The specially grown palm leaves are good for the environment and the workers who harvest them, said Ann Flanagan, the church member who introduced the idea to the congregation.
The eco-palms, distributed through the University of Minnesota’s Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, come from sustainable trees in Mexico and Guatemala that can produce year after year.
The workers gathering the leaves are also trained to package and ship them, Flanagan said, for which they’re paid a higher wage.
Many of the workers who harvest palm fronds are paid by volume, so without the higher wage for shipping work, “they would just strip the trees every year.”
As with fair-trade coffee, Flanagan said, everyone wins. Workers make a decent living and the delicate ecosystem that produces the palm fronds isn’t destroyed.
Several years ago I worked at a church supply company and one of my seasonal duties was taking orders for; ordering; and then shipping palms for Palm Sunday and let me tell you that these “eco-palms” are a scam. For one thing, the vast majority of palms distributed on Palm Sunday do not come from trees, but from palm bushes (which is why the fronds you get are usually long strips, not branches).
Do-gooder perception is more important than reality