Permits for cutting your own Christmas tree from a national forest are now available.
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While our eco-friendly instincts may lead us to believe that reusable plastic Christmas trees are the way to go, it turns out that buying the real thing is actually better for the environment since every tree helps clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, according to NASA. And now, there's a way to one-up the eco-consciousness in that holiday tradition — get the perfect tree from a national forest.

The USDA Forest Service is selling permits to allow the public to cut their own trees from select national forests. Among those offering the program are Mount Hood in Oregon, Olympic in Washington state, Sequoia and Tahoe in California, Prescott in Arizona, Black Hills in South Dakota, Shawnee in Illinois, Ocala in Florida, Green Mountain in Vermont, and White Mountain in Maine.

"Every tree that is found, cut, and carried home creates a new story," USDA Forest Service's chief Randy Moore said in a statement. "These stories become the memories and traditions we carry on for generations and further connect families with their local forests."

Small Christmas tree on top of the car
Credit: Warchi/Getty Images

On top of that, the elimination of trees actually helps forest health, the agency described in its release. Experts identify sections that would benefit from the thinning of small-circumference trees — which tend to be perfect Christmas tree sizes — in dense areas. "Removing these trees in designated areas helps other trees grow larger and can open areas that provide food for wildlife," the agency explained.

Even better? Trees from the national forests cost between $5 and $20 — a mere fraction of the price at a store or farm, which can often run upwards of $70, depending on the area.

A couple putting a tree on their roof with Recreation.gov Christmas Tree Permits
Credit: Courtesy of Recreation.gov

Ninety percent of the national forests offering the holiday trees are making their permits available on Recreation.gov, though they may also be found at Forest Service offices and through other local vendors. "We heard from many visitors that they liked the new online permit system, and we also heard from local forests that permit sales were incredibly successful," Recreation.gov's Rick DeLappe said in a statement.

Additionally, fourth graders who are part of the Every Kid Outdoors program can get a free permit when their parents or guardians enter their pass or voucher number.