In an effort to make the practice of distributing palms on Palm Sunday more sustainable, the Rainforest Alliance is working with Guatemalan villagers to create eco-palms. U.S. churches pay the villagers a fair wage to harvest palm fronds sustainably. Gary Strieker has the story. (Video: Assignment Earth)


Getting ready for Palm Sunday begins not in church, but in another kind of sanctuary. Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve covers the largest tropical rainforest in Central America.  Villagers living inside this vast jungle cut palm fronds grown in the wild for export to their North American neighbors.  Churches buy the palms for celebrations the Sunday before Easter.  Now, many churches are paying extra for eco-palms certified by the non-profit Rainforest Alliance.  Certification, similar to programs for coffee and bananas, helps ensure the palms are cut in a sustainable way and workers get paid a fair wage.  The alliance certifies palms imported by a Texas-based supplier of floral greenery.  Both the company and non-profit work directly with villagers in Guatemala to teach them sustainable business practices designed to protect the environment and create local jobs.  He says they’re trying a new, innovative project they hope will be a model for the entire reserve and could be applied to other countries.  The extra money churches pay for the palms goes directly to villages for education and conservation… an extra reason to celebrate for indigenous communities and the rainforest.  I’m Gary Strieker.    
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"Assignment Earth" features compelling video reports from the front lines of major environmental stories from around the globe. Topics include global warming, pollution, habitat destruction and endangered species.