Welsh nature and beyond – nature discovery talks at CAT

This April a series of talks at CAT will take you on a journey from ancient Welsh woodland to the Amazon rainforest and beyond. 

On Wednesday 5th April we start our programme of evening talks with Adam Thorogood from the Woodland Trust. It takes many centuries to develop the rich, complex and irreplaceable ecosystems found within our ancient woodland but now this precious habitat covers just 2% of the UK. Continue reading “Welsh nature and beyond – nature discovery talks at CAT”

Half Term Fun at CAT

This half term, come and join the fun at CAT

Ride the water powered funicular railway up to the site, before beginning your adventure.

Half Term Whitsun 2016

With free children’s activities, you could be learning about sustainable living while the kids build a solar boat, make natural jewellery, or plant their own beanstalks. There are free guided walks every day throughout the half term week, too.

The Visitor Centre is looking great at the moment, with new signage being developed and new displays being worked on. The gardens are a joy to behold, and you’ll get a chance to have a peek at Carwyn Lloyd Jones’ tiny caravan, as featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

Finally, after all that exploring, visit the CAT restaurant for a filling lunch or a delicious cake. It’s all veggie, with lots of vegan options, and we cater for specialist diets too.

Book here to get 10% off your ticket price.

Looking forward to meeting you!

 

 

The Low Carbon Breakfast

Here at the Centre for Alternative Technology, we run a wholly vegetarian restaurant. Catering for our own MSc. students, staff and people participating on our short courses, no-one goes hungry here.
In an attempt to showcase a low or zero carbon future, we demonstrate dishes and techniques that have a decreased impact on our environment.

Laura Blake, CAT nutritionist, says, “Reducing your red meat consumption is the single most effective and important thing you can do to lower your diet-related greenhouse gas emissions. It has also been shown to lower your risk of certain diseases: including bowel cancer – making it healthier for you too!”

Agriculture contributes to a third of the total carbon emissions, and the increase in conventional methods of farming poses a rising threat to the environment as the world tries to feed an additional two billion people by 2050.

We believe a low carbon economy is more energy efficient, more energy secure, cleaner, quieter and safer.

And more delicious, too.
So, here are five of our restaurants favourite breakfast dishes for you, to celebrate National Breakfast Week.

Porridge (serves two)
Oats are really low in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so porridge is a low cost and filling way to start the day. Soaking the oats overnight reduces the cooking time.

Ingredients:
160 g rolled oats
600 ml milk, organic soya milk or water
Sea salt

Method:
Toast the oats until beginning to turn brown; this gives them a nutty flavour.
Place the oats and the milk or water in a large pan over night.
In the morning, gently bring to a simmer, then add a tiny pinch of salt and stir.
Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring as often as you can to give you a smooth creamy porridge.
If you like your porridge runnier, simply add a splash more milk or water until you’ve got the consistency you like.
Adding fruit helps meet your five-a-day. Locally grown, low carbon options include: apple, pear, blackberries, raspberries, plums – at the right time of year, obviously!

Vegan Mediterranean Shakshuka (serves two hungry people)
In Israel shakshuka is often eaten for breakfast, but this super easy and versatile dish can be cooked or any meal of the day.
Ingredients:

½ tbsp olive oil
½ small brown or white onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp chilli powder (mild)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste– spicy!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 block firm tofu, pressed and drained
½ tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Method:
Gently heat a deep frying pan (a cast iron pan is ideal for this) and add olive oil.
Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.
Add the pepper, sauté for 5 minutes until softened.
Add tomatoes and tomato puree to pan, stir till blended.
Add spices, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes until it starts to reduce.

Taste the mixture and season it according to your preferences.
Slice the tofu along the width into four squares and gently place onto tomato mixture.
Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced.
Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

A bowl of cereal
High fibre breakfast cereals with low sugar and salt content are useful as a quick fix – all cereals are pretty low in carbon and can be grown easily in this country. Sadly, with the average person in the UK still not meeting their five-a-day requirements, this is where a lot of people get a significant amount of their micronutrients from!
As a guide, muesli or a cereal with bran in its title is a good bet, but do check the sugar/salt content on the packet.

