Join Keep Britain Tidy’s ‘Buy Nothing New Month’ this January

Say no to unnecessary spending and waste this month.

This January, save money and help the environment by joining Bedford Borough Council and take part in Keep Britain Tidy’s new campaign, Buy Nothing New Month.

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The aim is to pledge to buy nothing new for the whole of January. Instead, make use of the things we already have and to repair, upcycle and reuse where possible or to donate the things we no longer want or need.

Buy Nothing New Month encourages people to prioritise other measures above recycling waste, such as preventing it in the first place and reducing items that could become waste – while also saving money.

Now in its second year Buy Nothing New Month takes place from 1 to 31 January 2024 – but there’s no harm in starting today.

Launching the campaign, a Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “As a local authority we recognise that people are still feeling the effects of the cost-of-living crisis and that many are concerned about climate change and want to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint.”

How to get involved

The council is encouraging Bedfordians to sign up to the campaign to receive free weekly e-mails containing handy tips, and a free digital resources pack. You can register here.

If you want to take part in Buy Nothing New Month, or are generally interested in living a more sustainable and less wasteful life, we’ve asked some experts for their advice.

First up is Daniel Churchill of the Bedford Repair Cafe. Here are his top five tips for keeping your stuff working and saving it from landfill:

1. Find out what’s broken; maybe it’s not broken at all. It may need new batteries, or maybe a different charger; swapping out bits lets you know if and where there is a problem. One of our favourite repairs was removing a two pence piece wedged in a vacuum cleaner hose after some simple deduction.

2. Check the sockets. A gentle, careful scrape with a toothpick can clear out the fluff from some charger ports, particularly on phones.

3. A rip or tear in clothes doesn’t destine it for the bin, and can usually be sorted, particularly if you get it before it spreads. A stitch in time and all that. A great fix showcases the repair; use bright thread to show off your handiwork.

4. For bike repairs, our expert Simon always says “look after your chain and your chain will look after you”. Maintenance is key to keeping bikes rolling, so keep them clean, dry and lubricated.

5. If you’re stuck, ask for help! Bedford is full of clever sods, so even if you can’t come to our next Repair Cafe, you can find loads of repair businesses across town.

Two identical Pure DAB radios with identical problems. Image: Bedford Repair Cafe
Two identical Pure DAB radios with identical problems. Image: Bedford Repair Cafe

For more information about the next Bedford Repair Cafe, visit their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram.

Someone equally well-placed to dispense advice about taking part in the challenge is Bedfordian, Ceri Evans. In 2022/23, Ceri opted out of buying any new clothes for an entire year.

“Having spent a year not buying any clothes (and that includes second-hand as well) I feel confident to take on Bedford Borough Council’s January challenge,” said Ceri.

“While I have started buying again, I’m much more selective about my purchases. Sure, I still have my vices (anything sequin or rainbow must be mine) but I’ve reined in my spending – and at a time when living costs are ever-increasing, the less I spend on frivolous items the better.

“I’ve learned that buying new doesn’t have to be totally new, just new to me – so I’m on Vinted, in the charity shops (Mercy in Action on Castle Road is a favourite), on Facebook Marketplace or even Freecycle.

“Perhaps it’s just a case of redefining ‘new.’ After all one person’s trash is another person’s treasure – especially if it has sequins!”

Financial burden and environmental harm

During last year’s inaugural Buy Nothing New Month, 65% of those who took part bought nothing new for a whole month, and an additional 31% bought less than they usually would.

Even making more considered purchases can have a positive impact on the environment.

‘Many people feel pressure to spend on so-called January sale ‘bargains’ in the UK,” said Green Party councillor, Lucy Bywater.

“But the environmental harm and the financial burden from yet more shopping and consumerism is huge, especially when the products are so often not designed to last, may not even be really needed and end up soon being binned.

“I think Buy Nothing New Month is a great way to focus instead on what makes you genuinely happy – time with friends or family or a new activity that makes you feel good, rather than shopping for non-essentials.

Cllr Lucy Bywater (Bedford Green Party). Image: Cllr Lucy Bywater

“Bedford is lucky to have excellent things going on in terms of repair, upcycling and simply saving good stuff from being binned, with its wide variety of charity shops, the pop up Repair Café and Bedford Freegle which offers a huge variety of useful items for free.

“And there are the apps like Olio and Too Good to Go which facilitate sharing of excess products and even food.

“These are all a real win-win for the environment and local people’s finances during this cost of living crisis. Any month is a good time to rethink living within personal financial and planetary limits but January is probably the best time to make changes in this direction.”

Sign up to take part in Buy Nothing New Month here.