On Tuesday Ann, Jo and I went to Leicester to a conference called “Sustainable school design and operation – a whole school approach”. Our involvement in the conference is as result of a project we have been doing with DeMontfort University about involving school children in the design and operation of their schools and learning about sustainable design in the process.
It was a great conference; imaginatively put together and with some inspiring speakers and workshop leaders. One of the most exciting thing about it was the range of people it brought together – architects, head teachers, researchers, local authorities, pupils and educators like us. One powerful aspect of the conference was the “visual minuting” – a team of artists recorded what was being said at the conference in a visual way on huge pieces of paper on the walls.
CAT was running two workshops billed as a hands on opportunity to explore sustainable building materials and design. We talked people through the design of five outstanding educational buildings (including our very own Welsh Institute for Sustainability Education – WISE), we demonstrated some of the classroom aids we have devised to talk about sustainable building and we got people to identify a range of natural building materials. Both workshops were really well attended and the feedback we received was great.
The announcement by Tim Oates this week that his review of the school science curriculum is expected to advise that climate change should no longer be in there made the conference seem particularly topical. There was real anger and also total bafflement expressed by conference delegates at the reckless narrow-mindedness of such a position. Focusing only on traditional education and not equipping children with the skills to apply scientific methods to the most pressing contemporary challenges amounts to a watering down of school science. School leavers need to be able to think critically and innovatively about the serious challenge of climate change and be ready to participate in modern Britain and the low carbon economy.
Food contributes to at least 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, here at CAT we are committed to improving education and understanding of food related emissions, enabling people to make positive, informed choices about their diet and where they source their food.
This year Julie Bromilow, CAT Education Officer, has contributed to the steering group of the first Regional Centre for Expertise (RCE) for Education for Sustainable Development in Wales set up in 2009, and from this became a member of their first ever working group.
The RCE Wales Food Working group aims to link broader Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) goals in Wales, with local issues surrounding food, and has pro-actively related ESDGC practice with food sustainability in their report Transformative Education and Food: Thoughts from Wales.
The first output from the Working Group for RCE Wales, the report looks at food sustainability as a stepping stone to a wider understanding of sustainable development and global citizenship in Wales. It also considers how people learn about food and offers educational theories to highlight how we can bring about positive change at the community level.
Peter Harper, head of research and innovations at CAT said of the report “What an intriguing and sophisticated document. Reading it feels like that trust game where you stand rigid in a circle of friends and get bounced gently and unpredictably from one side to another, but always coming back to the balanced middle.”
At CAT we believe that creating a more sustainable food cycle will have a huge positive impact on the struggle to create a more sustainable environment and society, whilst also having a beneficial impact on individuals’ health. From 28th – 30th October CAT will be running a short course which delves into the issues surrounding food, looking far beyond food miles and farting cows. Food for Thought will allow participants to understand why food has such a big impact, and offer solutions from CAT’s zerocarbonbritain2030 report.
To have a read of the RCE Wales Food Group’s report please go to their website where you can download it for free and space to leave feedback.
For more information on the course take a look at our website or contact David Lloyd on 01654 704 952
Yesterday the Guardian reported that the government may be considering taking climate change of the national curriculum. Here are three reasons I think climate change should stay.
1. Climate Change is widely accepted by scientists as the major environmental challenge facing this generation. We cannot allow political pressure to mean that some children are denied the opportunity to learn about those issues that will clearly have a big impact on their lives.
2. Learning the basics is important but education based on innovation and problem solving develops far more useful skills in young people than simply teaching them to repeat facts.
3. Over the next 20 years we will have to make the transition to a green economy. During this period, children in school now will be entering the workplace. It is vital that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to make this happen.
This week, the education department will take over the facebook, twitter and blog pages. Before that however, I will give you a quick introduction to our department and the work we are doing.
During school terms, we have lots of children around the site. Schools, colleges and universities often come on day trips to CAT. It is then the work of the education department to welcome them and show them around CAT. Schools can also book lessons and hands on activities on subjects such as climate change, eco footprinting or renewable energy. Most of the students we get are from Wales but some also come from the Midlands, Liverpool or even Singapore.
