Issue Section: Ask Umbra

Ask Umbra: Hot tips for getting your compost pile cooking

Q. Dear Umbra, I’m tired of my compost not cooking. Can I just bury it around my plants and pull the stray volunteer seedling that emerges? Kristina Cleveland, Ohio This story orig …

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Ask Umbra: What’s the best way to deal with restaurant leftovers?

Q. Dear Umbra, Sometimes I ask for a to-go box when I’m eating out, but I’m always panged with environmental guilt when the server brings back a Styrofoam clamshell. But I hate was …

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Ask Umbra: Here are some greener, healthier Halloween treats

Q. Dear Umbra, I’m expecting a bunch of trick-or-treaters this year. Is there anything I can hand out that’s somewhat healthy and eco-friendly, instead of the usual sugar overload? …

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Ask Umbra: Here’s how to keep your sweaters lasting longer

Q. Dear Umbra, Disposable clothes are driving me nuts. In particular, as we come into fall, I’m thinking about sweaters. These days, when I buy a new sweater, it starts to pill on …

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Can you grow pot with LED lights?

Commercial marijuana growers account for 1% of the nation’s electricity consumption. As more and more states (24 and counting) legalize recreational or medicinal marijuana use, we …

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Ask Umbra: How green is radiant floor heating?

Q. Dear Umbra, I am planning a garage conversion and wondering whether to heat by means of radiators connected to the gas-fueled central heating or by under-floor electric heating …

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Ask Umbra: What kind of water heater is the greenest?

Q. Dear Umbra, We have an old storage tank water heater I’m afraid will go kaput any day now. What type of water heater do you think is best, climate-wise, to replace it? I don’t w …

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Ask Umbra: What should you do with your dog’s poo?

Q. Dear Umbra, My city prohibits us from putting dog poop in with other compostable stuff. I can pick it up with a plastic bag and toss that in the landfill garbage or I can pick i …

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Ask Umbra: These simple steps will make your refrigerator work better

Q. Dear Umbra, My refrigerator died suddenly at the tender age of 25. I bought an energy-saving one and found out that these new fridges last only seven to eight years. First of al …

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Ask Umbra: Where does baking soda come from, and is it really so eco-friendly?

Q. Dear Umbra, In a quest to quit using nasty cleaning chemicals in my house, I’ve gone largely to vinegar and baking soda. I know vinegar is easy to produce, and should have littl …

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Ask Umbra: You thought planes burned a lot of carbon? Say hello to cruise ships.

Q. Dear Umbra, I read an article by an environmentalist that the lifestyle change with the biggest impact is to quit flying. If I want to go to Europe from California, is it better …

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Bubble Jeopardy: Is my sparkling-water maker bad for the environment?

Q. Dear Umbra, My family and I are enamored of our seltzer maker. We drink copious amounts of the stuff. But I’ve been wondering where all that CO2 comes from and where it goes. Su …

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Ask Umbra: What’s the greenest way to get rid of hornets and yellow jackets?

Q. Dear Umbra, What’s the most environmentally responsible way to deal with hornets and yellow jackets nesting near people? Sprays seem pretty toxic to everything (not just the sti …

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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 it safe to eat veggies grown near a busy city street?

Q. Dear Umbra, I was getting all excited to plant some herbs and maybe veggies in containers on the balcony of my new apartment this summer. But the balcony faces out to a busy roa …

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