Low Waste Advent Calendar Ideas

Nov 23, 2020 | Reducing Waste

I’ve gathered together some low waste Advent calendar ideas for you to share with your family this year. Counting down to Christmas is a popular family pastime but store-bought Advent calendars tend to be waste heavy. Making your own low-waste version is a great alternative.

Low Waste Advent Calendar Inclusions

When I was a child, our Advent calendars simply had little windows that you peeled back to reveal a Christmas picture. It seems that little gifts every day of the month have become ‘the thing’. If you want to take this route, look for low waste options such as small chocolates or useful items such as stationery.

Other options for low waste advent calendar inclusions are little love notes or slips of paper with a funny memory written on them. My kids also love looking at old photos both of themselves when they were little and of their dad and I. Printing some photos and sharing one each day could be fun.

Another idea that is popular and I have used a number of times is to include activities written on slips of paper, one to do each day. I’ve created a list of 40 different activities you might use at the bottom of this post.

Low Waste Advent Calendars

There are many patterns out there to sew a reusable advent calendar. If you have the time and inclination, you could make something beautiful to use year after year. If you are not so inclined, here is a collection of other simple Advent Calendar ideas from around the web that are either low waste or could be made to be low waste.

Countdown to Christmas Tree

Image by The Space Between

This cute idea from The Space Between has “random acts of kindness” for each day which is lovely. It could also include any kind of activity or message. Omit the glitter for a low-waste version.

Scrap Timber Tree Calendar

Image by CherylStyle.com

I love this rustic Advent calendar idea on Everyday Dishes. By carefully selecting the materials, it could be almost completely compostable!

String of Stencilled Bags

Image from Modern Parents Messy Kids

Make your stencilled bag advent calendar and use it for years to come with these instructions from Modern Parents Messy Kids. Use a 100% natural fibre fabric so that it can be composted at the end of its life.

Line of Pouches Tied with String

Image by Design Mom

Even easier is this idea from Design Mom. Use cotton string for a fully compostable advent calendar.

Countdown Garland

Image by The Crafting Chicks

This idea by The Crafting Chicks uses library book pockets which might be hard to find. I’ve done something very similar with small envelopes though, similar to this one by Better Homes & Gardens. They are not big enough for more than the smallest of treats but are great for messages on a slip of paper.

Origami Advent Calendar

Image by Family Footprint Project

I have also created an advent calendar from origami pockets using the instructions on Love to Know.

Toilet Roll Advent Calendar

Image by Maya Made

Here’s a use for empty toilet rolls that I hadn’t thought of! Maya Made has created this advent calendar from them.

Another Toilet Roll Advent Calendar

Image by Handimania

Handimania has a different twist on the empty toilet roll advent calendar.

Advent Calendar Board

Image by The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

This is a super simple idea from The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking. Another one not so good for ‘treats’ but love notes, photos or activities would look lovely displayed like this.

Activity Cards in a Jar

Image by Mama Papa Bubba

Simple but effective, Mama Papa Bubba gives you all the printable you need to make this easy advent calendar.

Crafty Printable Advent Calendar

Image by A Lovely Lark

A Lovely Lark also offers a printable advent calendar which would be a lovely craft activity to do with the kids.

Countdown with Decorations

To simply countdown the days until Christmas, put 24 Christmas decorations in a decorated jar or box and take one out each day and hang it on your tree. It gives young kids a really visual way to know how long it is until Santa comes.

Christmas Story Serial

My final idea for a countdown is to divide a Christmas story book into 24 parts. You could maybe mark the parts with Post-It notes so the kids can see how many parts are left. Then read one part of the story each day in the lead up to Christmas, concluding on Christmas Eve. One of the things I like about this activity is, if you are a bit late getting started with your Christmas countdown, just break the story up into fewer parts – and maybe choose a shorter book!

Advent Calendar Activities

Here is a list of 40 activities you could include on an activity-based advent calendar. I’ve included 40 because, even though you only need 24 for a traditional countdown, it leaves some flexibility for your own circumstances and preference.

  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Have a picnic dinner
  • Have a crazy hair day
  • Make meal with red and green foods
  • Make gingerbread people
  • Watch a Christmas movie
  • Read a Christmas story
  • Make a Christmas card
  • Donate food to a Christmas appeal
  • Buy a gift for a giving tree
  • Make a Christmas decoration
  • Make a sign to thank your garbage collector or postie
  • Take a meal to an elderly neighbour
  • Go stargazing after dark
  • Take old blankets or towels to an animal shelter
  • ‘Camp out’ beside the Christmas tree
  • Watch the sunset
  • Make a Christmas nature collage
  • Write a list of things you are grateful for this year
  • Thread popcorn to string on the tree
  • Walk around the neighbourhood to see the lights
  • Cut out paper snowflakes
  • Go out to visit Santa
  • Have a candlelit dinner
  • Go to a Christmas concert
  • Write a thank you letter to your teacher
  • Put on a Christmas puppet show
  • Have a slide show of family pictures
  • Make hot chocolate
  • Have friends over for dinner
  • Write your letter to Santa
  • Donate your toys or clothes to a charity
  • Play a board game
  • Make wrapping paper or sew gift sacks
  • Sing Christmas songs
  • Share memories around a fire
  • Visit the library and borrow some holiday reading
  • Take a family photo
  • Go out for ice cream
  • Leave milk and cookies out for Santa

I hope these low-waste advent calendar ideas help you on the path to a lower waste Christmas.

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