New ecological sewage book launched to help off-mains householders


The Centre for Alternative Technology has launched a new book called Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment to help people without a mains sewage connection to treat their own sewage.

There are approximately one million properties in the UK that do not have access to mains sewage. Each one needs its own sewage system, and each system must be appropriate to its site, place and usage. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment helps people who are moving into existing properties and those planning a new build to choose and understand a system that will deal with the waste of up to 50 people.

Many existing off-mains sewage systems are in a state of disrepair or are not doing the job they were set up to perform, or are doing it in an ecologically harmful way. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment allows property owners to weigh up all the options available and make the best choice for their situation.

Authors Grant, Moodie and Weedon: “Often a little information and orientation is all that is required to enable an old system to be brought back to its former glory. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment will provide these insights. The book is also intended as a first step for those who need a new system but who do not know what technological options are available, or what it would be useful to understand in order to make a sensible choice between the different possibilities.”

Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment is also full of humour, tackling its subject with wit and verve.

Publisher Allan Shepherd: “Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment was a pleasure to edit. All the authors have a great sense of humour and this comes through in their writing. Many people who move to an off-mains property have no previous experience dealing with their own sewage. The authors demystify the subject and give people the confidence they need to manage a small sewage system.”

Editor’s notes
1. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatment, Nick Grant, Mark Moodie and Chris Weedon, September 2012, ISBN 978-1-902175-78-2, £19.95, Centre for Alternative Technology, fully illustrated
2. Please contact for review copies, pdf’s, interviews, extracts or any media enquiries related to the book
3. Authors Grant, Moodie and Weedon are all experience practitioners in their field and each has installed numerous sewage systems. They are also all former employees of the Centre for Alternative Technology.
4. The Centre for Alternative Technology is home to the Graduate School for the Environment, the Zero Carbon Britain project and the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education. Contact for general media enquiries about CAT. Visit
5. CAT Publications publishes a range of renewable energy, environmental building and ecological books. Go to:

Studying sustainability requires a global discourse

The Centre for Alternative Technology is located in a beautiful site in mid Wales. The masters courses run here are taught in a world leading environmental building – the Wales Institute for Sustainability Education (WISE). In many ways, the unique location is one of the things that make studying renewable energy or environmental building at the Centre for Alternative Technology so special. So why do we offer a distance learning option where students never have to actually attend CAT? The answer is that it enables us to create a course that gives sustainability a global perspective.

Doing a course by distance learning puts you into a classroom that spans the whole world. It means the range of perspectives that are brought into that classroom are more diverse than any other method of learning. For a course based on sustainability this is crucial. Sustainability shouldn’t be taught as an abstract theory amongst a group of people that all basically come from the same background, it should be taught as a discourse amongst people with diverse experiences of its practical application.

Of course, all university courses will have some international dimension to their intake. But the barriers of increasingly restrictive visa regulations and cost mean that in reality physically attending a course in the UK is increasingly difficult for many overseas students. Distance learning courses, on the other hand, are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

We offer a distance learning option for our MSc Sustainable Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Systems course (we call it AEES). The course is open to people from all backgrounds and professions who are interested in getting the edge in sustainability, sustainable design and the built environment. There is ample opportunity for students to pursue their own interests in depth, choosing eight modules from a wide range of topics covering global energy issues, renewable energy system design and sustainability in the built environment.

Each unit is taught through the online learning environment. Students attend seminars and discussions online, but can access the lectures at a time to suit them. They can access support online from academic tutors and student support officers as well as UEL library staff and UEL technical and student support staff.

Anna Pamphilon has recently graduated. She valued the course for its technical depth:

“I wanted to find a course with sufficient technical depth that would compliment the knowledge I had already acquired. The course at CAT was detailed and technical enough to do this, whilst also being offered in a long distance format that enabled me to choose when I studied, which was ideal for my situation.”

Flexibility is at the heart of the course. We are still accepting applications to start in September but there is also a March intake. Students can study where and when they please, and also pause the course for a period if other commitments arise. We find these things mean that the students that are attracted to AEES are often professionals already, with their own wealth of experience that they can bring to the course. The other students you interact with on the course become as much as a learning resource as the lecturers, books and exercises – they also form a great network for professional collaborations.

