Churches going 'green' for Palm Sunday
Enlarge By Andy King for USA TODAY
MARCH 14, 2008 (www.usatoday.com) - This year, more than 2,130 congregations across the USA, including Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, will use "eco-palms" that are harvested in a more environmentally friendly way, says Dean Current, program director at the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management at the University of Minnesota.
The number of churches using eco-palms on Palm Sunday — which, in the Christian faith, marks Jesus' triumphant return to Jerusalem before his death and resurrection — has grown from a pilot program of 5,000 in 2005 to the 600,000 eco-palms ordered for this year's March 16 celebration, Current says. He estimates that is about 1.5% of the 35 million to 40 million palms sold annually for Palm Sunday services in the USA but says he expects the growth to continue.
What makes the eco-palms different is the way that they are harvested, says RaeLynn Jones Loss, a research specialist at the University of Minnesota.
More than 50% of the palms are wasted by traditional methods, Jones Loss says. Harvesters in the eco-palm program are trained to be more selective. They cut only the best fronds, which results in only 5% to 10% waste.
About 25% of the program's proceeds go back to the communities where they were harvested. They pay for such things as scholarships, she says.
"It's a matter of helping support these communities, getting them a fair amount of money for their wares and also using a sustainable resource," says Chris Barnett of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Anchorage.
The eco-palms can cost more, depending on the type. A typical order of 200 eco-palms costs $47.50, Jones Loss says, compared with $21 to $23 for traditional palms, according to Catholic Supply of St. Louis.
Martin reports for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.