On site, we also have two eco-cabins where school or university groups can stay for up to a week. The two cabins can host up to 36 students and their stay is overseen by the education department. Whilst in the cabins, the students have to manage their own energy and water consumption, which can be accurately monitored from inside the cabins. The electricity comes from a wind turbine, solar panels and a micro hydro turbine. This is a unique educational experience where they leave the cabins with a better understanding of how much energy is required for our daily life’s activities.
The education department also works on other educational projects, often with local schools. One of them is the biosphere project. As you may know, the Dyfi valley has been designated by UNESCO as a biosphere, which is a site of global importance for how people and landscape relate to each other. This project, set up with local schools, is aimed at showing the children how special this area is, locally and globally.
The education department is also involved in other exciting educational projects, which we will present to you throughout the week.
With over 35 years experience, CAT is dedicated to informing, inspiring and enabling in the field of sustainability through a diverse range of activities. The Centre offers information and education and has a visitor and conference centre. We attract around 60,000 people a year and employ more than 100 dedicated and creative staff.
Volunteers are extremely important to the work at CAT and the achievements over the last 30 years simply wouldn’t have happened without the hard work, inspiration and dedication of the initial idealists who founded the centre in 1975.
Long Term Volunteers (LTV’s) come every March and September to work full time for 6 months in various departments across CAT. Whilst gaining hands-on valuable work experience and learning more about sustainability during their unpaid placement, individuals make a valuable contribution to the work of CAT which is highly appreciated.
Volunteers will most probably be taken in the following department:
2) Buildings and Site Maintenance
8 ) Marketing
Applications are now being taken for our long term volunteer placements starting September 2011 at CAT. Information is available at www.cat.org.uk/jobs
A few weeks ago a project was started here at CAT to research and develop open source digital fabrication methods. Digital fabrication tools allow us to build precise parts for everyday useful objects; and have been used for rapid prototyping in industry for many years. The focus of this project is to make such tools accessible at a community level, a bit like having access to a master craftsman in your local town or village, but in digital form.
A key aspect of this project is that all software source code and hardware designs are available freely under the GNU General Public License. Open sourcing allows a horizontal transfer of technology, gives greater autonomy for local communities to build the technology they need, and enables them to tap into a global knowledge base. It often gives rise to greater modularity in design (easier to fix, maintain and integrate), and thus in many cases better re-use of materials and components: leading to a cradle-to-cradle lifecycle.
Our initial focus is the RepRap 3D printer: a fabricator that can self replicate many of its component parts, thus the technology can be easily passed on to other communities. Documentation can be found at www.reprap.org . A RepRap can print using a variety of plastics (such as starch based biodegradable PLA). Other materials will also be investigated, such as ceramic extrusion and wood milling. An analogy for this project is like the symbiotic relationship between bees and flowers. In the same way bees pollinate flowers in return for nectar, humans will assemble machines in return for useful objects. In this way, both parties mutually benefit and human creativity and innovation can still evolve.
Local manufacturing itself should give rise to ‘just in time’ ‘pull-type’ production as opposed to a centralised ‘push’ approach with its associated inefficiencies of storing and distributing goods (naturally there will always be energy/ecological/social trade offs between the two methods). Digital fabrication is just one of many tools for localised production and living; other aspects are still to be explored within the open source eco-system, such as energy production, material extraction, transportation and agriculture.
At CAT one focus will be the application of these tools for building parts for our displays and renewable energy systems such as molds for wind turbine aerofoils, pelton wheels, mechanical cogs, connectors, jigs and fixings. The project is open to discussion on what the best approaches might be for given situations, and also to explore the infinite realm of ideas on what we can build!
To follow progress of this work, please visit the blog www.digitalfabcat.blogspot.com and feel free to share your findings, links, experiences and thoughts for applications in this collaborative project.
Tuesday 7th June 2011 11am til 4pm
Come and find out more about volunteering opportunities at CAT and previous, current and potential volunteers are invited up for lunch, 1pm.
Volunteering opportunities are flexible – some people come and volunteer full-time, some come up for just a few hours per month.
People from the area are invited to come up to CAT on Tuesday 7th June to a volunteer open day. Entrance is free, and we’ll have a free lunch on offer at 1pm. You can take a look around the site, meet staff, meet new and old volunteers, and chat about opportunities at CAT.