Click here to find out more and apply now


Get involved with CAT’s oral history project

The Centre for Alternative Technology will be 40 years old next year. To commemorate, celebrate and investigate its history we are looking for up to 10 local volunteers to help create the CAT Oral History project. Each volunteer will receive oral history training from the British Library (given at CAT) and will interview at least four people. In total the oral histories of at least 80 people will be recorded and then delivered to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, where they will be made available to the public. Oral history projects are very rewarding experiences for interviewees and interviewers; they provide participants with a unique connection to the past. All the oral histories we record during the project will contribute to a history book and during the project we hope to explore possible future projects to bring CAT’s past to life, perhaps through local events and performance. Join us in this unique project. Contact me at The CAT oral history project is supported by GLASU.



Programme for Arts and Sustainability Fair

We’re really excited about the Arts and Sustainability event happening at at CAT tomorrow. With a photography workshop, comedy, music, visual arts trail, childrens activities, poetry, craft stalls, wood fired pizza, green woodcrafts, storytelling and talks there is a lot to be excited about!

You can now download the full programme for the day here (or see below). Highlights include:

– Comedy from the acclaimed performer ‘Pete the Temp

– Photography workshop with award winning photo journalist Glenn Edwards

– Wind Band

– Arts trail involving nine artists

– Childrens activities, wide games, storytelling

– Green woodworking demonstrations and workshops


Get creative and experience local talent at CAT Arts event on 29th August

A whole host of artists will be exhibiting at CAT on the 29th August as part of an Arts and Sustainability Fair. The day-long event will include creative activities for children and adults as well as a diverse Arts Trail around the CAT site and a craft fair.

The Arts Trail will exhibit the works of more than a dozen diverse artists around the Centre for Alternative Technology Visitor Centre. There will be several exhibits from local artists including painting from Julia Wilson, photography from Amanda Jackson, participatory green woodworking with Joseph Bloor and CAT staff, an art installation from Buddug J Francis, impressionist painting by Marie-Genevieve Pierre, a fresco by Julie Jones and a nomadic studio from Sarah Poland.

A series of workshops will be open to all visitors at no extra cost. Glenn Edwards, an award winning photojournalist who has worked for the Western Mail, Wales on Sunday, The Times and The Independent will be running a digital photography workshop for visitors at 2pm – so bring your camera along. Visitors will also be able to get a taster of green woodworking, poetry writing, storytelling, rag rug making and illustration.

There will be lots of activities for children too at Arts and Sustainability Fair, including wide games across the site, storytelling, illustration workshops and other creative activities. Children and Adults will be able to enjoy live music and pizza tasting from the earth oven.

The Arts and Sustainability Fair will bring together local people interested in the role of art and creativity in creating a sustainable future. The Arts and Sustainability Fair is part of Festival of the Future at CAT – six weeks of fun and inspiring activities at CAT for adults and children.

Don’t forget to enter our photography competition if you are visiting CAT throughout Festival of the Future. Send entries to for the chance to win a £50 Short Courses voucher.

Get nocturnal at CAT’s Moth and Bat conservation night for Festival of the Future

Get nocturnal at CAT’s Moth and Bat evening next Tuesday (21st August), featuring local vice-county moth recorder Peter Williams. CAT is home to various species of bat, all of which start flying at dusk. We’ll use bat detectors to pick up their sonar and get an idea of the numbers we have here on site. A little later on the moths appear in their evening finery and will be attracted to our moth traps where we can identify them and let them go. If you’ve ever been confused by the shear variety of moths and would like Peter to shed some light on moth identification, this is the evening for you. Meet at 8:30 outside the shop and information centre at CAT, feel free to depart when you want but we’ll keep the trap on into the evening. Cake and refreshments will be provided. Families very much welcome. All the data collected will be fed into the National Moth Recording scheme.

Maybe you’ll get the chance to see one of these beauties… an Elephank Hawk Moth, and the Buff Tip.

Call for artists to participate in CAT Arts Trail 29th August 2012

As part of Festival of the Future, CAT is hosting an Arts and Sustainability Fair to celebrate the arts and its role in inspiring change towards a brighter, more sustainable future. This special day event will feature an Arts Trail, a pioneering project to exhibit artists’ work across the extraordinary and beautiful CAT site.

