Let’s talk about those Christmas jumpers.
At the moment I am getting very exercised by the Christmas jumper phenomena. Aren’t they fun? Aren’t they festive? Isn’t it jolly to see all the great and good come out for the photo op on Christmas Jumper Day with their big cheques attired in a suitably cheesy/tacky acrylic/polyester jumper that was purchased only the day before by the PR office intern.It will probably the same intern that will be charged with taking said jolly jumpers to the charity shop the following day.
A survey by the HUBBUB foundation found 1 in 4 Christmas jumpers were worn just the once. Further, 1 in 3 under 35’s reported buying a new one every year. That’s appalling. I don’t think you could find a better example to highlight the issue of fast fashion and the devastating impact our take – make – dispose attitude to clothing has on the environment.
It’s absurd that vast amounts of non-renewable resources (oil!) are used to produce clothing that is quickly discarded. Resulting in greenhouse gas emissions of 1.2 billion tonnes a year. Clothing that is little worn before being discarded.
According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation over 73% of this new clothing and textiles will end up either in landfill or incinerated[i].
But, and this is what I find the most disturbing, most of these clothes will be made from synthetics including acrylic and polyester. These materials are plastics. Plastics do not biodegrade unlike natural fibres. Plastics gradually shred into every smaller particles. Every time a synthetic garment is washed or worn tiny fibres (microplastics) are shed and washed out with the waste water. For an average wash load of 6 kg, over 700,000 fibres could be released per wash[ii].
These microplastics are washed out to sea. Textile fibres such as acrylic are denser than seawater so they sink and accumulate in the deep sea[iii]. A recent study took marine sediment samples taken from the Mediterranean, SW Indian Ocean and NE Atlantic Ocean. The study found abundant microplastics in all the samples. Reporting 57% Rayon, 23% Polyester and 5% acrylic microfibres in a colourful rainbow of blues, greens, reds and vibrant pinks, purples and turquoises. The same study also found microplastics on corals in shallow seas. The story of Stuff has a nice little video explaining this process if you want to know more.
More worrying still these microplastics are now so prevalent in our oceans that they have entered the marine food chain.
We are quite literally plasticising our planet.
I don’t know about you but this terrifies me.
We are all part of the problem and we are all part of the solution. Our attitude to clothing and the materials we use needs to change.
Wool is a fundamental part of this solution. It’s renewable, sustainable, biodegradable. Needs little resource inputs and has low emissions. You can wear a sheep, milk a sheep and eat a sheep! Sheep are beautiful, miraculous, marvellous and under-estimated creatures.
Going back to the Christmas Jumper. I can’t help thinking that politicians such as Nicola Sturgeon and her team on Christmas Jumper Day 2017 would have made more of an impact if they had turned out in a wool sweater produced from Scottish fibre that they had worn last year and the year before and the year before that and given the cash that they avoided spending on the disposable version direct to charity.
I have decided that I need to join in with the jollity and get myself a festive jumper. I’m not one for the full Rudolf – and there are some seriously jawdroppingly godawful patterns available if that is your thing. I really like The Perfect Christmas Jumper by Susan Crawford, Boreal by Kate Davies and Northshore by Tincan knits.
It’s too late for this year but then that’s not what it’s about. It will take me all year but then it will be there for every year thereafter.
So, remember A jumper is for life not just for Christmas!
I wish you all a very happy festive season, mine starts on Thursday, can’t wait, and a very happy new year.
[ii] Napper, I. E., & Thompson, R. C. (2016). Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions. Marine pollution bulletin, 112(1), 39-45.
[iii] Woodall, L. C., Sanchez-Vidal, A., Canals, M., Paterson, G. L., Coppock, R., Sleight, V., … & Thompson, R. C. (2014). The deep sea is a major sink for microplastic debris. Royal Society Open Science, 1(4), 140317.