For more information, or if a weekend or evening meeting is more convenient, please contact Candy Bedworth on 01654 704971 or email: email@example.com
Visitors are being invited to discover a new Wales at the Welsh Living Landscape Festival, May 29th-30th.
This vibrant and informative weekend event, which is open from 10am to 5.30pm on both days, is packed with fun activities, workshops, arts, talks and entertainment for all the family.
Local experts will bring the local landscape alive, explaining its geology and the fascinating history that has shaped it. From farming to forestry, slate quarries to sustainable building, visitors will be able to experience the magic of the Welsh landscape through new eyes.If you’ve ever wanted to explore the varied and wondrous ecosystems around us and to find out about the people who depend on them, this is your opportunity.
Grace Crabb, Ecologist and woodland manager at CAT said:
“Landscapes are incredibly important in Wales. How we manage our landscapes it vital to our rural economy and is also vital to protecting the incredible biodiversity we have here. We’re putting on the Living Landscapes Festival to help the public understand the unique landscapes we have here”
Julie Bromilow, Education Officer at CAT said:
“It’s vital that we begin to understand how landscapes might change as we adapt to climate change. The Living Landscapes festival is all about helping people explore what landscapes mean to them and why they are important”
The Centre for Alternative Technology has been shortlisted for the prestigious Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy
CAT’s courses in renewable energy and sustainability have been recognised as a vital part of moving the UK towards a low carbon future by the judges of the Ashden Awards.
Paul Allen, Outreach Director at CAT said: “Being shortlisted for the Ashden Awards is a huge honour. Our educational and training programmes in renewable energy and energy efficiency are vitally important as we move to a low carbon society. We are delighted that the Ashden Award judges have recognised this and shortlisted CAT.”
CAT has been shortlisted for the award in recognition of its education and training work. The centre runs courses aimed at training people in the skills the country will need to make the transition to sustainable energy. These cover a variety of renewable energy technologies and sustainable building techniques, and take place in CAT’s newly-constructed Wales Institute for Sustainable Education.
CAT’s postgraduate programmes cover renewable energy and sustainable building techniques. They are designed for professionals wanting to work in the development of renewable energy and sustainable building projects, and combine both theoretical and practical components. CAT’s renewable energy postgraduate course covers all renewable energy technologies. During the course students work on real, functioning renewable energy installations that power the teaching facilities at CAT.
CAT’s unique sustainable architecture course covers both the theory and practice of sustainable building. Students gain hands-on experience working with low impact building materials such as earth, hemp and clay. CAT’s postgraduate students leave able to gain employment in a wide variety of sustainability, ecological building and renewables projects.
CAT also runs courses for plumbers and electricians to gain the qualifications they need to become renewable energy installers. CAT is one of the few places in the country where people can come and learn to install solar water heating, solar electric and wood heating systems.
For the last three years CAT and Shambala have been working together to make Shambala the greenest UK festival by producing the most detailed carbon audit of any UK event. This year, Shambala achieved the highest ever rating from the Industry Green assessment, and, alongside CAT, have been working with Julie’s Bicycle (www.juliesbicycle.com) to make changes at Industry level.
“Shambala is 99% powered by wind, sun and waste vegetable oil and has been judged the greenest outdoor event by Industry Green and A Greener Festival ” Sidharth Sharma, Director & Creative Coordinator of Shambala festival
This year CAT is teaming up with Shambala to demonstrate sustainable building to festival goers. As part of a shared commitment to sustainable futures (and having fun), the CAT team will be on-site showing what can be constructed with natural raw materials.
“Houses out of hemp, Walls out of willow, Towers out of timber, Structures out of straw and Arches out of earth – Come and help us explore the new worlds of zero-carbon building!” said Peter Harper from CAT.
The Shambala Festival has blended music, art, creativity and participation all in into perfect bite size chunks of brilliance for well over a decade. It is now firmly established and respected as being one of the most innovative, creative and environmentally conscious festivals in the industry.
Set across 4 days on the August Bank Holiday weekend, the variety and quality of entertainment on offer is staggering for a festival of its size. With over 200 diverse musical acts across 12 live stages, world-class cabaret, stand-up comedy, inspirational talks and debates, jaw dropping circus and acrobatics, interactive theatre and nationally acclaimed poetry all housed in beautifully crafted venues.