This year choose a fair trade Christmas tree from Fairwind

Have you ever wondered where real Christmas trees come from? No doubt at that hectic time of year you don’t have time to give it a second thought.

But if you knew that the most popular kind of tree, the Nordmann Fir tree, started life in a remote area of Georgia (formerly part of USSR) and that people are injured or even die so that we can decorate a tree for a few days, maybe you would start thinking?

The Nordmann Fir tree (or the “non-drop tree”) is a high quality tree that keeps its needles well and has a lovely symmetrical, bushy shape. These great qualities have made it increasingly popular and now about 5 million a year are sold in the UK alone. These trees are farmed, but they can only be grown using seed sourced from the natural forests of Georgia – the seed can’t be farmed to a high enough quality, even if the farmer can wait many years for a tree to produce enough seed cones.

Every September the seeds are harvested by the local people in the Ambrolauri region of Georgia, a remote and poor area of a poor developing country. These people, or “cone pickers” are mainly subsistence farmers living high up in the mountains who have little or no income all year until the seed harvest comes round. They then climb 30 metre high trees to pick the seed cones – without safety equipment, ropes or health insurance – and are paid a pittance. Every year someone is injured and there have been deaths too. The seeds are then sold off to farms in Europe where the trees are grown for huge profits, often using illegal immigrant labour and with little regard for the environment.

But things are starting to change thanks to the only fair trade certified (WFTO) real Christmas trees in the world. Set up by Danish Christmas tree grower Bols Forstplanteskole, Fair Trees® sources its own seeds from Ambrolauri using fair trade principles. All of the Fair Trees cone pickers are paid a fair wage and are provided with modern safety equipment and health insurance.

Fair Trees has also set up a charitable fund in Georgia called The Bols Xmas Tree Fund to help the cone picking community. So far the Fund has provided dental care and health insurance for the local children and invested in community projects. Fairwind, along with an insurance repairs business called MAAssist, has raised £10,000 for the Fund to renovate the local school in Tlugi which was in a desperate state.

Fair Trees not only grows ethical trees, but it is also campaigning to get Christmas tree growers to change their ways and to join the Fair Trees programme which sets out clear ethical and environmental requirements. For more info, see www.fairtrees.co.uk

Where to buy in the UK
Fair Trees are for sale this year from Fairwind at www.fairwindonline.com.

They have a wide range of sizes this year with prices starting at £40 for a 3.3ft to 4ft tree (100-125cm) up to £63 for a 6.7ft to 7.5ft tree (200-225cm). Prices include delivery. Deliveries will start the week beginning 3rd Dec.

Orders can be placed at www.fairwindonline.com/fair-trade-real-christmas-trees

See also Fairwind's Facebook page.

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