Make Your Own Ugly Holiday Sweater Using Household Trash

The Ocean Conservancy says it will be kinder to marine life.

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ugly Christmas sweater

Ocean Conservancy

Amid a year of uncertainty, one thing remains unchanged – the strange and incomprehensible allure of the ugly holiday sweater. Whether it's for a work-related social hour on Zoom or a small get-together with your friend "bubble," people are heading to the store to buy ugly sweaters in an attempt to feel moderately festive.

As we've said before on Treehugger, please don't do this, fun though it may be. Avoid buying a new ugly Christmas sweater if you can. They're an ecological disaster of sorts, usually made of cheap synthetic yarn and so outrageously decorated that you're unlikely ever to wear it again – unless, of course, you save it for another year. 

They are the sartorial equivalent of single-use plastic packaging, which is why the Ocean Conservancy is getting involved this year. Though it may seem like an odd critic of the ugly sweater trend, it has issued a press release that urges people to think of ugly Christmas sweaters as plastic litter: 

"These fast fashion finds are often single-use and, like all single-use plastics, are hard on our ocean, shedding microplastics and microfibers ... This funny, fast fashion unfortunately comes with negative environmental impacts, from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution."

The Ocean Conservancy has nothing against getting humorously stylish for the holidays, but hopes people will adopt a "reuse" mentality when concocting crazy costumes for a holiday party. The possibilities are endless once you start to think about it. 

Visit a thrift store for a secondhand ugly sweater or raid your own closet for an unused sweater that could be reborn uglier than ever. Get out your craft supplies (hot glue, needle and thread, scissors) and dig through the recycling bin for materials with great potential. The Conservancy suggests taking inspiration from the top ten most commonly found items in its annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) event:

"With a little paint, bottle caps (ranked fourth on the ICC top ten list this year) become Christmas ornaments. Plastic grocery bags (number seven on the ICC top ten list, and one of the deadliest forms of marine debris) can be glued or sewn on to create a snowy scene. Food wrappers, the number one most commonly found item at the 2019 ICC, offer a variety of possibilities – rinse them off and create snowflakes with white wrappers, or tinsel from silver ones." 
DIY ugly Christmas sweaters
Ocean Conservancy

The Ocean Conservancy has even provided images of some DIY projects for you to copy. There's the "That's a Wrap" design, which uses an empty strawberry carton, KitKat wrappers, and a grocery bag. "Tis the SEAson" features fish cutouts from an old T-shirt glued onto a sweater with tiny Santa hats. "Trashin' Through the Snow" showcases recyclable waste transformed into snowflakes and tree ornaments.

The ideas are simple, clever, and very on brand for Treehugger. Put your inner crafter to work and you'll not only have the ugliest sweater at the Zoom happy hour, but also the coolest because it's as eco-friendly as it gets.