Society has come to a consensus on straws and plastic, but what about other seasonal trends and disposable culture? What of their impact on people and planet?
Recent years have seen a rise in popularity of the ironic, the kitsch and the garish Christmas jumpers. Nowadays the trend is the brighter and bolder the better. And with charities like Save the Children holding #christmasjumperday each December customers are incentivised to don a jumper for a charitable cause. From high street stores, like Topshop and Urban Outfitters, to high end brands like Ralph Lauren, fashion houses are all churning out new designs to tap into this new lucrative stream of revenue.
But who made that jumper? Whilst charities promote wearing them to raise money for vulnerable children, if customers head straight to their nearest Primark then how, as a society can we endorse wearing jumpers made in unfair, unethical work environments all in the name of charity?
An estimated £220m will be spent on jumpers embroidered with alpine motifs and bedazzled with glittery fonts in the run up to the festive season this year and research shows over 10 million of us are searching for them online each year. But data from environmental charity Hubbub shows that 1 in 4 Christmas jumpers bought in the last year was thrown away or will not be worn again. 1 in 3 of us buy a new Christmas jumper EVERY year, as consumers do not want to be seen in the same jumper as the previous years… so instead they are destined for a life on the rubbish tip. Fast fashion culture is definitely the culprit at fault here with 29% of people saying they are so cheap that they might as well get a new one every year.
The environmental impact doesn’t just stop there with the contribution it makes to landfill. In 2016 the Huffington post reported that the number of jumpers owned and bought alone had an environmental impact equivalent to more than 500,000 bathtubs of water and enough carbon dioxide to fill 179 balloons for every person in the UK.
“The Christmas jumper phenomenon is now a firm part of our Christmas celebrations in the UK and it has raised a lot of money for charity. However, it’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on our addiction to fast fashion which is having a devastating impact on the environment. I’d urge people to think twice about whether they really need to buy a new jumper this year. Instead let’s dig out all those Christmas jumpers hiding away in wardrobes and swap with a friend or donate them to charity shops or even refashion something you already own.”
The Christmas jumper fad is just another trend that is indicative of the throwaway culture encouraged by the fast fashion industry, and it is fun to dress up festive- but the waste it generates requires an urgent curb to the demand we have for jumpers designed to be worn just a couple of times a year.
This year Save the Children’s advert promotes “wear it responsibly” comically featuring a spin teacher in a thick festively emblazoned jumper. But what does wearing it responsibly actually look like when we take into account people and the planet? If we want to show our support and wear a festive jumper this year how do we make sure we’re not harming the environment and respecting the people #whomadeourclothes? The classic principles of slow fashion lend themselves to this christmas jumper debacle:
REDUCE - before you buy yet another garishly patterned novelty jumper stop and ask yourself, do you really need it? Will you really wear it more than a couple of times a year..is there a better option out there?
REUSE - re-wear that jumper! Look after it well and challenge yourself to get 30 wears out of it!
RECYCLE - whatever you do don’t buy a new jumper every year, borrow, buy second hand or host a christmas jumper clothes swap if you need to switch things up.
And finally spread the word! If a quarter of us don’t want to be seen in the same jumper out there, chances are we all know someone heading to the shops to stock up on the latest festive design- so why not organise a christmas themes clothes swap, suggest a borrowing night with friends, or start a conversation and share this article to people thinking about how this seasonal trend is affecting not just the people that make our clothes but the planet!