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This Island Turns its Christmas Trees into Soda!

The Saaremaa island in Estonia recycles Christmas trees and turns them into sodas.

Christmas tree-laying traditions are practiced in different parts of the world. It is a very widespread custom and, recently, the debate has arisen about what type of tree to buy, natural or plastic. For various reasons, natural trees are the best option to take care of the planet, as long as they are recycled when they have served their purpose. One island in Estonia has taken this statement to heart, and after Christmas is over they recycle their trees into sodas.

Every Christmas season, a giant Christmas tree can be admired in the middle of the central square of Kuressaare, a small Estonian town of about 13,000 inhabitants located in the middle of the island of Saaremaa. The mighty fir tree falls after having been a central part of the festivities, but it is not discarded, but transformed into sodas.

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A Second Life

This eco-friendly project was thought up by the couple Maarit Pöör and Tarmo Virki, who in 2019 created Estonic Soda. The couple explains that it all started with the idea of how to give a second life to their own Christmas tree; it was then that it occurred to them that they could take advantage of its natural properties and extract its pulp to turn it into soda. However, they realized that once the holidays were over, their little pine tree was already dry due to the home heating, so they wouldn’t have been able to extract too much pulp from it.

But they realized that there were other options for recycling, especially those trees in the central squares that had not been exposed to heat and were practically still green thanks to the cold of the season, as well as being much larger trees.

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“In northern Europe, public Christmas trees are usually huge, and the climate is also such that they are basically in a freezer for two months,” says Pöör. Add to this that according to tradition in the region, Estonia was the first country to put up public Christmas trees. Apparently, the first Christmas tree placed in central squares in a public way dates back to 1441 when a merchants’ association called the Brotherhood of the Black Heads erected the first public tree in Tallinn’s town hall square, so trees are very important to Estonian society.

Christmas Trees Turned into Soda

Once the festivities are over, Pöör and Virki harvest and recycle the huge trees from the various squares in Saaremaa, Estonia. The process requires gently crushing the branches and their needles to get the extract inside them. “We let it infuse with other ingredients for a few days before filtering, carbonating, and watering the essence into drinks, and then bottling.”

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Estonic Soda currently has different flavors that are sourced directly from the pulp of Christmas trees. The clear variety called Pärnu Suvi is infused with silver fir extracts and lemon peel, so it takes on a “citrusy, refreshing taste,” Virki says. The light-yellow spruce variety is equally “jolly” thanks to cardamom and lemon zest. Juniper Estonic Soda, meanwhile, has a deeper golden hue thanks to coriander, tangerine peel, and juniper tree extracts, which Virki describes as “especially refreshing and imbued with a holiday spirit flavor.”

Virki and Pöör take great pride in recycling huge Christmas trees into a refreshing beverage. “Our soda is an excellent example of how to recycle something that would otherwise go to landfill and go to waste,” says Virki.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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