A woman putting an ornament on a tree.

Real vs. Fake

Which is greener: a real tree or a fake one? The argument made for artificial trees is that you're saving a tree from being cut down. But the reality is that Christmas trees are crops that will be replanted, not virgin forests.
Wood is a renewable resource, unlike the petroleum that goes into artificial trees, and trees emit oxygen into the atmosphere while taking in carbon dioxide. Real trees likely make the greener choice. Here are a few ways to make sure yours is as green as can be.

A tree on the front porch to welcome visitors.

Buy Local

You may already know that buying local food makes a difference for the environment. Not only are you contributing to your local economy, but you're also significantly reducing the pollution and packaging that goes into transporting goods over long distances.

It's the same for trees. Find the nursery or retailer with trees grown as close to your home as possible, or better yet, find the nearest Christmas tree farm.

A small tree in a terra cotta planter.

Medium Green

Most environmental advocates agree that a potted tree, one with the root ball intact, provides an eco-friendly option. If properly cared for while inside, the tree can be planted outside after the holidays.

The downside? You can only keep the tree up for a week or so, and many homeowners don't have the yard space to plant a new tree every year.

For those who do, ask the nursery or retailer about care instructions, and also check to be sure that your soil and climate conditions are suitable for the tree type.

A table top tree wtih glass ornaments.

Ask About Organic

For most of us, it's a long shot that we'll find an organic Christmas tree locally. You could order one, but it would have to be shipped (which rebuffs the whole idea of buying locally) and could become another holiday hassle. Still, there are some tree farmers out there employing sustainable agricultural practices, such as using fewer pesticides, so it's worth asking around.

If you can't find organic and you want to be as green as possible, start thinking the unthinkable -- Christmas without a tree. The greenest option really is to go without.

A small countertop tree with lights.

Have an Exit Plan

Before you even buy your real tree, start deciding what you'll do with it after the holiday sparkle and shine wears off.

If you buy potted and plan to plant, then you're covered. Otherwise, check with your local city authorities to see if they'll compost the tree. Or you could compost the tree yourself. It's more labor intensive and requires a heavy-duty chipper/shredder, but you'll have mounds of mulch for the New Year. If these ideas don't pan out or appeal to you, visit Earth911 to find more tree-recycling options in your area.

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