Each year, churches around the world will purchase ecofriendly palm fronds as part of their Holy Week celebrations. The fronds, an integral part of the services, has become a major economic booster for farmers and workers in Mexico and Guatemala.

An estimated 300 million palm fronds are harvested annually for U.S. consumption. Most are used for Palm Sunday or floral displays.

“Last year, 995 PC(USA) congregations purchased more than 183,000 palm fronds. Altogether, 4,216 U.S. congregations ordered Eco-Palms, ensuring that over 965 thousand were harvested sustainably this season,” said Jessica Maudlin, mission associate for the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “We would love to hit the 1,000 order mark for Presbyterians this year and 1 million fronds across all denominations that participate in the project.”

Lutheran World Relief and the University of Minnesota launched the Eco-Palm project in 2005. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Catholic Relief Services joined the initiative two years later. Workers engage in sustainable harvesting in order to protect the local ecosystem, only pulling a certain number of fronds from each palm tree to ensure future growth. They are paid a fair wage for their work.

Forest Lake Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., was an early supporter of the Eco-Palm project and has encouraged church participation for years. “In working towards the goal of becoming better stewards of the creation that God has entrusted to our care, our congregation made an intentional effort to ‘do no harm’ to the environment by purchasing Eco-Palms for our Palm Sunday and Holy Week observances. We hope all congregations will consider this small, local action with global, environmental consequences.”

Maudlin estimates participating communities will see more than $1 million added to the local economy.

“Our local/individual choices are related to global issues and have far reaching impacts. The option of procuring palms through the Eco-Palms program is a perfect opportunity for faith and consumer practices to converge in a way that really allows congregations to live out their values,” said Maudlin. “Presbyterians know that where we spend our dollars reflects our values as congregations and individuals. Strengthening livelihoods with fair wages are ways to end hunger and poverty which is why the Presbyterian Hunger Program offers this project as well as others.”

The order deadline is February 20th. Maudlin says congregations will receive an email from Eco-Palms containing the order number and customers can log into their account the week before Palm Sunday (March 14-18) to track their purchase.

For more information on ordering palm fronds or to learn more about the Eco-Palm program, click here