Is an artificial or natural Christmas tree better for the environment?

Fake or real - it's the Christmas tree decision families are debating this festive season.

While some swear by their natural tree, others point to plastic as the perfect pine. But beyond personal taste - which is better for the planet?

Artificial Christmas tree or natural Christmas tree? It's the big tree issue that's stumping the nation.

But the fake or real Christmas tree debate really heats up when it comes to climate change.

"A really beautiful smell - they look amazing, it's natural, it comes from nature, you're not sort of creating more plastic," said Mike, from Misa's Christmas Trees.

"It does become an investment piece and could easily last you 10, 20, 30 years - so rather than choosing trees that might just be put in the bin at the end of the season, these are things that you can use year after year," said Heather Madill, from The Christmas Heirloom Company.

So which is better for planet Earth? The unsatisfying answer is both - but with conditions.

Let's start with artificial. They're typically made in China, then shipped here. That, combined with the PVC plastics they're made out of, means you need to commit to offset their emissions.

"Ten to 20 years - that you have to use your artificial tree in order for it to be comparable," said Massey University life cycle management Professor Sarah McLaren.

And while you might be feeling pine about your natural tree, it's not necessarily the greenest option either.

"If you send it to landfill it may end up in an anaerobic environment producing methane - and methane is quite a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to climate change," Prof McLaren said.

When you're done with your natural tree the temptation might be just to dump it on your berm - but the council says that's not allowed. They're asking you instead to chop it up, chuck it in your garden, use it for firewood or return it from the company you bought it from.

So as long as you're keeping your plastic tree long term, or disposing of your natural tree the right way - you're golden. 

But what do the experts do?

"My husband and my son will be heading up the hill shortly to try and find a wilding pine to cut down and bring back, so I reckon that's quite a good option," Prof McLaren said.

Just one green way to keep Christmas climate-friendly.