Catholic environmentalists have urged the faithful to treasure their Christmas jumpers and shun the throwaway culture of the fashion industry, as it looks to descend on the festive season.
A recent survey carried out by Environmental charity Hubbub found that a quarter of Christmas jumpers bought last year were thrown away or are unlikely to be worn again because people do not want to be seen in the same one twice.
The poll found that one in three under-35s buys a new Christmas jumper every year as the novelty fashion is quickly becoming an established part of the festive season.
Ellen Teague, of Columban Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, admitted that she was concerned about the issue.
“Excessive and unnecessary waste is always to be shunned, and the discarding of one-use Christmas jumpers is an example of this,” Mrs Teague told The Universe.
“Of course, we don’t need a new jumper every year! A Christmas jumper tends to be worn for only a few days, and can serve its purpose for years to come. I’d urge a bucking of the trend to wear jumpers only once. Let’s reduce the waste and the greenhouse gas emissions caused by this waste.”
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently exposed the scale of the waste generated by the fashion industry, and how the throwaway nature of fashion has created a business which creates greenhouse emissions of 1.2 billion tonnes a year – larger than that of international flights and shipping combined.
Meanwhile, Hubbub’s poll found that 29 per cent of consumers think that Christmas jumpers – emblazoned with anything ranging from delicate snowflake patterns to flashing lights – are so cheap they might as well get a new one every year.
However, Mrs Teague suggested that this wasteful tradition could, and should, be trumped by a much more meaningful and environmentally safe one.
“In my own family, we have had the same Christmas jumpers for several years and there is something lovely about bringing out our old friends, along with the well-used Christmas decorations. We can be festive and still have an eye on environmental protection,” she said.
Meanwhile Hubbub joined Mrs Teague in urging consumers to re-use a jumper they already own ‘and wear it with pride in the knowledge that you are helping the environment’.
The charity also offered alternative suggestions in its #GiveAKnit campaign, which urges the public to ‘jazz up’ their jumpers, pass them on or swap them with a relative or friend. The campaign launched as new figures suggested that £220 million would be spent on Christmas jumpers in the run-up to Christmas.
Dr Edward Echlin, an eco-theologian and Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, also expressed his sadness at the wasteful culture.
“Careful use of clothes, not least wearing fashionable sweaters and wearing them for a long time instead of rejecting them after a short time, is actually a potential way in which we can encourage sustainable use, or what Green Christian calls ‘Joy in Enough’ rather than misuse and pollution of clothes,” Dr Echlin told The Universe.
Dr Echlin also pointed out that clothes can reflect a person’s appreciation of a shared earth and the importance of re-use and recycling.
“Young people appreciate fashionable jumpers. If we teach them the value of what goes into a lovely jumper, such as wool, cotton, leather and the plants and animals that contribute to those ingredients, many young people will consider recycling, insulation with old reused clothes, and sustainable use in general,” he said.
“For ourselves, with Hubbub, Green Christian and others, we can encourage sustainable Christian use by what we wear, and how long, and how we later dispose of or share it.”
Picture: A Christmas jumper stall in Canterbury High Street, Kent. (Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images).