Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, accented by the jubilant waving of palm branches, is re-enacted each Palm Sunday in faith communities worldwide as Holy Week observances begin. This year on Palm Sunday we offered Eco-Palms to introduce our commitment to 50 Great Days of greening up, powering down, and shouting out for the environment. Eco-palms come from communities in Mexico and Guatemala where workers are paid fairly and engage in sustainable harvesting in order to protect the local ecosystem.
Americans purchase as much as $4.5 million worth of palms each year-most for church celebrations. Profits from those sales could do great things for the poor communities in Latin America where the palms are harvested. But via traditional trade channels, very little of that money reaches the palm harvesters and their communities.
In the typical palm trade:
- Large floral export firms encourage over-harvesting they pay by volume for palms and then throw away large amounts that aren’t export quality.
- Over-harvesting damages forests where the palm plants thrive.
- Forests are depleted and palm-selling communities lose this important source of income.
How are Eco-Palms different?
- The palms are gathered and sold in a socially and environmentally just way.
- Harvesters are paid a fair price per palm based on quality, so they take fewer palms out of the forest, which protects important nature reserves.
- Community members sort, package and sell the palms themselves — not via middlemen — so more of the money paid for the palms stays with the people who worked the hardest to provide them.
- Because there is a steady market for the palms, locals are motivated to protect the forests (their source of income), ensuring harvests well into the future.
- Communities earn a $.05 per palm premium for all palms sold through this program for Palm Sunday.
As we unite in this Easter season, during the 50 days (April 1 – May 19, 2013) of Mission 4/1 Earth, how might we set the Body of Christ in motion to proclaim this Good News and make God’s way known in practical, visible, life-changing ways?