In recent years, artificial trees have become more popular than live or cut trees. Quality has improved and companies have found innovative ways to make decorating and storage ever more convenient. Many consumers believe that buying a fake tree will help the environment by sparing the lives of several year's worth of real trees. But fake trees carry a much larger environmental impact than many people consider.
An article from 2010 published by The New York Times goes into great detail about why the environmental impact of real Christmas trees is much less than that of artificial ones. The American Christmas Tree Association, a trade group for artificial tree makers and retailers, even admitted in the article that its own study reported it took 10 or more years of use before an artificial tree became better for the environment than a real one.
The negative environmental impact of real Christmas trees, whether live or cut, is likely less than that of artificial trees. That said, if you opt for a fake one, invest in a high-quality product that can last for many years.