Denmark is Growing a Sustainable Christmas Season | Reasons to Choose an Organic Tree

SO MANY REASONS TO KEEP THE SEASON SUSTAINABLE 
IN DENMARK THE INTEREST FOR ORGANIC CHRISTMAS TREES IS GROWING

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches. Do you bring a real evergreen into your home to celebrate the season? Hailing from the state of Oregon, the largest producer of Christmas trees in the US, I definitely do. There is something so spectacular about the scent of fresh fir all up in our festive faces that smells like Christmas spirit to me. Maybe it just clears the odor of teen spirit that normally dominates my domicile. But does that perfect fir tree you find need to be organic? Scratch and sniff on this folks. To keep the season sustainable, the answer is yes and please. I’m dreaming of a green Christmas.

What if this year your Christmas tree was not only lovely to look at bedecked in baubles and decorations and lights, but could also be good for the environment and the people who produced it too? That would be fantastisk you’d say. That’s Danish for fantastic. I’d say so too. Did you know that you can buy an organic, fair trade Christmas tree that can benefit people around the world? In Denmark, you can. That is fantastisk indeed.

All about Danish Christmas porridge | Risengrød | Where to Try it in Copenhagen by Oregon Girl Around the World

DANES DO CHRISTMAS RIGHT

Timber! Tis the season for many around the world to celebrate Christmas. Here in Denmark, Danes truly love this holiday and dedicate the entire month of December to Dansk Jul and all its traditions. Don’t mess with Danish Christmas. And Danish Christmas happens on the 24th of December, the same in all of the Scandinavian countries. On this day, families gather together for a special meal rife with ritual and many a delicious dish. No Schweddy balls on this table, but maybe a marzipan pig or two.

After dinner with family and friends is done, the juletræ (Christmas tree) is pulled to the center of the room where dancing and singing circles the scene. Many Danes still light their trees with real candles (scary I know) so there is no fear of tripping over cords or unplugging their trees to keep up the hygge. Preserving customs like this sustain a country’s cultural heritage. For a small country like Denmark, this is important. As Americans living in Denmark, we love Danish Christmas.


RELATED: DON’T MESS WITH DANISH CHRISTMAS DINNER

PROTECTING DENMARK | THE CUSTOMS AND THE LAND

Preserving the actual countryside is also increasingly important to people in Denmark, not unlike many populations around the planet worried about rising greenhouse gases and global warming. But this Scandi country takes sustainability next level by prioritizing it in every aspect of life from city planning and infrastructure that accommodates bicycle commuting, to developing and using renewable energy sources for carbon-neutral capitals, to waste disposal systems that provide central heating for homes, to making organic food products readily available for its populace. In fact, Denmark boasts the second highest per capita consumption of organic food in the world and the world’s highest organic food market share at 8.4%.¹ That is some serious øko goodness happening in this happy little country. It all helps.

WITH SO MUCH ORGANIC PRODUCE, WHY NOT ORGANIC CHRISTMAS TREE FARMS?

It would make sense that Denmark, a largely agrarian economy outside the capital, would be interested in supporting a season of sustainable celebrating. Coming back to Christmas, where 11 million trees are cut and sold every year in Denmark. With a population that hovers around 6 million, the bulk of those fine fir trees are shipped abroad to neighboring Sweden and Germany. That same Germany most often credited with our modern Christmas tree traditions. Back in Denmark, people have been bringing greenery inside during winter since the time of the Vikings, but bringing in the whole tree didn’t take root until Victorian time. 25,000 hectares of land is dedicated to growing Christmas in Denmark. But only 2% of all those juletræer are produced organically, according to Claus Jerram Christensen, the Director of the Danish Christmas Tree Association. Claus attributes the small percentage to a few factors:

  1. Trees are not food. Many consumers who buy organic products are concerned with health issues in relation to food intake. Others buy organic for [animal] welfare reasons – none of these are relevant for Christmas trees.
  2. Conventional and organic production of Christmas trees is [very similar] – the main difference lies in weed control. Organically grown trees are also fertilized and regulated for pests (with [sustainable] substances though.)
  3. Time. Danish rules are strict on organic production. You have to start with organically certified seed and/or seedlings. It means, that from the moment you decide on making an organic product until you have a marketable tree it takes between 8 to 10 years. 
  4. 90 % of the Danish production goes for export. The majority of these markets are not (very) focused on organic trees (yet).
But you don’t eat a Christmas tree, so why does it need to be organic?

