It turns out that experts are divided on the long-standing question of whether to buy a fresh-cut live tree or a plastic one.

It turns out that experts are divided on the long-standing question of whether to buy a fresh-cut live tree or a plastic one.

Many don't approve of buying fresh trees, which are grown for years — often with the aid of pesticides — before being cut down and shipped thousands of miles to Christmas tree lots.

Once the holidays are over, the trees are tossed to the curb and often wind up in a landfill.

But before turning around and picking up an artificial tree, consider this: Many fake trees are made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which can contain harmful chemicals. And even though you'll probably use the tree for years, eventually it will have to be thrown away.

"Christmas trees in general are just bad news," said Damien Somerset, a Hollywood new media producer and environmentalist. "If you can, I would say avoid a tree — of any kind."

But for many Americans, a tree is a must-have Christmas tradition.

So when shopping for that perfect fresh-cut tree, consumers should ask where the trees came from and whether pesticides were used to help them grow, said Paul McRandle, deputy director of National Geographic's Green Guide.

"A third option that is even better but requires a little more work is to get a live tree in a pot, take that home and put your lights and your ornaments on it," he said. "The idea is after Christmas, you just plant it in your yard. That would be probably the greenest option."

To brighten your tree, green Web site Eco-Artware.com sells ornaments made from old record labels, wood Scrabble tiles and tea bags.

If you're into crafts, many designs can be replicated with knickknacks from around the house, a glue gun and string.

To reduce your energy use, McRandle recommends using LED lights instead of traditional incandescent ones. Also keep an eye out for items featuring an "Energy Star" label, which identifies energy-efficient products.

After you hang your Christmas lights, make sure to set them on a timer and turn them off during the day and when you go to sleep at night.