• Small Sustainable Swaps

Advent Calendars

Updated: May 25

Advent calendars as a child signalled the beginning of Christmas. It was always exciting getting to eat some chocolate in the morning before heading off to school. This kind of advent calendar is normally packaged in cardboard, but the chocolates are held in a plastic mould with a foil covering. Now these parts can generally be recycled but it would be great to look at sourcing alternative more sustainable options.

Advent calendars these days have evolved quite a bit and don’t always contain just chocolate. It would also seem they’re not just for kids now either! There are just so many to choose from.


There are simple cardboard advent calendars with festive pictures. These allow for simple tracking of the days. However even these are being made a bit more exciting. I have found an advent calendar that links to a personalised Spotify playlist (Premium Account holders), meaning each day a door on the calendar is opened a code is revealed which can be used to play a song from the playlist. (https://www.mixpixie.com/Personalised_Cassette_Advent_Calendar_Print)

Simple card advent calendars would be good fun to make with children. There are a great range of templates available online or they can be completely personalised and unique.

Chocolate Filled

It may be that kids (or adults) still want a chocolate advent. If this is the case it may be a bit trickier to avoid plastic, but it is possible to consider making more ethical choices in terms of the chocolate within. Choosing fair trade chocolate or vegan chocolate will help in having a positive impact for the farmers or have a lower environmental impact by not including dairy. Just make sure to either reuse the plastic mould or recycle it.

The Love Cocoa Advent Calendar is a plastic free chocolate advent and every purchase results in three trees being planted in northern Cameroon. This is available through Ocado.

A slightly more expensive option is the PLAYin CHOC advent calendar (https://playinchoc.com/collections/christmas-series/products/advent-calendar-2). This is a plastic free chocolate advent calendar. Each day there is a chocolate, a toy and a fun fact card in a drawer. The drawers go back in to create a picture which is completed on Christmas Eve. The chocolate is Dairy, Nut, Gluten and Soy FREE.

Alternative Advents

Alternative advent calendars may be of more interest to some. There are a whole variety of different types of calendars available ranging from beauty items, to toys, to food items. Often these calendars sell out very quickly as they contain highly popular items at discounted prices however prices vary greatly for these calendars. Example calendars: Teapigs, Holland & Barrett Beauty Advent, Lush, Lego, Disney Book Advent

Two years ago, we bought the Lego Friends and Playmobil calendars for our daughters, we reused the Lego ornaments in our own calendar last year and will do the same this year. The Playmobil toys have been added to the toy box and are played with throughout the year. This shows that with careful thought these alternative calendars can work out well.


Another great alternative is a reusable advent calendar (either ready-made or hand-made). Again, there is a huge variety available and hand-made means even more options as the only limit is imagination. The awesome thing about reusable advent calendars is they can be filled with completely personalised things such as sweets, ornaments, beauty items, snacks, jewellery and books. Obviously, the size of the calendar will impact what can be included.

Reusable calendars can be made from a variety of materials – paper, wood, fabric. The first one I made was made from a board covered in wrapping paper. I then made card pockets which I stuck on. Into the pockets I put a tag with a Christmas related activity. On the outside of the pocket I used mini pegs to attach the date tag. As we counted down the days, we removed this. This worked well for a few years but was limited in what could be added to it.

Last year I bought a reusable calendar to decorate. This one is shaped as a Christmas tree and has drawers. I painted it and used Decopatch paper to cover the drawer fronts. I am really happy with how it came out and the children liked it too. The drawers allowed for chocolate coins and the Lego ornaments from a previous calendar. We will definitely be reusing this one for several years to come.

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