The decline of pine: Plastic trees reign this Christmas

The Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, New York.
Getty Images
The Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, New York.

Even though real Christmas trees outsell fake ones more than 2-to-1, the overwhelming odds are there's a plastic tree-in-a-box in your house this holiday.

Last year, the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) reported that 33.02 million real trees and 14.7 million artificial trees were bought in the United States. Yet its peer, the American Christmas Tree Association, anticipates that 81 percent of displayed trees in 2014 will be synthetic.

"It may take a while to see a reversal," said Mary Jeanne Packer, executive director of the Christmas Tree Farmer's Association of New York. "There are people who still think they are doing the right thing by getting a fake tree. Because they think they need to 'save a tree' ... nobody is buying a fake carrot to save a carrot. A Christmas tree is not part of a forested eco-system. It is part of a crop."

Read MoreIs this the world's most expensive Christmas tree?

Experts like Packer believe that this trend is attributed to consumers trying to save money. Real trees cost half what fake trees do, but people also keep fake trees longer (a decade or longer, by some estimates).

"It would over time, save you money, particularly if you take advantage of getting it on sale," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, of buying plastic. "[But] people need to be reasonable when they purchase one. An item on sale isn't a responsible purchase unless we can afford it."

Dower Christmas Tree Farm in Peapack, New Jersey, price their trees based solely on height. The farm retails their trees at a flat rate of $9 per foot. Jim Beck, owner of Patchen California Christmas Tree Farms and Old Summit Forest Products, has a sliding scale for his rates.

"Some [trees] grow smaller than others and some, in fact, don't grow at all in this area," he said. "We ship from the Lake Tahoe area or from Oregon, which makes them more expensive."

Read MoreChristmas countdown: Here's what shoppers want

The Christmas spirit notwithstanding, the debate can get pretty heated within the industry.

"Artificial trees come mostly preassembled and prelit," said Steve Downs, national sales manager of the National Tree Co. "There are a few pieces to put together, plug it in and your tree is ready for decorating. There is no need to make sure the trees is straight in a stand, clean up needles, or keep it watered."

Read MoreShoppers to splash $690K a minute on Christmas Day

But the real-tree folks would beg to differ.

"Having kids in the house is the No. 1 driver for buying a tree; it feels like Christmas to get a tree.... There is not a lot of special memories in pulling a box of plastic down from the attic every year," said Rick Dungey, executive director of the NCTA. "I call them plastic tree-shaped decorations."