Fruit Smoothie
Lots of fruit will grow in the UK, especially if you can give it a bit of protection in a conservatory, greenhouse or against a south facing wall. Here in wet and windy Wales, we were still harvesting raspberries the week before Christmas, and enjoy growing some more unusual fruit – goji berries and honeyberries seem to do well.

Ingredients:
One handful of any seasonal fruit – berries, plums, apricots, figs, currants
300ml milk, or milk substitute, or apple juice, or water and yogurt
2 tbs oats

Method:
If there’s time, prep the fruit the night before and store it in the fridge.
In the morning, buzz it together with a hand blender or liquidizer.

Beans or egg or scrambled tofu, with wilted spinach on toast
Commercially produced eggs are significantly higher in emissions than the other two.Can you keep a trio of ex-battery hens in your back yard? They take up less room than you think, will gobble up much of your garden waste and vegetable peelings and offer you an egg or two a day in return.
High protein foods should help keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking!
Tofu has far less of an environmental impact than many would believe – it also has a high water content.
A handful of spinach, fresh from the garden, quickly cooked in a pan and added to either scrambled eggs or tofu adds both nutrition and taste.
Use wholemeal bread to boost the nutritional content, and top with herbs fresh from the garden – chives, parsley and marjoram all have additional health benefits.

Want to know more?
This clever little tool will tell you eggsactly how many miles your egg has traveled:
http://www.foodmiles.com/egg-miles.cfm

Find out the environmental effects of your weekly diet: look at Laura’s larder

Food miles calculator

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/zcb-using-zcb/zcb-resources

CAT celebrates the next generation of graduates ‘making it happen’

Graduates from the Centre for Alternative Technology celebrate their academic successes at ceremony.

CAT Graduation
CAT’s CEO Adrian Ramsay addresses Graduates and their families in the rammed earth lecture theatre

Over 40 students from the Graduate School of the Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth celebrated the successful completion of their studies with an award ceremony on Saturday 14th November.

The evening also included a buffet dinner, a welcome from CAT’s chief executive Adrian Ramsay and a keynote speech by Professor Herbert Girardet, leading environmental commentator and author of several books including the seminal “Blueprint for a Green Planet” (1987) and “Creating Regenerative Cities” (2014).

class of 2015
The class of 2015 – CAT Graduation

The event saw students graduate from all of CAT’s postgraduate programmes: MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment, Professional Diploma in Architecture, MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies and MSc Sustainability and Adaptation.

Adrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT, said they were the people who would be ‘making it happen’ in the transition to a zero carbon future:

“The world faces many challenges in the transition to a zero carbon future. The knowledge and skills that our graduates learn by studying at the Graduate School for the Environment equip them well to be the people making it happen. We are very proud of this year’s CAT graduates and look forward to hearing about their successes as they take the knowledge gained from their time at CAT into their careers, communities and home lives.”

Five students received particular awards for excellence in their dissertations. Helen Nicholls received an award for her dissertation comparing the impact of different waste water treatment systems on climate change. Lee Eyre received an award for his research into the role of metaphor in the world views of environmentalists. Elgan Roberts’ award-winning study looked at the greenhouse gas emissions from small scale hydroelectric schemes in Wales. Anne-Clare Landolt received an award for her dissertation on storing heat to improve greenhouse growing conditions. Lucy Jones also received an award for her technical report on a more sustainable alternative to supermarkets.

graduation buffet
CAT congratulates the class of 2015 with a buffet dinner

This year’s graduates join over one thousand people who have graduated from CAT’s postgraduate courses and are working for sustainability in their work and communities across the UK and around the world. CAT graduates have taken their skills to many professions which need expertise in sustainability and many companies have been set up by CAT graduates, bringing innovative solutions to environmental problems.

