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COP26: The ultimate 3-minute guide to a green household and garden

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You may have heard that the UK is hosting a summit called COP26, which is seen as being really important if climate change is to be brought under control. The COP26  event is a global United Nations summit around climate change and how countries plan to tackle it. It is taking place in Glasgow between 31st October and 12th November 2021, and any decisions could lead to significant changes in our everyday lives.

The conversation around the importance of being more environmentally conscious is more apparent than ever. But how do we do that? We're all looking for ways we can do our bit to help combat climate change. And here are our 4 top tips for creating an environmentally friendly house & garden.

1. Buy a mix of house plants

Indoor plants don't just look good — they can make us feel good, too. Studies have shown that indoor plants:

- Boost our mood, productivity, concentration and creativity

- Reduce your stress, fatigue, sore throats and colds

- Help clean indoor air by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity & producing oxygen

- Add life to a sterile space, give privacy and reduce noise levels

- Are therapeutic to care for (it's true when we say Plants Make People Happy)

2. Reduce the impact of your wood-burning stove

Wood burners have been popular over the last 10 years for homebuyers, but environmentally they are damaging. The Government brought in regulations in May 2021 to cut air pollution and require anyone using a wood-burning stove or open fire in the home from today must only use cleaner alternatives to wet wood and coal. Experts say burning house coal or wet wood is a major source of the pollutant PM2.5 - which has been identified by the WHO as a major risk for human health. Additionally, anyone who lives in a Smoke Control Area (most London and urban boroughs) can only burn smokeless fuel on any open fire, such as a wood burner. The Government is not going to ban stoves but instead wants to: educate people who buy and use them, ensure cleaner fuels are burnt and reduce the pollutants emitted by stoves.

3. Grow your own tomatoes, potatoes and salad

Making your garden work harder for your needs will see it boost its green credentials, too. And what is one of humans' most basic requirements? Food. Whether growing ingredients for you means a window box of herbs or a whole veg patch, you'll be saving everything from food miles to plastic waste – not to mention enjoying super-fresh, hyper-local organic food. And that's without even mentioning the difference it could potentially make to your food bills.

If you don't have an outside space, salad leaves can grow in a window box – you can find them in seed or ready-grown plant form in garden centres. If salads aren't your thing, you might want to start with hardy herbs, like mint and bay.

Got some outdoor space but no soil? Containers such as pots and grow bags can yield all sorts – carrots, potatoes, beetroot, spinach, and beans are great places to start before working up to the more high maintenance like tomatoes.

4. Make your garden wildlife-friendly

One of the most effective ways to turn up that eco dial in your outdoor space is to make it a wildlife hotspot. Giving creatures – from insects to birds and hedgehogs – a place to hang out helps protect their numbers and, in turn, the local ecology.

- Provide shelter: Start by providing shelter, resting and nesting areas with a couple of silver birches and/or a selection of native shrubs, like holly or guelder rose. This will add height to your landscape and also provide much-needed shade for you in summer.

- Use all the available space: Your garden is a three-dimensional space, so try to make use of all the available surfaces, including walls, fences and roofs. The most wildlife-friendly gardens are those full of plants, with little or no ground showing at all! Even your patio can be enhanced with containers of nectar-rich plants that will attract butterflies and bees.

- Make a meadow: Your garden may well have a lawn that will not support much wildlife if mown too frequently. Consider replacing it entirely in favour of more planting or a pond. If you want to keep a grassed area, plant a small wildflower meadow that will play host to many butterflies, bees and other insects.

- Dig a pond: However small your patch, there is always room for a pond. Even a small sink or tub pond with a few aquatic plants can make an excellent wildlife habitat. Ponds of all shapes and sizes benefit different wildlife communities – water-loving insects dive beneath the surface, birds prey on amphibians, and small mammals come to drink.