Ask any passionate organic tree grower or seller in Denmark – I’ve talked to several and they are ALL passionate about their products. They will all tell you that fir trees aren’t food is the number one objection they hear over and over again for consumers not purchasing a økologisk juletræ. I don’t eat my Christmas tree, so why do I need to worry about it being organic? Public education required perhaps, but awareness is growing. According to Asmus Gamdrup Jensen, of Jul Til Døren, a Copenhagen based organic Christmas tree purveyor, the public’s general interest in buying organic products has been increasing over the past few years.

Asmus previously owned an organic food market in the Vesterbro neighborhood and he believes people are understanding that sustainable production is both beneficial for their personal health as well as the planet and goes beyond just the food we ingest. He sees a tide turning and wants to ride the wave. Jul Til Døren is a project between five friends committed to the idea that your Christmas tree can be sustainable. They have recently planted 3000 fair-trade organic Christmas tree seedlings and have partnered with biodynamic farm Birkemosegaard in Sjællands Odde and see the future for sustainable trees only growing greener.


MORE THAN ORGANIC, FAIR TREES ARE FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED

Jul til Døren sourced their recent round of sustainable seedlings from the queen of organic Christmas trees, right here in Denmark. Marianne Bols runs Fair Trees who offer products that are more than just organic, they’re fair trade certified. Marianne is also the chairman of the recently formed Organic Christmas Tree Growers of Denmark. She believes in sustainability all the way to the source of the single seed that grows into your family’s holiday centerpiece.

Harvesting Georgian cones for Fair Seeds | Photo courtesy of Fair Trees Fund

Do you know where your Christmas tree comes from? Marianne wants you to know. And we’re not talking about the lot down the road, or the U-cut farm with the horse-drawn carriages, but where the actual seeds started. She explained to me that 80% of the Christmas trees sold each year in Western Europe are sourced from 100-year-old natural forests in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.² Fair Trees is the first global concept brand for the ethical and sustainable sourcing of Christmas trees. And her passion for her product shines brighter than those LED sparkly twinkle lights you’ll wrap around your tree.

It is the mission of the Fair Trees Fund to improve the living standards locally in Georgia through education, environmental measures and health-promoting activities. The Fair Trees Fund works to improve the living and working conditions of the poor Georgian cone pickers, who encounter great risks when collecting cones and seeds from the Nordmann fir for the growing of Christmas trees. Furthermore, it is the objective of the Fund to promote the purification and production of Christmas trees in compliance with the principles of sustainability and eco-friendliness.” – FairTrees.co.uk

 

YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE CAN LOOK GOOD AND DO GOOD

From Georgia to Denmark and back, Marianne assures that Fair Seeds turn into Fair Trees on organic farms here in Denmark and are shipped throughout Europe once mature. A percentage of profit is then put back into supporting the local Georgian economy, where the Fair Trees Fund has established schools as well as medical and dental facilities for the traditionally poor communities that work in Christmas tree seed collecting economy. From the beginning, Georgian Fair Trees workers are educated in environmental safety, given insurance and taught what Marianne calls “how to behave in the forest.” None of the seed collectors wear spikes that potentially damage the trees and they always leave 30% of the seeds to ensure biodiversity and ecologies for the resident animal communities.

