Eco-Friendly Fronds for Palm Sunday

U.S. churches are going green this week by using eco-palms in their Palm Sunday church services. The palm fronds are considered "green" because of the way they're collected. Only quality palms are cut and the rest of the plant is left intact to provide wildlife habitat and continue growing for future use.

Social benefits are also reaped since more money goes to the people who cut the palm leaves. Eco-palm producers operating in Mexico and northern Guatemala follow guidelines similar to those for certified chocolate and coffee.

In the past, palm cutters were paid by the amount of palms they harvested, regardless of quality. The palms would be sorted by another person in the supply chain. The new program pays cutters only for usable palm fronds, but they are worth more individually. The workers can cut less palms and make more profit. Bundling is also done in the villages by women who would otherwise be unemployed. Now instead of half the product being thrown away, only one tenth is discarded.

In 2005, 20 U.S. congregations bought approximately 5,000 eco-palms. Last year over 280 churches purchased 80,000. This year it has more than quadrupled, with almost 1,500 churches participating and over 350,000 palms being ordered. Such a big number still only makes up one percent of palm purchases, but involvement is growing.

Take the first step

This is another example of the growing interest in where products come from and how they are produced. The palms cost the churches more, but they are willing to pay for less environmental destruction and increased social responsibility. How hard could it be for the rest of us to do the same with just one product we buy regularly? It's just one of the simple steps we can take.

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