Christmas Trees for Rent

Bacchus en de Bomen
Growing up, we always had a real tree for Christmas and I continued that tradition once I was done with apartment living and had a real house in which to put the real tree. However, when we moved here, we decided to purchase a fake tree. As well as not knowing what to do with a real tree at the end of the season, I did start to wonder about the environmental aspects of cutting down a tree that may simply end up as garbage after a month.

I actually do like our little, white, fake tree, but sometimes I long for the look and smell of a real tree. I make do by visiting the Christmas tree market that opens up around December 6 at Janskerkhof. It’s so picturesque, especially in the evening under the glow of the lamps.

However, I may start reconsidering a real tree again in the future. I’ve recently learned about the Stichting Kerstbomenverhuur Utrecht (Christmas Tree Rental Foundation). As the name suggests, you can rent a Christmas tree for three weeks, from mid December to early January. The key is that the tree comes with its roots so that it can be replanted after the holiday season.

The foundation began as a neighbourhood initiative in 2011, and has grown and prospered as a non-profit run by volunteers. The process is simple. There is a set date on which people can pick up their tree and a set date on which they return it. Prior to the pickup date, there is a period in which trees can be ordered. All trees must be ordered in advance so that trees are not unnecessarily dug up. At the end of the season, they are returned to the grower and replanted. Around 90% of the trees survive the process each year. Any that aren’t fit for replanting can still be returned and they’ll then be turned into mulch to help the other trees thrive.

The cost of the tree is only 26€, which includes a 5€ deposit, which you get back when you return the tree. The order deadline for this year is Sunday, 8 December, with pickup taking place Saturday, December 14, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The return date is Saturday, January 4, 2014 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. You’re responsible for transporting the tree both ways, but they do have a few wheelbarrows and bakfietsen available for people to use in a pinch. Still, it’s best to plan on providing your own transport, be it bike, auto, or muscle power.

The tree itself is usually between 1.5 and 2 meters in height and is a Serbian spruce grown in small numbers in Achterveld (Leusden) and the Veluwe. If you want more choice in the look of your tree, you’re best getting there early on the pickup day. It’s first come, first serve to anyone who has already purchased and reserved their tree.

If you’re not in the Utrecht area, but still want to rent a Christmas tree, there are other groups offering similar programs.

It really is a great idea if you long for the look and smell of a real Christmas tree, but hate the thought of trees perishing at the end of the season. Now you can have your holiday spirit and decorate it, too!

Tap Water Challenge

Water in Janskerkhof
The latest TEDxUtrecht took place this week and it seems that one of the discussions was about ways to encourage Utrechters to turn to tap water instead of bottled water. Not only is tap water the cheaper option, but it’s also better for the environment, since you don’t end up with all those plastic bottles. Considering the fact that plastic recycling isn’t the easiest form of recycling here, it seems particularly relevant.

The Utrecht Tap Water Challenge, organized by TEDxUtrecht and supported by the Join the Pipe foundation, Vitens, and the city of Utrecht, wants locals to get involved and come up with ways to encourage others to choose tap water. The winning idea will win a prize and have the opportunity to see their idea implemented. The deadline is 30 November 2012.

Water in Neude

A number of free water points have been established in locations around the city and other locations are being considered. If you’re out and about and have a reusable water container or some other sort of cup, you can always fill up, rather than spend €1 for a plastic bottle of water. In a pinch, you can go really green and use your own hand, of course! There’s one at Janskerkhof, Park Lepelenburg, Neude, Griftpark, and Marco Poloplantsoen.

Drink WaterPerhaps you’re like I used to be and have some unpleasant associations with tap water, whether it’s smelly, tastes bad, or comes with a warning as it did years ago when I lived in New Orleans. I used Britta filters and bottled water like many people and continued to do so when I first moved here, simply out of habit. Then I tasted the tap water here. It’s actually really nice! Utrecht has a reputation for the quality of its water. In fact, the water we get from our tap is the same spring water that gets bottled by brands like Sourcy.

Not everyone has access to quality tap water, but it’s worth trying from time to time, rather than simply buying bottled or shelling out for all of those filters. The irony is that we do have such great water in Utrecht, but it’s very hard to actually get tap water in restaurants here. They’ll bring you a bottle of still water, instead, as there’s no profit to be made off tap water. Perhaps that should be my suggestion for the competition: encouraging restaurants to provide tap water on request.

If you want more information about the contest, check the Gemeente’s website or visit the TEDxUtrecht idea site where you can submit your ideas. (Editor’s Note 1/8/13: contest has finished)

Happy World Water Day

Water in Janskerkhof
Happy Wereld Water Dag (World Water Day)! We seem to be on an environmental kick this week, what with the national tree party day yesterday and now the United Nation’s day to raise awareness of sustainable fresh water management. Utrecht has been involved in hosting related events in past years, including the installation of free drinking water taps at various locations in the city.

Not a lot of things are free here, including toilets, but there are a couple of places where you can get free drinking water if you’re in a pinch. The first is the one pictured above, located at Janskerkhof. The second one, which came a bit later, is located at Neude, although it might be bit hard to find right now what with all of the set-up for the Tweetakt Festival, which begins Friday. This water fountain in Neude is located over by the Dutch Games Garden and ABN AMRO if you’re there and need some water.

So raise a glass of water to the hope that someday everyone will have easy access to clean water!

Water in Neude

Utrecht Beats the Mountain

Large Art
If you’ve got some free time today and are in/near Utrecht, it’s worth stopping by the Domplein to check out the We Beat the Mountain Day of Recycling. I stopped by earlier today when things were just getting started. The basic idea is to raise awareness about the importance of recycling and how you can both recycle, as well as upcycle. There’s music, fashion shows, markets (with some very cool re/upcycled items) and a group of artists trying to create the largest piece of art made of recycled materials/trash. They’ll be attempting to break (or set?) a Guiness World Record with the art made from trash. The event goes on until around 11 tonight, so there’s still time to check it out if you’re nearby. If not, here are a few photos I took.

Computer Recycling

Little Green Dress

Recycled Run DMC

Markt Kleuren

No, the dog was not being recycled. 😉

Cow Dung

As my sore throat and cough have now progressed to sinus misery, I figure now is a good time to discuss something that I probably wouldn’t be able to smell at the moment!

G and I have noticed that on certain days, when the wind blows from a certain direction, there’s a faint smell of manure in the air. It’s not that bad nor is it overwhelming; it’s just there in the background. M & R think we’re insane. I think they’re just too used to it to notice. Our buitenlander noses aren’t immune.

There are quite a lot of cows here in the Netherlands. In fact, the well-known black and white Holstein cows come from the Netherlands. With all those cows comes a lot of manure. Fortunately, it’s now being put to good use. It seems the manure is being turned into a bio-gas that will run a thermal plant’s gas turbines, providing heat for homes near the plant. A plant in Leeuwarden (birthplace of Mata Hari, by the way) is one of the plants to be using this new energy source, and will be providing heat to 1100 homes.

I could make jokes about going “brown” or references to heat sources, but I won’t.