This Sunday, churches around the country will be doing their part to make harvesting palms for Palm Sunday more eco-friendly.
The Eco-Palms program is a partnership between the University of Minnesota, private companies, churches and government agencies in Guatemala and Mexico.
Dean Current , director of the University’s Center of Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, said the eco-friendly palms cut down on waste and help to benefit the communities where they are grown.
Current said 50 to 60 percent of non-eco-friendly palms are discarded in the harvesting process, but by gathering only the quality palms, only 10 percent are wasted.
Current said the eco-friendly palms only make up 2 percent of the market.
“There is a lot of room for improvement,” Current said.
He estimates that 30 to 50 churches in the Twin Cities will use eco-friendly palms this year.
Current also said Minnesota leads all states in the use of eco-friendly palms.
He said the palms are an important part of the Mexican and Guatemalan communities in which they are grown because they are a renewable product which keeps the forests from being cut down.
Current says switching to artificial palms would be a mistake.
“That’s one of the worst things we could probably do,” Current said. “By having the palms in the forest, that adds value and they’re not going to convert it to agriculture, if people stop buying the palms your taking that value away.”
Current hopes that because of the benefit the palms have for the economies and communities in those countries, they will be able to market the palms for weddings and funerals, in addition to the first Sunday in April.
He said the palms make a nice backdrop for flowers, and the palms, which are harvested year-round, provide jobs for women and children in the countries they are harvested in.