No one wants to celebrate the holidays at the environment’s expense, and now it seems the debate between real vs. fake trees is finally over. Real trees get the prize – they’re renewable, smell good, don’t release tons of chemicals, and can even be sustainably farmed or replanted. No point in letting a good tree to go to waste, especially during the season of giving, so here are some of the Bay Area’s greener tree hotspots.

East Bay

In Castro Valley, the Castro Valley Christmas Tree Farm is open Wednesday through Sunday for the Christmas season, offering Douglas Firs, Monterey Pines, and Sierra Redwoods for cutting. The farm has been open since 1969 for families looking for a “woodsy” experience in the East Bay hills.

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North Bay

Head out to one of several tree farms in Sebastobol, including Grandma Buddy’s Trees, offering Douglas Firs that have been individually cared for all year long, custom wreaths and garlands, and free hot cocoa and candy canes. There’s also the Garlock Tree Farm, with all your home-grown tree varieties, as well as horse-drawn carriage rides, hay rides, farm animals, and free coffee.

In Petaluma, check out Liberty Christmas Tree Farms, open Saturday and Sunday until Christmas. In addition to nabbing a freshly cut Monterey Pine, Douglas Fir, or Sierra Redwood, you can buy ornaments, garlands, or wreaths and enjoy some hot cider.

Peninsula/South Bay:

In Los Gatos, the Black Road Christmas Tree Farms grow Douglas Firs, Grand Firs, White Firs, Sierra Redwoods, and Scotch Pines at three different farms to match the trees’ specific growing needs. About 10,000 seedlings are grown here each year, and freshly made wreaths and mistletoe are available, too. All trees cost $50, and wreaths begin at $15.

Santa is in the building, at Santa’s Tree Farm in Half Moon Bay. Open every day until the 23rd, Santa’s Tree Farm is one of the largest choose-and-cut live tree farms in the Bay, with $2 train rides, handmade goodies in the Elves’ Workshop, complimentary yummies, and of course, Santa on the weekend.

A Rented Tree Lives On

Another tree-friendly option is to rent your holiday shrubbery through a joint SF Environment/Friends of the Urban Forest program. For $80, San Francisco residents can order a live tree, though not necessarily a conifer,  by December 3rd, and then pick it up, December 5th from 10 am until 2 pm. If you miss the tree lot, you can pick up your tree at the Friends of the Urban Forest offices from December 6 through December 10, 2010. Trees must be returned by January 14th for replanting in the city.

As another choice, landscape service Plant Manning in San Jose, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, leases living Christmas trees, which are eventually donated to city or county services for planting. Their Green Christmas Tree service includes a sturdy base pot and free delivery and pick-up for rental prices beginning at $95 for a 6 foot tree. You can even rent the same tree year after year, and watch it grow. sigh.

Potted Trees are Lovely All Year-Long

You could also buy a potted tree, and keep it after the holidays. Look for holiday varieties like Scotch Pines, Blue Spruces, White Firs, and Douglas Firs. Most nurseries sell these trees when they are between 2 and 6 feet tall.  Bongard’s Treescape Nursery near Half Moon Bay sells potted living Christmas trees, as do Sloat Garden Centers, with several Bay Area locations.

Where is your favorite place to get your family Christmas tree? Do you go to a Christmas tree farm or a have a favorite Christmas Tree lot?

—Renee M. Rutledge