About CAT

The CAT site is situated on a disused slate mine. Since 1973 it has developed into a hub of activity, learning, knowledge and practical demonstration towards sustainability and building a better, brighter future. CAT hosts a range of examples of renewable energy including wind turbines, solar panels, hydro and biomass, and boasts extensive organic productive gardens as well as its own ecological sewage system with reservoir and reed bed.

CAT runs education programmes for schools, colleges, postgraduate masters courses and short courses for adults. CAT is also an active research centre being home to the progressive zerocarbonbritain2030 project.

The Arts Trail

CAT would like to invite artists to develop a piece of work site specific to CAT along a general theme of sustainability and the environment, to exhibit as part of the Arts Trail on the 29th August.

It could be a temporary sculpture or painting, nothing is too big or small. The main point would be to consider the issues surrounding sustainability, and reflect this through a piece using your chosen medium. The space is open to interpretation and artists are encouraged to visit the CAT site to explore ideas and gather inspiration.

The work would be exhibited for one day on the 29th August to between 400-700 visitors from the local community and further afield, but with potential to leave the piece in situ the coming week for the Emergence Summit – a major arts and sustainability conference happening at CAT between 1st – 9th September. See for more information.

How to apply

Interested artists need to send a short proposal detailing their piece by 10th August to They would then develop the work either on or off the CAT site for exhibition on the 29th to between 400-700 visitors participating in the day’s events.

There will also be options to give a talk or demonstration to visitors should the artist wish.

If you are interested or would like to discuss this opportunity further please get in touch with Rosie on 01654 705 952 or email

Thanks and look forward to hearing your ideas and inspirations!

CAT and Volcano Theatre set to host major international arts and sustainability event this September.

From 1st – 9th September CAT will host Emergence Summit 2012: Creating the Future, a major international arts and sustainability event presented by VOLCANO THEATRE and the CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY at CAT’s site in Machynlleth, mid-Wales.

The Summit comprises two parts: an international weekend conference of leaders, thinkers and visionaries; and a five-day Land Journey on foot through Wales culminating at the conference.

The Summit brings CAT’s pioneering work on low-carbon infrastructure together with Volcano Theatre’s work on developing the role of the arts as a crucible of ideas and visions for a sustainable society. Curated, designed and produced by Fern Smith (Volcano Theatre), Lucy Neal, Jenny MacKewn and Paul Allen (CAT), the Summit will explore, exemplify and embed the role of the arts in the transition to a sustainable future. Speakers, contributors and artist interventions include Robert Newman, Phakama UK, Sue Gill and John Fox, Simon Whitehead, Sarah Woods, Touchstone Collaborations, Pete Telfer (Culture Colony), Ansuman Biswas, Nick Capaldi (Arts Council Wales), Patricia Shaw, Miranda Tufnell and Paul Allen and Peter Harper from CAT.

‘This is a unique opportunity for individuals from all disciplines to converge and explore their vision for a sustainable future, escaping the dominant dystopian vision of our future, instead developing a positive, solution-focused and practically achievable vision for the transition to a more sustainable society’ Paul Allen, Centre for Alternative Technology

From 1st – 6th September over 30 delegates will attend the five-day Land Journey across Wales curated by Welsh artist Simon Whitehead. The Land Journey invites walkers to traverse the land in unfamiliar ways developing a deepened dialogue, concentration and reflection of the things we take for granted. Embedding sustainability into the personal and collective journeys of the Land Journey, artists and cuisinières Touchstone Collaborations will be providing locally and ethically sourced food, and the walk will be facilitated by Lucy Neal and Jenny MacKewn.

The Land Journey culminates at the conference. The Emergence conference Creating the Future will see 200 participants take part in a three day event of workshops, discussions, creative practice, performance and presentation between 7th – 9th September.

‘Taking the conceptual form of a sine wave, the conference aims to not only discuss and debate change, but becomes a vehicle for change itself. Participants are invited to take a journey individually and together with other participants to explore our collective issues and find solutions to emerge into a new way of being, doing and making.’ Fern Smith, Volcano Theatre

The Summit will be documented by Pete Telfer of Culture Colony and streamed through the BBC and Arts Council collaborative project ‘the Space’.

