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Post Archive
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August (1)

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
July (1)

Is it worth getting an education?
Thursday, July 7, 2011
June (2)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It Gets Better
Thursday, June 2, 2011
May (4)

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My first experience with science writing (Part 1 of 2)
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This is why we get vaccinated
Thursday, May 5, 2011

Monday Morning Jam
Monday, May 2, 2011
April (2)

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, April 23, 2011

So long, farewell ...
Friday, April 1, 2011
March (10)

Stay Tuned ...
Thursday, March 31, 2011

From the Union of Concerned Scientists
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Week 23 - Hockey Pool
Monday, March 14, 2011

March Madness
Monday, March 14, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, March 12, 2011

What a bargain!
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Technique Overload
Monday, March 7, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, March 5, 2011

Et tu FDA?
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
February (10)

Saturday Morning Serenade - A Hip Edition
Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wednesday Micro Hits (on Thursday!)
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day
Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, February 12, 2011

The GOP War on Science
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

People, how about some ...
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, February 5, 2011
January (21)

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Are you married to your reagents?
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Common Sense Tip #1
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, January 22, 2011

From the Baby Boomers, a Big "Screw You"
Friday, January 21, 2011

Student Worker - More Student or More Worker?
Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holy moly!
Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday Pondering
Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Electronic Office
Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Plug - January Edition
Friday, January 7, 2011

Bits 'N Pieces
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Latest Manuscript Review
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The $4 gallon of gas
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Our slowly shrinking (and dying) planet
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's 2011 already? For reals?
Monday, January 3, 2011
2010 (46)
December (9)

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, December 11, 2010

The State of Microbiology
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 blogging meme
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Environmental Impact of the Christmas Season
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Music Snobbery
Thursday, December 2, 2010

Phantom Power
Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's Your Name?
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
November (8)

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, November 27, 2010

Awakening from the food coma ...
Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Donor's Choose Final Followup (Recipes #3 and #4)
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Monday Mess
Monday, November 22, 2010

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits (Peer-Review Edition)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 2 of the ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meeting (#ACSMtg)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
October (29)

ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meeting - Day 1
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stayin' Alive
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits (Vol. 4)
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ASA-CSSA-SSSA Early Career Program
Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits (Vol. 3)
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Donor's Choose - Family Recipe Number 1
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Good on Donor's Choose Bribe - Comfort Food Recipe 1
Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Wrap-Up and Random Thoughts (Vol. 2)
Friday, October 15, 2010

First I Begged, Now I Bribe
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finding Out Things The Hard Way(TM)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits (Vol 2)
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Here's where I start begging ...
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#UnK3rn3d: Life Outside the Lab?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First fleas, now frogs?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No Fleas Please
Monday, October 11, 2010

My next Research Blogging article has been chosen ...
Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday Morning Serenade
Saturday, October 9, 2010

Donor's Choose
Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Wrap-up and Random Thoughts
Friday, October 8, 2010

RB: Waste Not, Want Not.
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Research Blogging
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday Micro Hits
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What if I were not a microbiologist ...
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TJ's Tips on Manuscript Review
Monday, October 4, 2010

Chinese plagiarism and the death of English-language journals
Friday, October 1, 2010

Allow Me a Formal Introduction
Friday, October 1, 2010
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Thomas Joseph

It's a Micro World after all is a blog dedicated to discussing pretty much whatever I feel like. When I delve into scientific matters it will primarily be discussing microbiology (agricultural, bioenergy, and environmental focus). Otherwise, I'll probably ramble on about sports and life.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Awesome Stuff
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So, now that Thanksgiving is over I've had to start decorating for Christmas. If I had my druthers, I'd decorate ... never ... or possibly on the 23rd or 24th, but the decision is not mine to make alone. So up into the attic I went, and down came all the wreaths, ornaments, stockings and holders, holiday DVDs and CDs, garland, and lights ... and the big artificial tree. This tree has seen much better days and so this is probably the last year it'll be used, but it's gotten me to thinking (yah, scary thought). What is going to happen to that tree when I'm done with it, and what sort of environmental impact is it going to have?

Before I go any further though, I have to say that one of my favorite parts of last evening was breaking open my favorite Christmas CD of all time "Favorite Carols of Christmas" and listening to it. I've just completed ripping and adding it to my iPod, so I won't get stuck listening to all the cruddy Christmas music out there on the radio.

Best Christmas Album Ever!

At any rate, I've gone around looking for information on the environmental impacts of artificial Christmas trees and come across a few interesting blog entries on the matter, like this one (which takes away most of the thunder of this here blog entry). Looking into the issue we first need to decide which sort of "artificial tree" we're going to debate on, and there are several options. Honestly, I haven't seen many artificial trees made out of feathers or aluminum, so I think we can safely land our discussion on plastic (PVC based) trees.

Growing Christmas trees appears to be quite the racket, and is done in all 50 states (at least according to a University of Illinois extension page). As expected, this site takes a dim view of artificial trees, though they do mention that in 2002, 48% of households had artificial trees, as opposed to 21% and 32% of households have real or no trees respectively.

The average lifespan of a PVC Christmas tree is around 6 years, which means in the 72 months post purchase, if you're a typical American and put your tree up immediately after finishing your Thanksgiving turkey, you'll see this thing for a total of 6 months. Then you'll haul it off to the dump where it'll sit for eternity, since PVC isn't readily biodegradable ... and if it gets hauled off to the incinerator? Yikes! Combusting PVC leads to the formation of dioxins which caused the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee of the US Green Building Council to study PVC and see if it truly was"... consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts."

And making the stuff? Fuhgedaboudit! Plasticizing vinyl requires phthalates (such as DEHP) which are huge environmental burdens and effect animal reproduction, possibly including humans (PDF, 13 pages).

So, when you put up your tree this year, consider the environmental impact you are having. While many of us consider buying an artificial tree a "green alternative" because it leaves the real trees alive, in actuality it isn't green at all. The true green option is to buy the replenishable resource ... a live tree.

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Blog Comments

Genomic Repairman
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As a guy who worked on Christmas tree lots in college and grad school, I can tell you its pretty lucrative if you are a big time operation, but not so much if it was like the mom and pop style that I worked.

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I was totally thrilled to find out that real trees appear to be at least as good, and probably a much more environmentally friendly option. Here at least (central pennsylvania), they are local. They sequester carbon for years (3-6) before you use them. And they make lovely mulch and biodegrade.

Full disclaimer- I would rather have no tree than a fake tree.


However, I was also pickled tink to find that there are *rent a tree* options where you get a live one that then gets planted. If thre were a local option for that, I'd be all into it.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I will say that my parents have had the same fake christmas tree for almost 25 years.  Not saying it's looking all that great these days ;)

Thomas Joseph
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The tree that is currently up in my house is 15 years old (the last five spent in a shed). I put up a small pre-lit three foot tree last year, and the year prior nothing went up at all. I wouldn't mind having a tree like becca mentioned where it could be planted after the season. Otherwise, I may go with a live tree and compost it at the end of the season.

Genomic Repairman
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We used to tie cinder blocks to them and sink them in the pond after Christmas in order to make bream beds.

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I've always had a real one - the smell of fresh-cut tree when you walk into the room is part of Christmas for me!


We got ours yesterday - local, of course, and smelling lovely. Assuming the cats haven't destroyed it by the time I get home tonight, we'll decorate it later, and with diligent watering and feeding it'll last through to the New Year. Our city will pick up trees  from houses and apartment buildings for free (along with their garden clippings and food waste composting programmes), and chip and mulch them for use in city parks.


Thomas Joseph
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Definitely sounds like a good program Cath. I wish my city would do something similar.

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