Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

Clean bubbles: kicking the SodaStream habit

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SodaStream corporate website:  “We seek to revolutionize the beverage industry by reducing plastic bottle waste and being an environmentally friendly product.”

sodastream-protestForbes.com, February 6:  “SodaStream sells its beverage systems in 15,000 retailers across the United States and many thousands more worldwide.  Analysts expect sales to grow 27% growth in 2013, and 30.4% more over the next five years.”

Jewish Voice for Peace, Washington:  “SodaStream is an Israeli company with its main factory in the industrial park of Ma’aleh Adumim, the largest Israeli Jewish settlement in the West Bank.  According to international law these settlements are illegal.

“According to research by the Israeli group Coalition of Women for Peace, operating in the settlement provides SodaStream profitable advantages – low rent, a labor force that is easily exploited, special tax incentives, and lax enforcement of regulations.

Interfaith Boycott Coalition:  “We are thirsty for justice.   We are Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of conscience calling on all consumers and stores to stop buying and selling SodaStream carbonation devices or other products made by this company.  SodaStream manufactures these machines within an Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territory.  These settlements are illegal under international law and are obstacles to peace.  We choose not to partake in supporting this unethical enterprise and ask consumers and stores to join us.”

But how?

For two years, working with the Global Exchange Economic Activism for Palestine project, Henry Norr has been researching alternatives to the carbonators that SodaStream manufactures on stolen Palestinian land. Last week he published his latest guide on Mondoweiss.  Here it is:

Whether or not you’re involved in the growing grassroots campaign to boycott SodaStream, please keep a copy of this guide for your own use, and to share with anyone you know who may be tempted by SodaStream’s ever-expanding marketing campaign.  Any suggestions, corrections, and other feedback, write to henry@norr.com.

The simplest alternative to buying a SodaStream machine is to drink plain water or other non-carbonated beverages – no one actually needs to drink bubbly water.  And even if you like to do so on occasion, remember that you’ll have to consume quite a bit before you’ll realize any economic or environmental benefits from owning your own machine, compared to simply buying bottles at the grocery store.  (Yes, plastic bottles are wasteful, but plenty of plastic, plus metal and other resources used for manufacturing and shipping, goes into each home machine, too.)

If, after making all those mental calculations, you’re convinced that buying your own machine makes sense, you still don’t have to go with SodaStream.  Sure, for now it’s the best known and most widely distributed brand in its category, but there are several alternatives that offer similar convenience and potential savings – but aren’t manufactured in an illegal settlement on stolen land!

Four compelling alternatives, each with its own advantages, have reached the U.S. market in recent months:

• Cuisinart: The most exciting new development is the release of the Cuisinart Sparkling Beverage Maker. While other companies have previously offered solid alternatives to SodaStream, Cuisinart is the first with a well-known and respected brand name and wide retail distribution.

Priced at $99.95, the machine is now in stock at Bed Bath & Beyond retail outlets as well as Amazon, Cuisinart’s own online store, and other online outlets.  It’s available in black, silver, or “metallic red” and comes with one 1-liter, BPA-free plastic bottle and a 4-oz. CO2 cartridge (enough to make up to 16 liters of soda, according to the company).  You can exchange the cartridge for a full one ($10 at Bed Bath & Beyond) or buy extras for $19.99.  In the near future, Cuisinart also plans to offer exchangeable 16-oz. CO2 canisters that are compatible with the machine.

At this writing Cuisinart isn’t selling its own syrups or powder to flavor your soda, but its customer service department says a full line will be available soon.  In the meantime, both Cuisinart customer service and at least some Bed Bath & Beyond retail staffers are recommending SodaStream’s flavorings, but if you want to respect the boycott you can just add fruit juice, make your own flavorings, or try the flavor packs offered by two other recent entrants in the make-your-own-soda market, SodaSparkle and Pat’s Backcountry Beverages (see below).

Be wary of flavours with the SodaClub brand.  It’s the parent company of SodaStream.

• SodaSparkle: The new SodaSparkle is a different style of device compared to Cuisinart and SodaStream devices: it’s not a countertop appliance, but a smaller contraption, containing a single-use CO2 cartridge, that you screw into the bottle that comes with it to carbonate its contents. The company offers two starter kits on Amazon and on its own website: the standard one, priced at $50, includes the charger, a 1.3-liter BPA-free reusable plastic bottle, five single-use CO2 cartridges (each one good for one bottle of soda water), and 15 single-glass flavor packs; a $60 “deluxe” kit is identical except that it also includes a 1-liter bottle.

SodaSparkle’s CO2 cartridges are made of metal and therefore recyclable, but they are not reusable. A package of 50 additional cartridges costs $24.95 from the company’s own web store or $26.99 from Amazon. Third-party CO2 cartridges are cheaper, but SodaSparkle says you shouldn’t use them.

(The SodaSparkle device somewhat resembles an earlier product made by iSi called the Twist’n’Sparkle, which was recalled and discontinued when it was found that its bottle sometimes exploded during carbonation.  SodaSparkle says its plastic bottles contain two pressure-release valves that ensure their safety.)

