A Zero Waste Advent Calendar

November 25, 2021

A Zero Waste Advent Calendar

I really enjoy the tradition of an advent calendar. Although I'm not so keen on all the disposable plastic-wrapped ones that have become so popular. A way to make this traditional activity more eco-friendly is to create your own, and it's pretty simple to do. You can make an advent that's activity-based or one that features chocolates or gifts. The best thing about this handmade zero waste advent calendar is you get to enjoy all the festive things you love the most–and skip all the stuff you hate (like disposable plastic!)

There are several ways you can have a traditional advent calendar that is both minimalist and low waste. One way is to buy a reusable calendar to decorate and keep year after year. I love this FERM Living hanging calendar, and there are plenty of traditional wooden advent calendar to choose from. You may even be able to thrift one.

Although the best thing about making your own is you don't have to find space to store it once the holidays are over. You can include all the gifts and activities you want without being constricted by the advent calendar's size. Making your own zero waste advent calendar is easy. All you need are things you already have: a jar and some paper - that's it! Everything else is optional.



A Zero Waste Advent Calendar


Making A Zero Waste Advent Calendar

I created an advent calendar for my family combining the tradition of chocolate (and gifts) as well as a mix of festive activities to get us in the holiday mood. I live with a bit of a scrooge and this was my attempt at helping us all feel a little more festive. The holiday season can be wonderful. It can also be incredibly stressful too. Having something nice to look forward to each day, whether that's a treat or an activity, reminds us to take a moment to enjoy the festivities.

I made my zero waste advent calendar using a jar and basket I already had. In the jar I placed 24 strips of paper, each one with an activity written on it or an instruction to pick a gift. In a basket I placed several small gifts to be chosen from when 'pick a gift' was plucked from the advent jar. Each day, myself or my partner randomly chose a strip of paper. It could be a festive activity or a treat to enjoy. Our dog was included in the celebrations with his own treats and toys too.

I included small gifts made from local shops and independent makers. Thrifted items as well as gifted ones. The traditional festive activities were things I knew we'd enjoy and be easy to fit into our daily schedule. The only piece of paper that was numbered was the 24th one, and was to be put back if pulled early. This was a small gift for each of us to enjoy on the big day.

Here are some ideas for what to include in your zero waste advent calendar, including traditional festive activities as well as zero waste gift ideas.



A Zero Waste Advent Calendar


Advent Calendar Activities

  • Watch a Christmas film
  • Make a festive snack, like candied nuts
  • Cook a festive dinner to eat together
  • Make zero waste decorations
  • Make mulled wine (handmade sachets)
  • Bake festive cookies or a cake
  • Drink seasonal cocktails
  • Decorate the Christmas tree together
  • Make a charitable donation
  • Listen to a Christmas playlist
  • Cook a warming soup or stew
  • Go for a Christmas walk
  • Make mince pies (and eat them)
  • Visit the local festive lights
  • Make Christmas crackers
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Group gift making
  • Family gift wrapping
  • Brew a fire cider
  • Host a dinner party
  • Thrift for gifts, decorations
  • Deck the halls (decorate the apartment)
  • Game night
  • Go out for dinner


Zero Waste Gifts

I encourage you to shop from local shops or independent sellers for your advent calendar gifts. Avoid big box stores if you can. I've included a few suggestions below, mostly small gifts with a couple of ideas for the big day. With links to the shops or specific gifts I recommend. Find more zero waste gift ideas.


  • A box of chocolates
  • Zero waste sweets
  • Festive decorations
  • A tree ornament
  • Festive incense
  • A holiday-scented candle
  • A homemade spice mix
  • Skincare or bath products
  • A toy for your pet
  • Pet treats (homemade or bought)
  • Locally made beer or wine (or non-alcohol drink)
  • Loose leaf tea and/or coffee beans
  • Handmade cups or mugs
  • A board game
  • Socks or gloves
  • Dressing gown, pyjamas, or slippers
  • Linen bedding or tea towels
  • Pickles or olives
  • Candied nuts
  • Hot sauces, jams, or marmalade
  • Tickets to a movie, show, or event
  • A book (physical or digital)
  • A blanket or throw
  • A gift certificate


A Zero Waste Advent Calendar


Eco-Friendly Advent Calendars

If making an advent calendar feels like just another thing to add to your to-do list, skip it. Alternatively, there are low waste advent calendars you can buy–for you and your companions. The following advent calendars are all low waste and vegan-friendly (except for the pet ones!) I find all the festive vegan-friendly items sell out fast so if you're struggling to find a calendar in your local shops, try online. Ethical Superstore stocks a rather extensive range.




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