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12/07/2016 00:44 EST

Real Christmas Trees Or Fake Ones -- Which Are Better For The Planet?

Artificial trees need to be used for a long time to make them a more eco-friendly choice.

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Christmas trees are a booming business. In 2015, Americans spent more than $1.3 billion on real Christmas trees and over $850 million on fake ones. 

The Christmas tree: it’s a quintessential part of the holiday season. But it turns out not all festive trees are made equal — at least not when it comes to environmental friendliness.

So, which is better for the planet — a freshly cut tree or a fake one?

The short answer, which may come as a surprise to some, is a real tree. But it’s actually more complicated than that.

It ultimately depends on a variety of factors, including how far you drive to get your evergreen and how you dispose of it at the end of the holidays ― and, if you choose an artificial tree, how long you end up using it.

Here’s an explainer on how to make the more Earth-friendly choice this Christmas season:

Brigitte Merle/Getty Images

The bottom line

All things being equal, it seems real Christmas trees are better for the health of the Earth ― and of your family. But depending on a variety of factors, either option can be a good choice. 

If you have an artificial tree, reuse it for at least a decade and consider choosing a domestically manufactured, non-PVC option. If you want a real tree, get one close to where you live, and recycle or compost it when the season is over.

Real or fake ― which option will you pick this year? Tell us in the comments.

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