I was shocked by the number of environmentalists who smoke tobac …

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Ask Umbra: Is your front-loading washer smelly or moldy? Here’s how to fix that.

Q. Dear Umbra, I have had issues with odor from my front-loading washing machine, even though I almost always take the clothing out soon after washing and leave the door open. I ha …

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Ask Umbra: Is synthetic yarn for the birds?

Q. Dear Umbra, I’ve been saving my yarn scraps all year to put out for the birds while they’re building their nests, but I’m wondering about synthetics, like acrylic. Most of my kn …

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Ask Umbra: Here’s something that could make recycling a lot easier

Q. Dear Umbra, I cannot find the be-all, end-all guidance as to what kinds of plastic bags and plastic films can be recycled. Merchant bags for sure, but what about all that other …

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Ask Umbra: Is it terrible to crack open a window during winter nights?

Q. Dear Umbra, I have a window in the bedroom that I like to keep open about an inch, year-round, at night only. This window is across the room, down the hall, past a stairwell, an …

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Ask Umbra: What’s the Greenest Kind of Drink Container?

Q.Dear Umbra, My peers and I are working to better our campus. We’re looking into the most sustainable option for drinks on campus. What’s better for our school to buy and sell: gl …

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Ask Umbra: What’s the Most Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Cycle

Q. Dear Umbra, With regards to dishwasher cycle times vs. power and water usage, is it better to run the normal cycle (1:43 to 2 hours) that uses less water but more power, or the …

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Ask Umbra: Your Guide to Buying Non-Toxic, Kid-Friendly Toys

When we think about problematic playthings, plastic is usually on the top of the list. It carries the lion’s share of chemical concerns, and besides, it’s made from petroleum and c …

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Ask Umbra: What’s the Greenest Kind of Christmas Tree?

Q. Dear Umbra, I’m visiting my sister out West soon, and she suggested we go cut down a Christmas tree in the woods. This sounds like a terrible idea to me. Isn’t cutting down a pe …

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Ask Umbra: Are Coconut Products Bad for the Environment?

Q. Dear Umbra, My wife and I have started using coconut oil a lot. I know demand for palm oil is proving horrible for the tropical forests of the world, and was wondering if the sa …

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