SodaSparkle markets its own line of “fresh, natural, sugar-free, and preservative-free” flavorings; instead of sugar, they are sweetened with sucralose, a non-caloric derivative of sucrose (the basic ingredient of the artificial sweetener Splenda).  Current flavors are lemon, pineapple, apple, cola-lemon, tonic, and lychee; more are in the pipeline, according to the company.  A package of 60 single-serve packets (for one glass of water) in assorted flavors is $22 from Amazon or $20 from the SodaSparkle site; boxes of 10 “flavor sticks” (each sufficient to flavor one bottle) in the flavor of your choice are around $20 from Amazon and $15 from SodaSparkle.

• Pat’s Backcountry Beverages: Based in Talkeetna, Alaska, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has developed a carbonation system suited for (but not limited to) hikers who want bubbly water in the wild.  Instead of CO2 cartridges, Pat’s eco2SYSTEM relies on a combination of food-grade potassium bicarbonate and citric acid powders to produce CO2: to make carbonated water, you fill a special .6-liter (20 oz.) plastic bottle with water, empty a packet of eco2ACTIVATOR (the powders) into the specially designed top, and shake.

A kit containing one bottle, six packets of eco2ACTIVATOR, and five samples of Pat’s flavor concentrates costs $40 plus shipping direct from Pat’s online store, through Amazon, or from several other online and brick-and-mortar suppliers of outdoor gear.  Extra bottles are $27-$30, while 12-packs of eco2ACTIVATOR powder are $6, plus shipping.

Pat’s offers five preservative-free flavor concentrates – Ginger Trail, Lemon Clime [sic], PomaGranite, Terra Cola, and BearFooot [sic] RootBeer – made from natural cane juice.  They come in packets designed to flavor 16 ounces of water.  12-packs of each are $34 plus shipping from Pat’s website.

• My Pop Old Fashioned Soda Shoppe: If you’re willing to put in a little bit of extra effort in order to go green and save money on carbonated drinks, consider a product called My Pop Old Fashioned Soda Shoppe from My Pop Soda of West Hills, CA.  Priced at $75 and apparently available only by mail order from the company’s online store, it consists of seven plastic bottles, six of which are connected by a maze of tubes, clamps, and valves, all packed into a bright green shopping satchel.

The beauty of the Soda Shoppe is that you never need to worry about buying, filling, exchanging, or disposing of CO2 canisters – you make your own CO2!  All you do is fill one or more of the six connected bottles with a cup of sugar, two teaspoons of baker’s yeast, and cold water, shake each one up, and wait as the yeast digests the sugar and produces CO2. Within two or three days (depending on the number of bottles you filled and the ambient temperature), a gauge attached to the tubing will show that there’s enough pressure to begin carbonating your beverages. At that point you attach another bottle (the seventh one provided, or any standard screw-top glass or plastic beverage bottle) to the system, open a couple of clamps, and listen to the CO2 whoosh in. A single bottle of yeast, sugar, and water will generate enough CO2 to make 10 liters of soda a week, according to the product’s developer; if you need more, you can use up to four bottles to make CO2.

You do have to shake the bottle you’re filling for a minute or two to achieve good carbonation, and every month or so you have to take the system apart, rinse out the bottles and tubes, and start the process all over. That’s more work than the other products require. But in return you will save quite of money – the cost of the sugar and yeast comes out to only pennies per liter of liquid you carbonate; with the other products, you can spend 10 or 20 times as much for CO2. And from an environmental point of view, you’re making a one-time investment in plastic bottles, tubing, etc., but thereafter you won’t be using anything except sugar, yeast, and water.

• Do It Yourself:  If you are so inclined, you can build your own carbonation system.  Fizz-Giz’s Harvell has posted links to several sites that offer detailed instructions – go here and scroll down to “DIY References and Sources.”

Updates on older products:

• Primo Flavorstation: Primo Water Corp.’s Flavorstation 100 ($70) and Flavorstation 120 ($80), which were previously recommended here, are still available at the company’s online store, on Amazon, and possibly at some retail outlets, but Primo has announced that Cuisinart will take over sales and marketing of the devices, and Primo will supply CO2 cylinders for the Cuisinart appliances.

Please pass this guide along to others.  May clean bubbles arise!

Author: Michael Riordon

Canadian writer and documentary-maker Michael Riordon writes/ directs/produces books and articles, audio, video and film documentaries, plays for radio and stage. A primary goal of his work is to recover voices and stories of people who have been silenced or marginalized, written out of the official version: First Nations (aboriginal) youth, Mozambican farmers, inmates in Canadian prisons, traditional healers in Fiji, queer folk across Canada, Guatemalan labour activists. Michael also leads courses, workshops and seminars for community organizations, trade unions, schools, colleges and universities.

One thought on “Clean bubbles: kicking the SodaStream habit

  1. Hi Michael: thank-you for posting this great guide to “kick the SodaStream habit”. I am going to pass it on to others.


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