Palm Sunday Not Environmentally Friendly, Groups Say

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:30pm EDT

( - Environmental activists are warning church-goers that Palm Sunday services are not compatible with "environmental sustainability."

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the Rainforest Alliance put out a press release on Friday, reminding Christians about the "unsustainable practices often used to harvest the 30 million chamaedorea palm fronds delivered to Canadian and U.S. Churches" for Palm Sunday services.

Most of those palm fronds are harvested in Mexico and Guatemala, and according to the environmental groups, Palm Sunday services account for almost 10 percent of total palm sales in the U.S.

"Unfortunately," the environmental activists said, "Peasant workers often harvest the entire plant, leading to the over-harvesting of the species, the potential destruction of rain forests, and the depletion of many bird species that migrate to these regions in the winter."

Chantal Line Carpentier of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation recommends "environmental certification," or "eco-labeling," which tells buyers the palms were harvested in a way that environmentalists accept.

Both the CEC and Rainforest Alliance described themselves as "pioneers in forest certification," and they said they are now working on a pilot project to "link [approved] chamaedorea suppliers in Mexico and Guatemala with Canadian and US churches."

As part of that effort, the environmental activists are encouraging parishes to buy "sustainable" palms for church services, weddings, and floral arrangements.

A survey commissioned by the CEC last year showed the majority of Christian congregations would be willing to pay nearly double the current price for certified palms, the group said.

According to CEC, "Environmental certification of palm and floral products is not yet commonplace in North America, so it's a good idea for consumers to ask about the source of the palm they purchase. Persistent inquires will let vendors know that consumers care about environmentally sustainable products."

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