Photographs by Eveleigh Photography

graduation bar
Celebrating in the bar after the ceremony

Machynlleth: Sustainable Capital of the UK


CAT is based in the buzzing Dyfi Valley awash with active environmental and sustainability  projects- according to a Guardian article:  “if any place in Britain could be called its sustainable capital, it’s Mach.” We have counted up the projects and gathered them here under relevant subheadings below – although many themes are interlinked.  We don’t have everything so if you think you should be on the list, write to us and tell us 

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Community:

Ecodyfi is a regeneration organisation that supports local projects including; Mentro Allan (Venture Out); Dyfi Footprint Project; Dyfi Biosphere; Communities First and Lifelong learning amongst others about Sustainability; Transport; Tourism; Energy; Waste and Fair Trade:

The Dyfi Footprint Project aims to estimate, monitor and reduce the carbon impact of the Dyfi Valley.

Communities First (Welsh Assembly Government programme) provides local people with opportunities to play an active role in their community.

Community Action Machynlleth and District Local Volunteer Bureau, (CAMAD) is a scheme to connect people wanting to volunteer with sustainable organisations in the Dyfi Valley.

Transport:

Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passengers Association (SARPA) is a local rail users group campaigning for enhanced and improved rail services in Mid Wales.

Sustrans, is a sustainable transport charity developing the National Cycle Network, Safe Routes to Schools and other projects to encourage walking and cycling in the UK. It also includes trails in the local area.

Recycling:

Swap Shop, Machynlleth is an online community that enables you to swap unwanted items for items that you need for free.

CRAFT (Ceredigion Recycling And Furniture Team) collects and accepts donations of unwanted goods and furniture to sell or recycle in Aberystwyth.

Food:

Dyfi Vally Seed Savers is a not-for-profit organisation based in Machynlleth that promotes saving and swapping seeds with the aim of preserving old or unusual vegetables; nurturing local knowledge and plant heritage; and promoting sustainable gardening. Current Seed Saver Projects Include; The Welsh vegetable Project; The Powys Orchard project; and The Apple Mach Register.

The Mid Wales Food & Land Trust
has recently launched an associated website for all local food and drink producers, retailers and restaurateurs in providing online promotion and exposure, whilst also acting as a comprehensive business database available to the public and the media.

Cwm Harry Land Trust are a social enterprise picking up food waste around Newtown, Llani and now Welshpool, and processing it into compost. They also work with socially disadvantaged and children’s groups on their allotment, and are working with local small-scale growers with a veggie bag scheme.

This is Rubbish is a food waste campaign that set up in Machynlleth to raise awareness and tackle concerns about food waste within the UK supply chain.

The Dyfi Valley was also awarded with Fair Trade Valley status in 2004 by achieving over one thousand signatures during the Fair Trade Fortnight that year.

Dyfi Land Share is working to match up people who want to grow food with available land in the Dyfi Valley, they work to promote local food production and better enable people to grow food in the Dyfi Valley.

Woodlands and Biodiversity:

Dyfi Biosphere is a global network where knowledge and experience of local heritage, culture and economy can co-exist in the natural environment.

Aberystwyth Forest Education Initiative
educate School groups in Mid Wales about woodlands and woodland crafts.

Coed Lleol provides information and contacts in Wales whether a woodland manager, forest school tutors or individual nature enthusiast.

Coed Cymru, based in Newtown, is an all Wales initiative to promote the management of broadleaf woodlands and the use of locally grown hardwood timber.

Wales Wild Land Foundation (WWLF) is a group that has just set up to create an area of native woodland near Machynlleth. As part of the same group: The Cambrian Wild Woods Project, are planning for a beaver enclosure near the Artists Valley.

Energy:

Bro Dyfi Community Renewables is a community energy co-operative for community-owned renewable energy projects including two community wind turbines near Machynlleth.

Mid Wales Car Share  is an online networking site and has a function to allow you to search by specific journeys in Mid Wales.

Anemos Renewables a Machynellth based wind energy company offering consultancy, design and installation services for small to medium sized wind energy schemes.

