A WISE use for Local Charities

The Centre for Alternative Technology is offering local charities the opportunity to use meeting rooms at its educational and conference centre, the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE), for free. If you work or volunteer for a charity in the SY20 area and are looking for a special place to hold meetings, then the WISE building could be the place for you. Situated in the stunning Dulas valley in mid-Wales, WISE has impressive facilities that can deliver successful conferences, meetings, training sessions or one-off events.

“ The WISE building is a tremendous resource, with its state of the art  facilities and outstanding sustainability credentials, CAT would like to be able to share that with the many organisations in our local area who are doing important work” Kim Bryan, CAT spokesperson.

The WISE building opened in 2012 and has won several national awards for its ecological credentials. Based at CAT’s site near Machynlleth, the building hosts several meeting rooms, workshop space and a 200 seater lecture theatre. En-suite accommodation and catering can also be arranged for delegates.The offer is open to all charities in the SY20 area, six times per year and is available for meeting rooms only. Please contact Sarah at  venue.hire@cat.org.uk or on 01654 704973 for reservations and more information.

Empowering communities to take action – Renew Wales comes to CAT for training

CAT is excited to be hosting the first training course for coordinators of Renew Wales in the WISE conference centre today and tomorrow.

Renew Wales is a Big Lottery funded project aiming to empower community groups throughout Wales to take action addressing the challenge of climate change. The two-year project is led by the Development Trusts Association, and CAT is a key project partner.

The project activities are targeted at groups like rugby clubs, Women’s Institutes, youth organisations and housing associations, and will include developing community renewable energy resources, starting local food clubs, making sustainable use of land and buildings, establishing community owned enterprises and engaging schools and business in climate change action.

Initiated in June 2012 the project has recently employed a network of coordinators from across Wales. Their role will be to identify and support community groups in their area who are interested in taking action relating to climate change, including those who haven’t taken action before.

The coordinators being trained at CAT today and tomorrow will be involved in linking community groups to ‘peer practitioners’ – people like those in the community group who have learned valuable lessons by going through a similar process – and also with ‘technical mentors’, who can offer more specialised help. They will help communities take action, but just as importantly, help increase each group’s level of knowledge and skill. The success of Renew Wales will lie in creating an ever-expanding pool of people who can support others like them in taking action for a more sustainable future.

Paul Allen, CAT’s External Relations Officer, commented: ‘We are delighted to be part of the Renew Wales project because its whole ethos fits so well with our mission of inspiring, informing and enabling people to make change in their communities. The project has the potential for really significant impact in Wales, and to act as an inspiration further afield.’

Renew Wales’ website – www.renewwales.org.uk – will be live in the near future. In the meantime, for more information about Renew Wales, please contact Robert Proctor on 02920 190260, or by email at robertproctor@renewwales.org.uk.

ZCBlog: A response to John Hayes’ comments on wind power

CAT disagrees with John Hayes’ recent comments on the development of wind power in the UK.

As a long industrialised nation, the UK should be doing more than the minimum required to meet its targets. We should be pioneering a shift toward renewable resources, which we can continue to rely on in centuries to come – unlike rapidly dwindling fossil fuels. Wind – which the UK has an enviable abundance of – remains an integral part of that shift.

The Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain report shows how we can harvest a substantial share of our energy from wind power. The proposed use of on-shore wind power is much smaller to that of off-shore wind but we do believe that the benefits of on-shore wind farms has yet to yield their maximum potential. Wind power is an established energy source with a proven track record, the UK has significant wind power resources and therefore it should be cornerstone of our energy policy.

We believe that the next stage in the development of on-shore wind should be to increase local benefits by developing structures for increased local investment, to enable developments to share a much higher proportion of the returns with local communities.

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 annika.faircloth@cat.org.uk 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 rosie.strickland@cat.org.uk for general media enquiries about CAT. Visit www.cat.org.uk
5. CAT Publications publishes a range of renewable energy, environmental building and ecological books. Go to: http://publications.cat.org.uk

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 allan.shepherd@cat.org.uk 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 visit@cat.org.uk 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 www.cat.org.uk/emergence-2012 for more information.

How to apply

Interested artists need to send a short proposal detailing their piece by 10th August to

rosie.strickland@cat.org.uk. 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 rosie.strickland@cat.org.uk.

Thanks and look forward to hearing your ideas and inspirations!