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How to cut down your own Christmas tree in style

In Estonia you can do it easily and legally using an app

  • December 24, 2019 16:00
  • Author Plamen Petrov
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In most countries where Christmas is observed, choosing a Christmas tree entails going to a shop or a street vendor and buying a naturally grown or an artificial conifer. The catch is that someone else has done the job for you.

But there is one country, at least, where you can fell your own Christmas tree and do it without fearing the backlash of the law.        

Saying this is Estonia, you have hit the nail on the head.  Estonians are especially known for two things: their love of nature and the high-level of digital services, which often go hand in hand.

RMK, the state forest management agency, has a cool mobile app which helps you explore the Estonian wilderness in all seasons and at Christmas time - find a Christmas tree and cut it down on your own.

The app, which is available in Estonian, English and Russian, includes a map of tree harvesting areas. The state forests where tree cutting is allowed are marked in dark green, while private forests (where you need the permission of the landowner) are marked in light green. Nature reserves (where felling trees is strictly prohibited) are marked in brown. Most helpfully, blue coloured lines designate the position of power lines. This facilitates your choice, as you must pick up a tree that wouldn’t be able to grow to full height anyway, such as one underneath power cables. Your own location is shown on the map, too, so navigation is a piece of cake.

Payments on the spot

Once you have located your tree, you must pay for it before taking it down. You can do it straight from your phone bill by calling a number listed in the app, or using your bank account. Prices have stayed the same since the introduction of the euro in Estonia: a tree up to 1 meter costs 3 euros, 1-2 meters costs 8 euros and 2-3 meters will be 13 euros. You must confirm the purchase via SMS or confirmation of payment order while you are in the forest (internet connectivity is good there so there are no excuses). You will need this verification in case of random checks carried out by RMK and Environmental Inspectorate employees. 

The app also lists a few no-nonsense rules for protecting Estonian nature. For example, you are also allowed to take separate branches, such as for making a Christmas wreath, as long as you do not harm the rest of the tree. Taking just the top off a spruce is prohibited.

Keeping families together

Spending time in the wild enriches a person and the fir tree brought from the forest together with other family members will have an emotional added value, says Andres Sepp, RMK's chief forest officer. 

RMK began inviting Estonians to cut down their own Christmas trees from state forests in 2008. The agency’s aim was to revive an old tradition and encourage people to spend more time in the wilderness. Several state institutions and companies choose this option and sometimes even use it as a team building exercise.



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