For many years, people thought that an artificial Christmas tree was the better choice for the environment. After all, you can re-use the fake tree year after year, and you don’t have to take a tree out of the forest.

In the past decade, there has been a growing resurgence of the Christmas tree farm, which are farms that grow trees specifically for use in people’s homes. These farm are at the forefront of conservation agriculture. The trees emit clean oxygen during their 10-15 year growth period and they don’t need a lot of extra irrigation. An acre of growing Douglas fir trees can absorb 11,308.7 lbs of carbon dioxide every year. Add to that the fact that these trees will grow in ground that is otherwise not suitable for any other kind of crop.

In regards to artificial trees, they are generally made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a petroleum product, and so therefore can never be recycled. The average lifetime for these plastic trees (before they are replaced) is around 7-9 years, and then they are thrown away. It’s also worth mentioning, that the longer the PVC tree is in your home, the more toxic it becomes, emitting of a number of carcinogens, such as dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

“Artificial Christmas trees made of PVC degrade under normal conditions. About 50 million U.S. households have artificial Christmas trees, of which about 20 million are at least nine years old, the point at which dangerous lead exposures can occur.”

The Children’s Health Environmental Coalition warns that artificial trees “may shed lead-laced dust, which may cover branches or shower gifts and the floor below the tree.” Lastly, 85% of the artificial Christmas trees sold in North America are made in China, so you can also add a long carbon-heavy journey across the planet as another point against these fake trees.

So if the decision isn’t an obvious one by now, then take it from us. A real Christmas tree is the more beautiful, more eco-friendly choice.