Oh Tannenbaum, oh potted fern

Is it more eco-friendly to buy a real or a fake Christmas tree?

It’s a discussion that has my social circle at odds—though we prefer to celebrate all winter holidays equally.

In one corner, you have hardcore Treehuggers who see artificial trees as the way to go. But while their argument has surface logic, most fake trees are made from petroleum products overseas, then shipped many gas-guzzling miles to the U.S.

In the opposite corner, folks argue that tree farms constantly replenish their land with seedlings, so you should buy a real tree that’s organic (just in case Junior decides to chew on a branch) and comes from a locally owned farm. Most tree farms in our area aren’t certified organic, though the process of Christmas tree cultivation doesn’t usually require pesticides to be sprayed. Still, call ahead and make an educated decision about where your tree comes from.

If you want to recycle your tree after the holidays, take it to the Sacramento Recycling and Transfer Station at 8491 Fruitridge Road, (916) 379-0500. Between December 26 and January 31, the station will accept a maximum of five trees per vehicle, which will be recycled as green waste. Flocked trees are acceptable, but you must remove tinsel, ornaments, lights, nails and, of course, the tree stand. Visit www.SacGreenTeam.com for other tree recycling locations.

I haven’t sided with either argument because I’ve found a solution to beat out both: Every year, I decorate the potted fern in my living room with colorful ornaments cut from recyclable paper. It’s a tree that will live out its days peacefully, with a steady food and water source, and die of old age—a free-range houseplant, if you will.