The Watt bike. Showing you how much energy is needed to power everyday appliances


This display allows you to feel how much power is actually needed to power a selection of everyday appliances, like a 20 Watt light bulb, a 50 Watt computer or a 120 Watt TV set.

By selecting which appliance you want to generate power for and then turn the handles (hand cranks or feet pedals) as fast as possible until the light turns on, you can actually feel how much energy is needed to power your appliances. Start off easy with the light bulb, working your way up to the TV set. You can also work with another person to make it easier.

The everlasting PV pump – our oldest display showing how solar panels work even on a cloudy day

This display is one of the oldest one on site. It has been running for over 20 years without replacing the solar panels. It shows how solar panels use light from the sun to make electricity. They will work in daylight, whatever the weather. But as you might expect, they don’t work nearly as well on cloudy days.


The pump is powered by the electricity produced by the PV panels you can see. This display offers you the possibility to use the “clouds” to see what happens when you reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the PVs.


PVs produce power any time there is daylight. On cloudy or rainy days, power is still produced from whatever light is available. The capacitors in this pump store the energy produce by the PVs until there is enough for one stroke of the pump. On a rainy day it will run now and then but on a sunny day, it will run all the time.


Meet the Display Department and learn how CAT’s visitor circuit comes to life


This week, we will follow the Display Department at CAT and learn how the visitor circuit comes to life.  We will also look at a few specific displays currently on the visitor circuit, their stories and purposes .

The Display Department’s work is informed by the Display Group. The Display Group is a consensus decision making group that consists of representatives of several CAT’s departments who use the Display Circuit, as part of the visitor experience.

Members of the Display Group are:


  • Information representative
  • Education representative
  • Engineering representative
  • Display Gardeners
  • Display department
  • Biology representative
  • Fundraising representative

In addition to these core members, staffs with specific knowledge, skills or interest in particular displays
can input into the groups decision making process. This ranges from the Visitor Centre Marketing department or Courses department to External Relations, Fundraising, Innovation and Zero Carbon Britain.

The Display Department is then tasked with taking forward all the recommendations and needs of these group constituents, in order to design, co-ordinate and ultimately create a display that meets all requirements. Since the needs of these members is so diverse, this can be quite a challenge!

So what you see on the Display Circuit is most often the result of deep thinking and hard work.


Get 10% discounts on some of our July short courses: Eco Refurbishments, Eco Interior and Gardening for a sustainable future.

Get 10% discount on some of our July short courses and come and learn about sustainable living at the Centre for Alternative Technology, in beautiful surroundings in mid-Wales.

Please use discount code “summer discount”


Eco refurbishment: This course covers ecological improvements to existing buildings, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, water re-use and conservation, healthy buildings and hazardous building materials. It includes a number of practical demonstration sessions.

This course runs from the 18th to 22nd of July 2011.


Eco Interiors: This weekend course will look at considerations for creating sustainable, low energy and healthy interiors in the home. It will include sessions on spatial planning to improve the environmental performance of the home, how to select environmentally sensitive materials (paints, fabrics, furniture etc) and address issues surrounding health and well-being in the interior environment.

This course runs from the 22th to 24nd of July 2011.


Gardening for a sustainable future: This course will look at gardening in relation to the issues of biodiversity and climate change, how they affect us as gardeners and what we can do to make positive changes within our gardens and for the wider world.
The course will cover issues such as seed saving, use of green manures and beneficial fungi as well as looking at the structure of the garden, choice of materials and how to design the ultimate eco garden.

This course runs from the 22th to 24nd of July 2011.


Offers end 8th July



Time for a Zero Carbon Britain Day -July 16th 2011

Centre for Alternative calls for Zero Carbon Britain Day on July 16th 2011

CAT is to join with 100’s of other organizations across the UK calling for July 16th to be a Zero Carbon Britain day. In June 2010 CAT produced the second version of it’s ground breaking report zero carbon Britain 2030. The report lays out how we can reduce our carbon emissions to zero using existing technologies whilst maintaining a high sense of well being. As the threat of climate change increases and energy shortages loom it is vital the world takes urgent action. The Zero Carbon Britain day being organised by Campaign Against Climate Change and others is calling on people around the UK to promote the goal of a Zero Carbon Britain by 2030

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Climate Change said:
What the government is doing is piecemeal, inadequate and in some ways counterproductive. We need a more coherent, energetic and determined approach to reducing emissions – and a bolder more ambitious national target. We need Zero Carbon by 2030”

Activities and events include:

•    Urging MP’s to  sign Early Day Motion 853 which calls for Zero Carbon Britain by 2030.

•    Workshops focused on the Zero Carbon Britain 2030 Report produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology, (CAT) which outlines a practical, well researched plan for reaching a Zero carbon economy by 2030.

