“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:11
We’re now in the week leading up to Easter, the greatest celebration of the year for followers of Christ. Yesterday was Palm Sunday and our local paper ran an interesting article about fair trade palm branches. I had no idea unfair palm branches were an issue but, like so much that we use and buy without thinking twice, something joyous to us can be painful to others. Knowing the truth is a good thing.
Many of the palm branches churches order for Palm Sunday are harvested using unsustainable farming practices and workers are paid less than living wages. The Presbyterian Church has launched the Eco-Palms project to work with famers in Guatemala and Mexico. Farmers are paid 5-6x what they were previously getting, and the focus is on quality rather than quantity (typical harvest of palm fronds can result in up to 50% being discarded because of trying to get the greatest volume possible). The project also ensures the palms are harvested sustainably, meaning that the trees are not killed in the process.
This project seems like a wonderful idea and they are definitely getting the word out. This year over 600,000 palm fronds were sold to US churches through the project, up from 5000 palm fronds just 4 years ago when the project launched. My church was even more creative. We didn’t use any palms at all, but instead used sword ferns harvested from members’ yards. Sword ferns are a native plant in Oregon so not only are we celebrating with our local version of palm fronds, no fossil fuels were burned to get them to us from far away. Consider one of these options for your congregation next year!
While we’re thinking about integrating justice into Holy Week, don’t forget to look for fair trade chocolate goodies for any Easter baskets you get to fill. Why support child labor, slave labor, or ecological damage in the sweet treats you buy? Check your local natural foods store for their selections of fair trade Easter chocolates. Yum!