Fair Trees seed collectors in Georgia learning how to use safety equipment | Photo courtesy of Fair Trees Fund
BENEFITS OF GROWING ORGANIC CHRISTMAS TREES

Organic Christmas tree producers like Marianne Bols of Fair Trees believe strongly that sustainable farming will help protect the environment for generations to come. This is definitely true for Tobias Dinesen, who runs Grønnetop, the online organic Christmas tree marketplace that can deliver directly to living rooms all over Copenhagen and surrounding Sjælland. He has seen the increased demand for organic trees, but is aware of the limited access. Tobias wants to help rectify that situation and if from his little piece of the world, he can support a more sustainable resource, he will be happy.

Conventionally grown trees use of pesticides and growth manipulating hormones can leach harmful agents, like glyphosate into the groundwater. Removing potential pollutants from the watershed is only one way that sustainable farming benefits the local environments. Use of natural ground covers to prevent weeds and invasive insects from damaging trees while they grow keeps organic fertilizers from seeping into the water table. These supporting plants work in synergy with the fir tree and provide environments that attract pollinators like bees, an added bonus. These biologic land carpets compound the carbon dioxide binding benefits of lands dedicated to Christmas tree farming. Double bonus points. One hectare of sustainably grown evergreen trees can bind 13 tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.² Yes please and ja tak. Plastic trees can’t do that. And every year that a Christmas tree crop is cut down, new trees are planted, creating a continuous cycle of carbon neutralizing fields. Now that is Christmas joy.

Fair Trade Seedlings grow in a field in Denmark | Photo courtesy of Fair Trees Fund
BUT WHAT DOES AN ORGANIC CHRISTMAS TREE LOOK LIKE?

Talk to Grønnetop’s Dinesen and he will tell you that an organic tree has a unique character when compared to its conventionally grown counterpart. Marianne Bols prefers the look of trees grown naturally, more like what you would find out in the forest. Without hormone manipulation, organically grown firs will exhibit more diversity of shape, density and color. Both Grønnetop and Jul til Døren want to deliver you the prettiest tree and carefully curate the best of their crops for online purchases. But if you are like me (or my mom!) the idea of letting someone else decide which tree to bring me is difficult to digest. Even if it is organic. Tobias admits that his own market studies have shown that the majority of tree buyers want to pick out their own tree. Don’t worry, you can find Grønnetop and Jul til Døren trees for sale at local lots around Copenhagen so you can source one yourself. Seeing is believing.

Fair Tree Fair Trade Organic Christmas Tree | Photo courtesy of Fair Trees Fund
WHERE TO GET YOUR ORGANIC CHRISTMAS TREE
ORGANIC CHRISTMAS TREES DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR

Grønnetop
Delivers økologisk Nordmann Fir trees to the whole of Copenhagen and Zealand, postal codes 1-4999 for free. Tree prices range from 349DKK to 549DKK depending on size. Sells locally at Frederiksberg Allé 39 and the Forum.

Jul til Døren
Delivers organic Nordmann Fir trees for free to the greater Copenhagen metro area. Prices range from 315DKK for the smallest to 650DKK for a 2.5m tall tree. Sells locally at their lot on Israel Plads near Torvehallerne and will deliver for 100DKK.

LOCAL LOTS SELLING ØKOLOGISK JULETRÆER IN COPENHAGEN

Look for the Danish red Ø label certifying the tree is organic. There are strict requirements to receive that økologisk label in Denmark, make sure your tree has that designation. Here are some local lots to look for your organic juletræ:

Israel Plads across from Torvehallerne Market, København K

Tove Ditlevsensplads, corner of Enghavevej and Haderslevgade, Vesterbro

Prolog Kaffe in Kødbyen Meatmarket, Høkerboderne 16, Vesterbro

Dronning Louises Bro, Sortedamsdosseringen 5a, Nørrebro

Lygten by Nørrebro Station, Lygten 2 Nørrebro

Østerfælled Torv, Gunnar Nu Hansens Plads 8, Østerbro

At the Irma in Nordvest, Borups Alle 19, Nordvest

Forum, Rosenørns Allé, 1970 Frederiksberg

Frederiksberg Rådhus plads, Allegade 31, Frederiksberg

Grantoftegaard, Pederstrupvej 69, 2750 Ballerup (offering Fair Trees)