•    Cycle rides, picnics and photo opportunities
Bruce Heagerty Zero Carbon Britain Communications Officer said;
“Every day we do any number of things without being aware of the greenhouse gases that are given off as a result of them. We drive to work, to the shops, to see friends, go to the cinema, club or gym. All of these normal things contribute to rising levels of greenhouse gases. We are organizing this day to highlight ways in which we can decarbonise.”
Events around the country include a demonstration in Bristol, a Zero Carbon Britain picnic at Drax power station, workshops, photo stunts, a beach party in London, actions in Manchester city centre, ZCB banner in the sea, cycle ride to the house of local MP, sustainable Guernsey, unveiling of new zero carbon britain.

For more information please contact

Keep climate change in the national curriculum. Vote for it at 38degrees


If you want to help keep climate change in the national curriculum…

you can vote for it here.

If this petition gets enough votes then 38degrees may take this on as a campaign.

And here are our reasons that we think it 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.

Meeting with the education department. From Zero Carbon Britain to Zero Carbon Europe?

We are usually very busy with lots of different schools visiting the CAT site for tours and teaching. However, we also manage to put some time aside to get together as a team and both report back on some of the projects we have been involved in and share games and ideas for new activities we could run.

In our last meating, Jo reported back on his trip to Portugal where he ran a session on Zero Carbon Britain with people from the arts industry. Ann told us about a project she has been leading on working with several of the local schools to develop new teaching resources about sustainable buildings for them to use in the classroom. My contribution was to talk about a trip I made to Germany where I also ran a session on Zero Carbon Britain… with a twist.

In Germany I was helping to run a seminar about Climate Change and media campaigning with 27 young people from 9 different countries across Europe. In one of the session I started by talking about Zero Carbon Britain and then, using a big map of Europe, we tried to create a vision of what a Zero Carbon Europe might look like. This was a great activity because by pooling our collective knowledge of the resources that were available in each country we were able to get everyone involved in creating a really positive vision for the future.

Singapore school pupils come to CAT to learn about suistanable buildings

Last week, we had a big group of girls from Raffles school in Singapore. The school had booked four teaching sessions with us as well as having time to look around the centre and have lunch in the restaurant.

I led one of the sessions which was about the buildings at CAT. First I took them to see the new WISE building, which they were really interested in and asked lots of intelligent questions. Then I split them into four groups to go off and investigate different buildings on the CAT site using resource packs I had put together along with the displays around the site and the buildings themselves. They each had a number of questions they needed to answer, then at the end of the session we came back together and were collectively able to tell the architectural history of CAT by presenting back on each building in chronological order; pulling out the features that had been included in each building as well as the lessons CAT learned to incorporate into the next building.

It was a great day and the girls were a delight to teach. Hopefully we will see the school again next year.

CAT and The Woodcraft Folk: a long partnership in sustainable education. Look out for us at Latitude festival

On Friday I disappeared off to a meeting with Woodcraft Folk. Woodcraft Folk is a great educational voluntary organisation that has youth groups all over the country. CAT and Woodcraft Folk have worked together on a whole range of projects over the last ten years, including most recently a project to visit festivals talking about climate change and sustainability education. We’re looking forward to being at Latitude festival again this summer and are preparing a whole range of drop in activities to inspire, inform and engage the Latitude festival goers – look out for us there.

Graffiti Wall

Sparrows making a come back. The gregarious but quarrelsome birds are regular visitors again

Morning Everyone, It is great to see House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) making a bit of a comeback after a worrying decline in the numbers of this once extremely common and widespread bird. A little troupe of these gregarious but rather quarrelsome birds regularly visit the Cabin’s feeders although I’m not sure where they nested this year. They like to nest close together in small colonies and you can attract them to your house and garden by providing them with nest box ‘terraces’, sort of like three nest boxes joined together with the entrance holes to the two end of terrace houses on the sides rather than the front.

Passer domesticus female

The males are the ones who seek out favourable nest sites and proudly show off outside the entrance, chirping excitedly to attract a female mate, and displaying the black bib on their throat and breast, the larger and more prominent the bib, the higher up the social ladder is the owner.

Passer domesticus male

House Sparrows are inextricably linked to human habitations and dwellings, both for nesting sites and food (the Welsh name is Aderyn y To –Roof Bird) and sometimes their private lives almost mirror ours. They often fall out with their neighbours and squabbles and tiffs are a regular occurence and their love life can be a bit on the shady side. Although they form pair bonds, the males are not averse to a quick dalliance with the next door neighbours and the females are only too willing to strike up an intimate relationship with any big bibbed fellow who attracts their eye. In fact it has been found that often, most of the fledglings in a nest have different fathers although the resident male is a diligent dad and looks after the young until they can take care of themselves. Of course I’m not for one minute suggesting that any of us behave like this but- allegedly- it happens in some quarters. I think I’ll stop now before I dig myself into an even deeper hole.