Real or Fake Christmas TreeThe holidays are officially here, and that thousands of families across the U.S. are decorating Christmas trees. While many people are seeking the best deal or the “best” and fullest tree, others are wondering what’s the best tree for the environment.

Fake trees are on the rise. It’s a two-fold cause: the quality and appearance of fake Christmas trees has become remarkably good in the last few years. At the same time, real Christmas trees have become more expensive; a family can easily spend $60 to $100 or more on a real tree. Not to mention, real trees require watering, trimming and cleaning due to dropped pine needles.

These factors, combined with the long lifespan of a fake tree, have led many to make the switch to fake. In fact, 81 percent of Americans now use fake trees versus real ones. But while shoppers assume that fake trees are better for the environment—after all, you’re not chopping down a large tree every year—is it true?

The truth about fake Christmas trees

Most fake Christmas trees are produced in China; importing them alone creates a large carbon footprint right from the start. They’re created from toxic materials and they are not recyclable. So, when you’re done with your fake tree—whether it’s in five years or 20—it will be adding more waste to our already overflowing landfills.

According to some environmental experts, artificial trees have “three times more impact on climate change and resource depletion than natural trees,” and it would take more than 20 years to make an artificial tree a better choice for the environment.

In general, real trees are the eco-friendly choice.Real Trees Are More Eco-Friendly

Of course, it depends on a slew of factors – such as how far you drive to get your tree, the kind of tree you get, whether you recycle it after its use and so on. But most Christmas trees are grown for that specific purpose: to be Christmas trees. Plus, these Christmas tree farms serve as habitats for local wildlife, and generally require little pesticide use.

If you’re buying a real tree, be sure to buy local. Staying close to home and not driving far to get your tree helps, but so does buying trees that are grown locally.

And, of course, recycle it. Many communities offer curbside recycling for trees post-holidays.