From small acorns mighty oaks grow, and all that. Similarly, from small pine cones come statuesque Christmas trees and if you want a truly ethical tree this year you need to trace it all the way back to the seed. True, there's no shortage of "eco" trees, from the potted tree that keeps on giving (if you can keep it alive), to the organic and the British-grown, which cuts down on those "tree miles" from Scandinavia – but where's the seed from?
According to the Fair Tree project, founded by Danish tree producer Marianne Bols and Teresa Owen of fairwindonline.com, 90% of seeds from the Nordmann Fir (5m are sold in the UK each year) hail from Georgia's natural forest, as its seeds cannot be farmed. Each spring 20 tonnes of these seeds are planted by European nurseries, especially in Britain. But danger and corruption are endemic to the supply chain. Cone pickers in Georgia are paid so little that they cannot support their families. They scale 30m trees to retrieve the cones, without insurance or safety equipment. Death and serious injury are common.
Bols has fought to secure a licence from the Georgian government to source her own seeds. Her project pays pickers a fair wage, trains them and uses safety equipment. They're insured and a proportion of the tree sales goes into community projects. The whole project is also working towards the Global Gap standard for responsible farming. These truly fairtrade trees are sold through fairwindonline.com, where you can also beautify your ethical tree with some fairtrade tree decorations.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010