TO FIND ORGANIC TREES BEYOND COPENHAGEN, CHECK HERE

WANT TO LEARN MORE AND EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN

Come meet Marianne and the Fair Trees crew at a special Julemarked at Prolog Kaffe, where organic trees will be on sale every Friday to Sunday from now until the 22nd. But on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th, between 11-14 children will be able to take a fair trade fir seedling of their own to plant at home. Let the littles toast mallows over the fire, while you can also sample some organic julebeer brewed with the edible Christmas trees shoots by Køster Malt og Øl. 

Fair ecological Christmas Trees at Høkerboderne

DATE | December 8-10, 15-16 and Friday 22nd, 2017
VENUE | Prolog Kaffe, Høkerboderne 16, 1712 København V
TIME | 9-18 (11-14 for children’s Christmas tree nursery)
ENTRY | Gratis (Free) Entry, 50DKK donation for every tree and sweater you buy goes to Save the Children’s aid to children deprived of Christmas.


Tis the season and sustainability a reason to think organic this Christmas. Not in Copenhagen? Look around locally for Christmas tree purveyors that grow organically. None in your area? Asking implies demand and the more demand, the more viable a market. Let’s ask for what we want. A better environment. A sustainable future. That is a gift to us all. As they say in Denmark, Glædelig Jul! Merry Christmas. Cheers to you and yours.

 

 

Danish Summer House Rules

How to Find a House to Hygge in when you visit Denmark

Want to know how the Danes do summer? Simple. Seek out a summer house. And find your own hygge. That communal sense of slowing down and focusing on being together in a comfortable place with your family or friends. You’ll be grateful once you find it. But know that there are rules about how to hygge in a Danish sommerhus. But what if you don’t know the rules? Don’t worry. I’m here to help. And give you some tips on how to find one.

The Danish summer house is simple. And cozy. Not lavish or large. A cottage. A home. Near the sea. Clean and concise. Like the Danes. And dare I say it – darn hyggeligt. You may have heard this Danish word hygge. Lots and lots of posts and books and articles have been written about it, how the Danes have it, how it makes them happy. How you need it in your life. How to get it in your life. Danes also love that hygge is untranslatable. Somehow that makes it theirs alone. And while I appreciate that much of the Danish language feels untranslatable, I don’t believe this is true. You too can feel hygge. You don’t have to be Danish. And a sommerhus is a wonderful place to try.”

Summer House Hygge, Oregon Girl Around the World

Get outside the city

Come to Copenhagen she said. In fact, I say it all the time. But don’t stay here for your entire visit to Denmark. There is so much more to this country than the capital. And much of it is along the coast. Did you know that there is no place in Denmark that is more than 52 kilometers from the water? And there are so many charming villages and towns to see along the seaside. Heading for a break near the water is a very Danish respite. And most likely it happens in a summer house. A Danish sommerhus. 


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #1:

Find a place to unplug near nature.


WHERE TO SUMMER HOUSE IN DENMARK

The “Danish Riviera” stretches across the northern part of Sjælland from Helsingør to charming towns and beautiful sandy beaches starting in Hornbæk, Gilleleje, Tisvildeleje, and Liseleje. Or roll through Roskilde and head out towards Odsherred and Rørvig.

On the north west coast of Jutland, summer house communities began developing around stunning Skagen at the top of Denmark as well towns like Løkken and Blokhus along the North Sea coastline. Or further south try the island of Fanø.

Don’t forget Funen in the middle and the archipelago of islands that litter its southern shore. Look to Æro and Helnæs.

But the best place, I now believe, is Bornholm. An island off the coast of southern Sweden, Bornholm is a beautiful Danish microcosm of cozy. There are so many opportunities to discover summer house hygge here.


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #2:

Bring people together.


Summer house Agencies

Every local tourist board has links to summer houses for rent in their region. But the following booking sites have the largest selections across the country and can help you find that special place to bring your people together and create those hygge memories.