Dulas Engineering are a renewable energy company based in Machynlleth that provide expertise and consultancy in biomass, wind, solar, and hydro power.

clock tower

John Cantor Heat Pumps is a website of useful basic information about heating-only applications with heat pumps. It covers environmental issues, and supports the appropriate use of this technology in high-efficiency eco-friendly applications.

Mid Wales Community Energy Trust links income from renewable energy with rural regeneration through sustainable energy projects in Mid Wales.

Llanidloes Energy Solutions, a voluntary community group based in Llanidloes.

Open Energy Monitor  is a project to develop open-source energy monitoring tools to help us relate to our use of energy, our energy systems and the challenge of sustainable energy.

Clear Solar solar PV and heat pump systems


Architecture 

Dyfi Architecture  is a registered, award winning architectural practice based in the Dyfi Valley, they aim to bring added value to the built environment through designs that can be constructed and operated sustainably and have the potential to be adapted to suit future needs.

Furniture 

Free range designs uses recycled and sustainable sourced wood to create bespoke pieces of outstanding furniture, from story telling chairs to enchanted beds.

Green Holidays

Green Holidays Wales  Comprehensive website with links to green accommodation providers and activities in Mid-Wales

Communication:

PIRC (Public Interest Research Centre), based in Machynlleth, is an independent charity that integrates technical research on climate change, energy and economics, and translates this into a range of social mediums and materials.

Eco Centre Wales provides sustainable energy education for West Wales run mainly by volunteers.

Cyberium is a design and content company that specialises in working with ethical, socially constructive and environmentally positive clients or projects.

Housing

Mach housing co-op

If you are involved in a local project related to Sustainability and the Environment, or know about something we should include here, please send a web link or brief description to the CAT Media department; kim.bryan@cat.org.uk , or include in the blog comments.

Want to eat a healthy and sustainable diet? Ask Laura.

Today, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) launches a new web tool – Laura’s Larder – designed to help you figure out how to eat healthily for you, and for the planet. The first of its kind, the tool allows you to put in what you eat, and shows what the nutritional qualities and deficits are, and what impact it has on the global environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. It then makes some suggestions for improvement, allowing you to make changes to what you might eat and to see the impact.

Impacts of diet on greenhouse gas climate change emissions and health
People using Laura’s Larder are greeted by a friendly cartoon of Laura herself

As well as being available on the website, the calculator tool will become part of the permanent displays the Visitors Centre at CAT, and visitors will be able to calculate the health and environmental impacts of their diet during their visit.

Laura Blake, the nutritionist and researcher behind Laura’s Larder, says:

“Its really important that we make sure we’re eating a diet that is healthy for both people and planet, which is why we’ve designed this tool. We hope it will help people make positive changes to their diets, in a way that suits them.”

healthy and sustainable food ideas
Laura’s Larder is available in English and Welsh

The tool was developed after research into healthy, sustainable diets as part of the Zero Carbon Britain project at CAT. A report detailing the results of this research – People, Plate and Planet– is also released today. Looking into nutrition, greenhouse gas emissions and land use, the report identifies that what makes the most significant impact is what we eat, not where it comes from or how much packaging there is around it, although obviously, making good decisions about all these things do help make our food system more sustainable.

With huge health problems in the UK today (over 60% of adults are overweight or obese, and about 70% of deaths in the UK are related to our diets in some way); agriculture in the UK using about 70% of our land, even though we import about 42% of what we eat; and food systems contributing significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions as a result; there is huge scope for improvement in all these areas if we change what we eat. As a result, dietary change plays an integral role in decarbonising the UK, as shown in Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future, released last year.

Click here to try out Laura’s Larder

CAT gardens: from spring into summer

This blog is by Dan, on of the volunteers in the CAT gardens this summer.

Spring has come, the sun has arrived and it is an exciting time for a CAT volunteer gardener! The short daylight and relentless rain has not deterred us from our spring time preparations and the hard work is now paying off.

