An environmental group in the United Kingdom wants you to think twice about purchasing and wearing an “ugly Christmas sweater” this year because the sweaters, which usually feature decorations made from plastic and metallic fibers, are contributing to the spread of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and killing off seafaring wildlife.
CNN reports that Hubbub, a UK based environmental charity, purchased 108 ugly Christmas tops from “high street” (familiar to Americans as chain stores) and online retailers and analyzed the products for their environmental sustainability, and found that 95% of the sweaters they bought “were fully or partially made from plastic materials.”
“Acrylic was the most common plastic fiber found in these festive sweaters — with 44% made entirely from the material and three-quarters containing acrylic to some degree,” CNN says.
That’s not that much different from other season clothing, most media outlets are careful to note — especially cheap, season clothing made in China. But the “ugly Christmas sweater” market, of course, makes for a convenient, timely opportunity for a little sustainability shaming.
The problem isn’t so much the sweaters themselves, though those probably made without much regard to sustainability. The problem is the fibers themselves, which shed “730,000 microfibers in every wash.” Those microfibers eventually make their way to bodies of water, clogging and polluting them.
“Aside from being one of the most common forms of microplastic pollution, microfibers may also be among the most dangerous form of microplastic. Their shape and material makes them good at acting as sponges that harmful chemical pollutants, including carcinogenic dyes, can attach to,” a study from Harvard University on the subject claims.
One or two sweaters might not make a diffence, but Hubbub claims that consumers will purchase (and eventually wash) more than 12 million ugly holiday sweaters this year.
The problem is most pronounced for social justice warriors. Apparently, the UK has several upcoming “holidays” where people are asked to wear ugly Christmas sweaters in order to raise awareness for various issues. Save the Children holds its annual “Christmas Jumper Day” on December 13th — this week.
Of course, nearly everything is a contributor to environmental degredation, according to environmentalists, so if you’ve already purchased an ugly holiday sweater, you probably don’t have much to worry about. According to recent reports, everything from Halloween costumes to Christmas trees come with a carbon footprint (Hubbub, of course, was behind claims that Halloween costumes will contribute the equivalent of “83 million plastic bottles worth” of pollution to the environment).
The Guardian even came up with a complete “green list” of ways to keep your Christmas sustainable, and it includes forgoing presents and Christmas cards, purchasing “low carbon” Christmas lights, making your own candles, and buying vegan goodies for your holiday feasts (if you have to feast — they’d prefer you scale back your consumption across the board).
Just celebrating Christmas is a disaster for the environment, according to another study cited in the Daily Mail. Cooking roasts, lighting cozy holiday fires in the fireplace, and playing with Christmas toys make the holiday the worst day of the year for air pollution.
Fortunately, at least, these environmental groups are still allowing you to celebrate. According to some of the most arden climate change opponents, the easiest way to save the planet is simply to go extinct. That would definitely make for a less than happy Christmas, though.