Here's a great green holiday debate: Which is greener—a reusable fake tree or cutting down a live one? Pablo Päster, Treehugger.com’s Ask Pablo columnist, tackled this conundrum. He determined that, from a carbon emissions standpoint, a live tree cut from a tree farm (where it is replaced), and then composted was greener than a fake tree. That said, he contended that if you hike out into the woods and cut a tree yearly and do not replace it, then the fake tree is the way to go.
The greenest Christmas tree is actually a third option: a potted living tree you plant outside after the festivities. It will continuously absorb carbon long after it’s holiday decorations are removed. And it requires none of the resources used to manufacture and then ship an artificial tree. It’s also a lot better looking.
Local nurseries sell, and some even rent, potted live trees. Live trees can only handle about a week indoors and require specific care to ensure a successful transition back to the great outdoors. You'll need to plan your decorating around these limitations.
If you have no yard to plant a tree in, opt for a live tree from a farm where it was replaced when cut. Just ask questions when shopping so you know you’re getting what you want.
Have fun decorating.