Hold onto your Santa hat, because you’re not going to believe this: When it comes to buying a Christmas tree, a real tree is a better choice for the environment than a fake one!Before you say it—you’re right, that seems counterintuitive given the rampant deforestation of our planet. (That “Inconvenient Truth” DVD you got a few years back didn’t go unnoticed.)But amazingly, fake plastic trees still provide a longer naughty list than real trees do.Namely, producing that faux tree is the problem. Most fake trees are petroleum-based (made with non-biodegradeable PVC, or polyvinyl chloride), which gobbles energy during production and shipping. Fake trees are typically made in China too, so shipping your little Yule tree stateside? That’s one super-sized carbon footprint in your stocking.MORE: Does Pollution Cause Obesity?Real trees, on the other hand, have definitely planted themselves on the nice list. According to The Nature Conservancy—the world’s leading conservation organization—tree farms plant, grow and then replace trees, which protects our environment and wildlife in the process.“Real trees trap carbon pollution and greenhouse gases, helping to reduce changes in our climate,” explains Bill Ulfelder, New York State Director of the Nature Conservancy, who is tree-hunting in the Hudson Valley with his family this year. “They’re good for wildlife, including birds and mammals, and they produce oxygen from photosynthesis to clean the air. [They even] prevent erosion, helping to keep our water clean.”For every real tree cut down, he says, one to three seedlings are planted in its place to create a renewable cycle.And just wait, it gets jollier: Local tree farms create jobs of course, which is perhaps the very best gift you can give this year. The Nature Conservancy reports that local tree farms provide at least 100,000 domestic jobs each year (mostly on small and family-owned tree farms), raking in over $1 billion every year along the way.So bundle up, commission a little helper or two, and swap that wannabe-tree for the nearest tree farm instead. (You can search by zip code here, easy as pie.) This year, “eco-friendly tree hunter” will land you on the nice list, too!MORE: Holiday Gifts That Give Back