Dansommer.com

Dansommer has one of the largest online collections of summer houses in Denmark. Here you can search for houses based on your specific needs, wants and desires. I love that you can filter for homes that are energy efficient and by their distance to the water.

Novasol.com

Sister company to Dansommer, sharing many offices and resources across the country. Both companies are part of the larger Wyndham Vacation Properties.

SolOgStrand.com

Sol og Strand, or “sun and beach” in English, is a Denmark specific summer house agency and prides themselves in knowing and helping with not only the vacation rental, but activities and sight near your rental. They have 5800 rental properties and strive for quality over quantity.

Dancenter.com

With 10,000 houses, Dancenter has the largest collection of homes to let online.


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #3:

Make it comfy.


BRING YOUR OWN SHEETS:

The easiest way to get comfy is carrying along your own linens. It is standard for Danish summer houses to provide the duvets and pillows, but you will need to bring your own covers, sheets and towels.

Visiting Denmark from somewhere else? Don’t have space in your hand luggage for all that? Don’t worry, you can rent a linen package from the different rental agencies.

Linen Package usually includes:
Duvet/pillow case, sheet for 1 person, 1 towel, 1 big bathing towel, 1 kitchen towel and 1 cloth. Costs around 100 DKK per person.

Doesn’t seem as cozy to borrow sheets? You can get comfy by bringing casual clothes to curl up in with your closest friends.


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #4:

Share good food.


FOOD AND DRINK

Find the local fish shop or smokehouse for local delicacies. Support the nearby farm stand and buy some new potatoes or fresh rhubarb and strawberries. Pick ripe red currants, known as ribs in these parts. Cooking together and eating definitely together ups your hygge factor.

And don’t fret, all Danish summer houses will have dishes, utensils, cookware, and glasses for your use. Basic appliances like coffee maker, toaster and sometimes microwave may be available. If it is important for your holiday stay, make sure to clarify before booking. Any and all food and drink will be yours to bring or buy along the way.


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #5

Turn down the lights.


ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION IS EXTRA

It is normal and expected that you will be responsible for paying for how much electricity you use during your stay. (And sometimes water.) When you pick up your keys, you will receive a sheet to denote the starting meter measure when you arrive at the house. You can ask ahead what average consumption prices are for each specific house before renting.

Since you are paying for it, use less of it. Unplug and turn down. It’s greener AND more hyggeligt. Light some candles. Make a fire if there is a wood stove or a fire pit. Roasting marshmallows together or as the Danes do, cooking bread on a stick is a great way to create hygge.


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #6

Everyone pitches in.


CLEANING AT THE END

In Denmark, you take your shoes off when inside. Doing so will help when it’s time to clean at the end. Summer houses need to be left in tip top shape and the cleaning is your responsibility unless you book a final clean service with the rental agency. This can be booked before hand or at the time of arrival. Final cleaning fees vary depending on house size, but can add up to 1200 DKK on the total price. ($180 USD, €160)

Care to clean it yourself and save some kroner? Bring your own vinegar and baking soda or purchase at the local market. And make sure everyone pitches in. Hygge is about equality. There are no tall poppies here in Denmark and tasks should be shared. An egalitarian “many hands make light work,” ensures everyone contributes for the good of the group.


DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULE #7

Be present.


Hygge makes you happy

Slow down. Get comfortable. Be casual. No drama. Play games. Eat food. Be together. Turn off the phone. Set aside some time each day to come together and consciously be together. Find when it best suits your peeps. This is your place to feel peace. With each other. With yourself. This is hygge.  

