The evenings are getting darker, there’s a chill in the air and the woolly tights are on — it may only be October, but the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun.
Yes, it’s true the festivities seem to be starting earlier and earlier, but if you want to get your hands on this year’s must-haves you need to act — and fast.
For while we don’t know what this season will bring, with Covid putting plans on pause for big family dinners, festive markets and office parties, there is one tradition we can count on: the humble advent calendar.
Over the past few years we’ve become obsessed, and last year many of the most popular brands had sold out by the end of October. Which means you’ve got two weeks to snap one up.
Florence Scordoulis revealed a selection of the best eco-friendly advent calendars for counting down to Christmas. Pictured: Holland & Barrett 25 Days Of Beauty Advent Calendar
The good news is that this year the trend is for eco-friendly advent calendars — made from recycled and recyclable or reusable packaging, and packed with treats that are as good for the environment as they are for you.
We’ve never been more in need of simple pleasures, so elbows at the ready — here’s our pick of the guilt-free best…
BEST ZERO-WASTE BEAUTY BARGAIN
Last month, Holland & Barrett launched its sustainable 25 Days Of Beauty Advent Calendar (£40, hollandandbarrett.com) — which was so popular last year that it sold out in October. So, this time it is being released in batches throughout the season. And I can see what all the fuss is about.
It comes in a chunky A3-sized box, made from thin card, with cut-out windows on both sides. Inside are what look like two giant egg boxes, keeping the products in place, so it’s plastic-free and recyclable.
The beauty treats themselves are ‘zero waste, recyclable, refillable, waterless and free of palm oil’, according to beauty trading director Joanne Cooke.
And, at £40, with 14 full-sized and 11 sample products (worth more than £170 in total), it’s great value for money.
Highlights include a 100ml UpCircle Face Scrub, made with coffee grounds (RRP £12.99), and a So Eco eyeshadow brush (£4.99) crafted from bamboo and recycled aluminium. So Eco plants one tree for every 100 products it sells.
Other top wellness brands featured in the calendar include Weleda, Dr Organic, Sukin and Tisserand. And, every time you open a door, there is a lovely pepperminty scent which makes me feel instantly zen.
GREEN GIFT FOR GRANDCHILDREN
Florence said The Playin Choc Organic Advent Calendar (pictured) contains vegan chocolate and a recyclable 3D puzzle toy to make each day
The Playin Choc Organic Advent Calendar (£55, john lewis.com) is pricey, but would earn you some serious eco credentials with any Greta Thunberg-loving grandkids.
The box is made from 100 per cent recycled (and recyclable) cardboard, with 24 dinky drawers each containing a 10g chocolate bar that is organic, vegan and free from gluten and nuts.
The chocolate is surprisingly tasty, with creamy, coconutty and vanilla undertones. The wrappers are compostable and made of plant cellulose and wood pulp.
There’s a festive-themed fun fact card, and a 3D puzzle toy (also recyclable and made from recycled card) to make each day. I must confess, though, that I gave up after one day, defeated by a three-piece Christmas tree that looked a breeze to build but wasn’t.
The idea is to reverse the paper sleeve the box comes in to reveal a winter wonderland play mat for the finished toys (including a gingerbread man, reindeer and snowman); and the drawers can be turned around, too, to create a wholesome festive background.
However, I had the most fun with the Eco Flo tubes, which come in the delivery box to protect the calendar — they look like white polystyrene but are made from maize starch. Chuck them in the sink, run the tap and they vanish. Mind. Blown.
CHOCOLATES WITH A REAL CONSCIENCE
Florence revealed the Love Cocoa by James Cadbury Luxury Chocolate Advent Calendar (pictured) contains susatinably sourced handmade treats
If the promise of chocolate is most likely to get you up in the morning, then check out the Love Cocoa by James Cadbury Luxury Chocolate Advent Calendar, available at Ocado or online (£19.95, lovecocoa.com).
James is the great-great-great grandson of John Cadbury, the original Cadbury founder — but this is nothing like your standard Dairy Milk calendar. Inside are 24 days of luxury, handmade treats — all sustainably sourced and free from palm oil. I tried the gluten-free raspberry champagne truffles, which are delicious. They have thick white shells encrusted in tart berry slivers, and a creamy ganache inside.
Other festive flavours include a lifelike gin and tonic, sea salt, orange, and salted caramel.
The packaging is plastic-free and recyclable, with a charming British Christmas design featuring icons from Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes.
Plus, the company is partnered with the charity Trees For The Future, and will be planting three trees in Cameroon for every purchase.
IN A CRUELTY-FREE WONDERLAND
Florence said Freedm Street Eco Wonderland 2020 Advent Calendar (pictured) contains products worth more than £325
For real decadence try the Freedm Street Eco Wonderland 2020 Advent Calendar (£149, freedmstreet.co.uk).
It’s expensive but contains 21 beauty and lifestyle products and snacks worth more than £325 — all vegan, cruelty and plastic-free. Think lots of powder or solid versions of traditionally liquid products, with ocean-safe packaging and plenty of gorgeous, natural essential oils.
I loved the Purity Radiance Eye Gel, which is cooling and good for de-puffing. It has a nifty label made from compostable cotton fibres that you can soak overnight, then plant in soil — and it sprouts into wildflowers in seven to ten days.
There’s a vegan T-shirt behind the Day 15 door — you can pick your size and customise your shade of make-up when you order.
BRIGHTEN UP YOUR BREAKFAST TIME
Florence said the Bonne Maman 2020 Advent Calendar (pictured) contains 23 mini glass jars with jam or marmalade
For something a bit different in the mornings, the Bonne Maman 2020 Advent Calendar (£23.99, bonnemaman.co.uk) is here to jazz up your toast.
It contains 23 mini glass jars with jam or marmalade, with exotic flavours that are not usually available in the UK, such as Pineapple and Passionfruit (a bit too sweet for my liking), and Lemon and Yuzu, which has a mouth-wateringly sharp tang to it.
The Grapefruit and Dragonfruit spread, with its jewelled shade of pink, looked lovely layered over butter, while Fig and Cardamom had a seedy crunch and wintery warmth to it.
Even the strawberry flavour has a posh spin, with added wild strawberry. The cute glass jars can be reused or recycled. And the box, the outer sleeve and inside packaging is all made with recyclable cardboard.