Roger with the hotbeds last month

With a combination of our own well balanced soil mixes and Roger’s home built ‘hotbeds’ (alternating layers of straw and decomposing food waste in special mice proof cages) we successfully germinated thousands of flower, herb and vegetable seeds. In the past months these have rigorously grown into mighty seedlings meaning we have had to keep on top of transplanting and finding space to put them all!

Seedlings a few weeks ago, waiting to be planted out
Planting seedlings out in April

Despite all this excitement, we have not forgotten to provide our on-site vegetarian restaurant with crate after crate of organic salads, roots and brassicas! We usually provide between 1 and 8 crates daily for the restaurant and Anna and I work hard hand picking the best variety and combinations. For the salads we pick Winter Purslane (Miner’s Lettuce) with a mix of greens such as rocket, tatsoi, mizuna, red giant mustard and red Russian kale. We then enhance its beauty with a combination of edible flowers, our favourite being viola tricolor, a highly nutritious and medicinal plant which has a long history of use in herbalism and even love potions!

Dan and Anna with produce for the restaurant

The 4 Crop Rotation display and the ‘Suburban Garden’ have been clawed and sown with this seasons spuds, roots, legumes and brassicas and our flower seedlings are big enough for planting out for display. The more we plant out the more we sow, so be sure to expect baby 5 Colour Chard, Calabrese and Cucumbers to name but a few very soon!

See more about the CAT gardens or attend a course in gardening or ecology.

Anna planting out in April, WISE in the background

 

The same view today

1974 – 2014: CAT turns 40!

2nd February 1974: “South West gale, rain.

Arrived at Machynlleth with Pat Keiller. Found the Centre very much as we had left it. A Douglas Fir had fallen across the top of the road, but all the structures are intact.

The evening at Lady White’s cottage, Pantperthog. Most comfortable.”

– Anthony Williams, project manager at the National Centre for Alternative Technology, 1974.

 

2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Centre for Alternative Technology. When the first volunteers arrived on-site they faced a huge challenge – turning an abandoned slate quarry into a renewable-energy-powered sustainable community.

40 years on, what better way to celebrate their amazing achievements than with a party? On the evening of the 2nd February CAT staff and friends, old and new, gathered at the Centre for an evening of food, music and reminiscences on the theme of ‘Arrivals’, echoing the arrival of the first workers 40 years before.

For the past two years CAT has been running an oral history project to document the stories and anecdotes of people associated with CAT. Voices from a Disused Quarry is the culmination of two years of work on the project, providing a unique insight into CAT’s early days. It also formed the backbone of the party, with songs and sketches written especially for the evening based on the oral history accounts.

A CAT adaptation of the Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch.

Of course, the 40th anniversary celebrations do not end with that night. Throughout 2014 we will be hosting a series of events to acknowledge CAT’s accomplishments as part of the early green movement, as well as looking ahead to CAT’s future. All events will be posted on the blog and on the CAT homepage. We hope that CAT supporters will join with us in celebrating the inspiring work that has gone before.

New Skills in 2014: Grow your own Food

We have a host of exciting new short courses taking place at CAT in the new year – if you fancy learning something new in 2014, then how about techniques for growing your own food? This is a day course that starts in the morning of the 5th of April.  So why is it important to grow your own vegetables and what can we learn?

Freshly picked lettuce

This course is suitable for both beginners and experienced gardeners, to learn about organic gardening techniques. You will visit the various gardens and polytunnels on site, with orchards boasting over 30 types of apples. Students learn how to sow seeds and prepare the land for cultivation on diverse plots, such as in the forest garden and Myfanwy’s garden, an example of urban farming. You will learn from one of our longest running staff members, head gardener and ‘gardening guru’ Roger, who has worked for CAT for 35 years. He teaches about when and how to sow many different vegetables, as well as herbs and flowers. Some wise words he’s shared with us: ‘If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a year, get married. If you want to be happy for life, get a garden.’

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Unusual urban planters

Find out more about this course on our website. Until 31/01/2014 we are offering 10% off this short course. 

If you would like to support the on-going research done here at CAT donate to our Gardens campaign.