MORE SUMMER HOUSE TIPS:
IMPORTANT TO NOTE:
  • Normal Danish summer house rentals run one week from Saturday to Saturday.
  • Check in time is between 14:00-19:00. After hours arrivals need to be arranged ahead.
  • Keys are normally picked up at a central location, not the house itself.
  • Consumption of electricity is paid at the end.
  • Check out time is 10:00.
  • Peak rental time is during Danish school holidays between weeks 26-31 (late June to early August).
  • Renting a summer house off-peak is cheaper and can be even cozier.
FACTS ABOUT DANISH SUMMER HOUSES
  • 55% of all foreign tourist stays in Denmark are in a summer house.
  • There are over 200,000 summer homes in Denmark. About 40,000 of them are available for rent.
  • 90% of all Danish summer home rentals are members of the Danish Association of Holiday House Letters.
  • Since 1973, when Denmark joined the European Union, foreigners have not been allowed to buy a Danish summer house.
  • If you have special connections to Denmark or a specific house, you can apply for a limited number of exceptions to the above rule each year.
  • Denmark saw a huge summer house building boom in the late 1960’s and 1970’s when the Danish economy was growing.
  • All of the building prompted a law in 1977 that forbids building on the sea front and requires a 3 kilometer set back from the beach, making it difficult to find a water front property to rent.
  • You are not allowed to live year-round in a summer house unless you are a pensioner (retiree).

Live like a local. Seek out a sommerhus.

For more about hygge – check out Meik Wiking’s A Little Book of Hygge | Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Find your own house to hygge in. Simple rules and tools for renting and relaxing in a Danish summer house when visiting Denmark.

Oregon Girl Around the World

Making Macarons in Copenhagen with a Terrible French Pastry Class

Day out in the Danish Capital

LEARN TO MAKE MACARONS

I adore French macarons. Those pretty, crunchy, chewy ganache filled little round cookies that people line sidewalks in Paris to procure. If you love Ladurée but live in Copenhagen, you are in luck. You can learn to make them yourself. From a French pastry master. Frédéric Terrible has been creating and cooking delightful French desserts in the Danish capital for over twenty years. He runs the Terrible French Pastry School in Frederiksberg.

TERRIBLE FRENCH PASTRY SCHOOL

I recently spent a not-terrible-at-all afternoon learning tips and tricks about the tasty treats with a group of friends. Frédéric has a lovely light filled space on a quiet street off Gammel Kongevej and can host your group outing easily. Birthday party? Bachelorette party? Team-building? Oui oui! Don’t have a group? No problem. Regularly scheduled classes allow for individual participation as well.

Think macarons are hard work? Not under the master’s close supervision. Frédéric breaks down the process and gives you all the tools to succeed. We used an Italian meringue recipe in this class, as it is more lenient and easier for us newbies to work with than the traditional French version, Frédéric explained. We worked in teams of two to boil the sugar to just the right temperature and then carefully add it to the whipping egg whites for our meringues. This glossy white mixture was then added to an almond flour base and blended by hand to the perfect consistency. Not too little, not too much.

After watching the technique demonstrated for us, we piped in pairs, filling our trays in a variety of colored batters. Once in the oven, we watched and we waited for the cookies to rise. Do they have a “foot” asks Frédéric? Yes? Oui! Then adjust the temp and time for a break. As the cookies finished baking, we enjoyed coffee, tea and (of course) macarons in a separate party room set up for our group.

Once cooled, we popped the pieces off the paper and got them ready for filling. Today we took a condensed version of the class and did not make the ganache centers ourselves. Frédéric had already prepared a variety of flavors for us to fill. He quickly shared his process and preference for all-natural ingredients. We used salted caramel, raspberry, coffee, chocolate and of course – licorice – this class IS in Denmark. Once full, they get five minutes in the freezer to set the cookies for travel.  We get to pack a mixed box to take home.

FRENCH PASTRY CLASS DEETS:

Terrible French Pastry School
Grundtvigsvej 10 A – 1864 Frederiksberg C

2.5 Hour Class
300 DKK includes ingredients, instruction, coffee/tea and pastries
Minimum of 8 participants

NOTE: The condensed macaron class is called Bachelorette Party on the website.

Other pastry class options, as well as the full macaron lesson including the ganache filling, can be found at Frederic’s site online. He offers classes for children, but suggests that they work best for ages 8 and older.

 

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