Lutherans purchase 'eco-palms' for Palm Sunday

3/6/2009 12:00:00 AM

by Melissa Ramirez Cooper, ELCA News Service

More than 300 million palm fronds are harvested each year for use
in the United States, mostly for Palm Sunday worship and floral
displays for church-related events, according to Lutheran World
Relief (LWR), Baltimore.  But the overproduction of palms
threatens forests and the livelihoods of families who harvest
palms in Guatemala, Mexico and elsewhere.  Typically, palm
harvesting is done by residents hired by local contractors who
sell palms to large floral export firms.  Payment is based on
volume, so harvesters are motivated to gather a large quantity of
palms, risking the rapid depletion of forests.  As a result, up
to 50 percent of the palms are later discarded because of poor
quality.  This process also results in less income for those who
do the harvesting, LWR reports.

To ensure palms are harvested in an environmentally sustainable
way, some Lutherans are purchasing "eco-palms" for Palm Sunday,
April 5, 2009.  LWR has partnered with the Chamaedorea Palm
Certification Project to build support for eco-palms in the
United States.  The project helps harvesters earn a fair income
for their labor, which helps limit the amount of palms taken from
the forest.  "The supply chain in agricultural work brings us
face-to-face with issues of child labor, human trafficking,
pesticides and other issues that we don't see on a day to day
basis," said Patricia Zerega, director, ELCA Corporate Social
Responsibility, Pittsburgh.  "It is good to know that things as
simple as the palms we purchase for Palm Sunday can make a
difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters throughout
the world."

Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was celebrated by using palm
branches, according to the Gospel of John.  Lutherans around the
world recount this story of Jesus, re-enacting the waving of
palms on Palm Sunday.


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