Registration for Emergence opens to the public on Monday 23rd July. Individuals can register via the Emergence website.


CAT’s Energy Day to celebrate positive change towards a brighter energy future


This August 8th CAT will host Energy Day as part of its six-week Festival of the Future. Energy Day aims to celebrate positive change towards a brighter future with a family-oriented day of interactive energy workshops, panel discussions with leading environmental thinkers, presentations from CAT experts, talks, and energy-themed kids activities and games.

August 8th will see CAT transformed for this one-day event exploring energy and its role in shaping our lives into the future. Visitors will get to grips with renewable technologies in ‘behind-the-scenes’ tours of CAT’s on-site renewables. Householders can discover more about how they can make small, achievable changes in their homes and communities to support the transition to a more sustainable and energy efficient society. Friends of the Earth and Practical Action will contextualise the energy debate in talks on the UK’s energy policy and renewable energy and development, and the Guardian’s John Vidal will lead an insightful panel discussion on our energy futures.

CAT’s own Zero Carbon Britain research team and experts will be on hand to discuss sustainable solutions to our current energy scenario, whilst renewable energy companies and representatives from community energy projects will be here to share their industry experience.

The day will also be packed full of entertainment for children and young people. Energy-themed workshops and activities will take place throughout the day, and specially designed wide-games for kids and adults will be taking place across the CAT site. There will also be film screenings, music from a bike-powered sound system and pizza fresh from a wood-fired earth pizza oven.

CAT’s External Relations director, Paul Allen, said “re-thinking energy offers us a wide range of new opportunities, not least in terms of employment. Careers in both energy saving and generation from renewable energy sources offer exciting opportunities and can encourage young people to explore science, technology, engineering and maths whilst also working to protect the planet.”

While currently only a small amount of our energy originates from renewable sources, public support for renewable energy is growing. CAT’s Energy Day celebrates the small changes we can all make towards building a brighter and sustainable future together.

Visit Festival of the Future: Six weeks of fun and inspiration at CAT


Today we unveil our summer plans: CAT will be hosting a six week ‘Festival of the Future’ for tens of thousands of visitors. Daily activities for all the family and a programme of special one-day events mean a day trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology this August could inspire a revolution in the way you live.

Festival of the Future takes place throughout the school summer holidays from 21st July until 31st August. Daily activities will incorporate creative renewable energy and sustainability themed activities for children, with talks and informative tours led by staff and researchers at CAT for adults. Every Wednesday will see special events for kids and adults such as storytelling and specialist tours of CAT’s renewable energy systems.

Two one-day special events will form the climaxes of the summer programme: Energy Day on the 8th August and an Arts and Sustainability Fair on the 29th August. Both days will be packed full of informative and inspiring activities and entertainment including stalls, music, workshops, storytelling, exhibitions, guest speakers and more, all themed around building a brighter, more sustainable future for the UK and beyond.

We will be posting a series of articles on the blog on the theme of Festival of the Future.

This packed summer programme aims to provide a fun and active day out for families and other visitors to CAT, but also to give people ideas about the positive contribution they can make to a sustainable future.

Visitors will be able to meet face to face with some of the experts from CAT who will be giving guided tours and hosting engaging discussions about eco-lifestyle changes and action that people can take in their own community to respond to bigger picture challenges.

Allan Shepherd, author of CAT’s latest book The Home Energy Handbook will be one of the CAT staff members talking to visitors. Allan said:

“There are loads of positive things that people can do to help build more sustainable communities that are fun to take part in. Festival of the Future is a great opportunity for people to come and learn a bit more about sustainable futures as well as picking up tips on everything from eco-friendly living to getting involved in your local community. It should be entertaining as well as inspiring.”

All the events going on as part of Festival of the Future are included in the normal CAT entrance fee. The Visitor Centre also has a restaurant serving delicious vegetarian food and a shop selling books and gifts. A full programme of Festival of the Future events, which run from 21st July to 31st August, can be found on the website: Festival of the Future is sponsored by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier.