A Voice for Our Ocean

Ocean Conservancy’s Guide to Making Ugly Holiday Sweaters You and the Ocean will Love

Cut down on plastic waste with upcycled holiday looks.

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Sweater Three Steps

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The holidays look different this year, but at least one thing has remained the same: the arrival of the ubiquitous “ugly holiday sweater.”

Unfortunately, these sweaters aren’t just hard to look at; they’re also hard on our ocean. Usually made from synthetic fabrics, these holiday looks shed microplastics and microfibers, which pollute our land and eventually end up in our ocean. (In fact, microfibers are the most commonly found form of microplastics in our waters!) But as importantly, these sweaters are the fashion world’s equivalent to single-use plastics, often only worn once or twice before being discarded. This funny, fast fashion unfortunately comes with negative environmental impacts, from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution.

“Single-use plastic items like straws, bags, bottle caps, and food wrappers make up a huge proportion of the trash we see along beaches and waterways every year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup,” said Sarah Kollar, Outreach Manager for Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® program. “One of the easiest ways to help cut back on ocean plastic pollution is to focus on the first two ‘R’s – reduce and reuse. In the spirit of the holiday season, we’re encouraging ocean lovers everywhere to make their own festive sweaters using materials they have on hand.”

Read on for our three steps to making the ocean-friendly holiday sweater of your dreams.

  1. Reuse, reuse, reuse.
    • Work with what you have! Is there a sweatshirt you never wear? Now’s the time to give it a new life. And no need to head to the fabric store if you’ve got old t-shirts lying around. If you’re short on supplies, buy second-hand from places like Goodwill or your local thrift shop. If you’re not able to shop in person this year, websites like thredUP, Depop and Poshmark offer a great online thrifting experience – and (if you don’t feel like crafting) are already stocked with pre-worn, ready-made ugly sweaters.
  2. Find inspiration in your recycling bin.
  3. Get creative with your holiday wishes.
    • By creating your own holiday sweater, the pun-ibilities are truly endless. We recommend taking inspiration from the ocean itself, and use your sweater to wish your friends and loved ones “Sea-sons greetings” or “Merry Fish-Mas.”

We’ve come up with three easy designs to get you started. Whether you’re celebrating with your pandemic pod in person or toasting loved ones on Zoom, these crafty creations are sure to spread holiday cheer.


Note to media: Additional photos and instructions can be found here.


About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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