Despite the icy cold and the gloomy sky, Daniella Koolman has come to pick up her very 'own' Christmas tree, the one she adopted last year from an organic tree grower in this town in the centre of the Netherlands.
'Before, we always bought our Christmas tree in a pot and then my husband tried to plant it in the garden afterwards, but it died each time,' said Koolman.
Advertisement'So we said to each other 'How can we find an ecologically responsible Christmas tree?' she said, stamping her feet from the cold at Leusden's Randijk organic tree lot.
'We thought about a plastic tree, but that is just as polluting, or we thought of not having a tree at all, but it's an important tradition, so we ended up adopting,' she continued, as an employee got to work digging up her tree.
Come the New Year, Koolman, along with some 1,000 other Dutch families, will return the tree for professional replanting in Leusden's sandy soil.
'We started the business five years ago,' said Erwin Kooijman, who came up with the original idea. 'We planted a few pine trees and when they got big, I thought, what a pity to cut them down after taking such good care of them.'
'Little by little, I said to myself, maybe we could have them adopted,' he said. 'Now people call us from all over the Netherlands, and you should see how happy the children are when they come for 'their' Christmas tree, and how excited they get running between the rows to find it.'
Grown in chemically-free fertilizer, without pesticides and certified organic, Randijk's pines remain a drop in the ocean, given the millions of commercially grown trees cut down each year, mostly in Scandinavia, and exported across Europe.
On top of being organic, the pines-for-adoption save on CO2 transport emissions.
'The advantage of our trees is that they're a local product, so the distances they travel are limited, as is the pollution they might cause as well as traffic congestion,' said Ad Kooijman, Erwin's father.
Their two-hectare business, which also produces organic bamboo, has seen adoptions increase 10-fold in the last two years. 'We started small in 2005, selling 120 trees, this year we sold 1,000,' said Kooijman junior.
Adoption costs, payable each year, are between 15 and 25 euros (21 to 35 dollars) depending on height, much the same as local market prices, with an added five-euro deposit to encourage returns.
'There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm for these kind of things, because they are socially and ecologically responsible as well as fun,' Jasper Vink, spokesperson for Biologica, a Dutch organic growers association, told AFP.
'Normally trees are uselessly thrown away or burned after Christmas,' he said.
For Kolman, the reunion with her tree, number 630, is a warm one, despite the near freezing temperatures.
'And what's more,' she said, happily sliding the tree into her car boot, 'it didn't even lose a single pine needle in my living room last year.'
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