One of the most essential features of Christmas, wherever you are celebrating it, is the Christmas tree. Choosing it, decorating it, putting presents under it on Christmas Eve... you can't celebrate this favourite holiday without one.
So it is shocking to read that in the UK (I don't have figures for Spain) eight million pine trees are chopped down every year for people to put in their houses and hang with baubles, tinsels and lights. That's eight million live trees which are killed needlessly and then thrown away - or woodchipped, which is less wasteful but still unnecessary.
Now an association based in Extremadura, but with a store in Estepona near Marbella, is offering Christmas trees to hire. Rather than chopping one down, they offer you a living tree, complete with roots, to use over the Christmas period. Other than watering it copiously (half to one litre of water every day), you treat it the same as the rootless variety - and there are no pine needles to sweep up from the floor. Then you take it back after Christmas, and it is replanted.
The trees used are pinsapo, or Spanish fir, a rare variety indigenous to Andaulcia. They have a greener colour than the more usual abeto pine, and the needles are harder. You can even have the same tree every year - then will tag it for you, and make sure you get that tree again next Christmas.
Not only is this service kinder to environment, but it's also way more economical: 15 euros for a one-metre-tall tree, and 30 euros for a two-metre one. Last year they hired out 50 trees, and this year are hòping to double that, with many local expat customers (English, German and Dutch), as well as further afield in Madrid - and the Ayuntamiento of Estepona!
To hire a tree, you have to join an association, Naturbellsa, which also sells organic food and toiletries. The couple who offer the pinsapo service, Paco and Lucia, are passionate protectors of the environment, and see this as a way of educating young people about how to treat nature. "A tree isn't just a decoration, it's a companion with which to enjoy the holidays", says Francisco.
If you would like to take advantage of this marvellous service, call Paco or Lucia on 952 808 988 or 678 423 496.