Off-grid water works

Do you know where your water comes from? You probably just turn on the tap and there it is. Flush the toilet and off it goes. Most of us have no idea where our water comes from, or where our sewage goes.

At CAT we do things differently. We’re completely off-grid when it comes to water – we have no mains water supply or sewage treatment. So we have to think very carefully about how we use this precious resource.

Here’s how our water works.


Reduce, reduce, reduce!

We start by minimising the volume of water that we use. Low flush toilets, waterless urinals and compost toilets help by reducing the amount that gets flushed away. Low flow taps and water efficient shower heads mean less goes down the drain. Which of these things could you do at home?

So what’s left? We need it for drinking water, for hydro electric turbines and to power our cliff railway. Let’s focus on how we get it clean enough to drink, and how we treat the wastewater so it can be safely returned to the river that flows past CAT.


Good enough to drink

The CAT reservoir, which is nestled in the hills behind the visitor centre, holds most of the water used on site. It was created to directly power the machinery for the old quarry on which CAT is built. The other sources of CAT’s water are rainfall into the lakes, ponds and rainwater butts across the site.

The water is siphoned from the middle of the reservoir, using atmospheric pressure to force it up through a pipe. This method doesn’t use a pump, which ensures that the system is low-energy.

Water is then piped down the hill to CAT. Water to be used for drinking passes through slow sand filters to remove pollutants. While this process effectively removes pathogens, the water is later treated by ultraviolet (UV) purifiers to finish the job.


Managing the wastewater

Greywater and foul water from CAT flows into settlement tanks, where solids are separated from liquids. Solids are composted whilst liquids are passed into a series of reed beds which sit below the CAT site.

The reed beds clean the water through a combination of the micro-organisms in the reed beds, and the physical and chemical properties of the reeds.

After being passed through these beds, the now clean water is returned to the river below CAT, where it is joined by the water that has powered our hydro turbines, driven the cliff railway and heated a building through a water-source heat pump. All of it borrowed – and made to work very hard – on its way from the mountains to the sea.


Over the summer, we’ll be giving free guided tours of the CAT water systems so you can get a close-up look at some of these systems. Take a look at our events calendar for details of what’s on when.

If you’d like more in-depth info, the three courses mentioned above run back-to-back and can be booked as a package. Book two or more of these and we’ll give you 10% off. See for details, or call us 01654 704966.

Sustainable Building Courses at CAT

One of the great things about the Centre for Alternative Technology is the sheer quantity of architectural and design features around the site.

View from the Wigloo
The funicular Cliff Railway
Eco cabins

Indeed, it’s a rare treat to see modern design juxtaposed with the rugged Welsh landscape.

All of our buildings, old and young, demostrate how ecological design pays attention to both form and function.

These buildings serve as practical exhibits which show ways that ecological architecture and design take care of both the environment and wellbeing.

We run a number of courses which are connected to design and architecture,  varying from short courses on timber frame construction to a Professional Diploma in Architecture.

For more information about our short courses:

and graduate level courses:

The EU and the environment

What would UK environmental policy and practice look like if we voted to leave the EU? With the referendum fast approaching, we explore the possibilities.

Once known as ‘the Dirty Man of Europe’, the UK has cleaned up its act in recent years thanks, in large part, to the influence of the European Union. If the UK votes to leave the EU, how might this impact environmental policy and legislation in the UK? And how would the UK’s exit affect environmental protection in the remaining EU countries?

leavesEU countries have worked together over decades to build one of the most comprehensive packages of environmental legislation in the world, including habitat protection, pollution control and climate change mitigation. Much of the UK’s environmental law has been developed through its membership of the EU, so it’s important to explore the potential impacts of a Brexit scenario.

A large number of EU directives have helped to enforce standards in areas as diverse as water quality, air quality, fish stocks, waste disposal, hazardous substances, radioactive waste, recycling, construction, habitat and wildlife protection, GMOs, animal welfare and climate change.

Whilst some aspects of EU policy (such as the Common Agricultural Policy), have been damaging to the environment, most EU environmental policies have resulted in a raising of standards across EU member states. The EU-wide nature of these policies makes them more effective as many of the issues are trans-boundary (water, air and wildlife all move across boundaries). Single nations are also less likely to raise standards unilaterally due to fear of competitive disadvantage. EU-wide legislation creates a level playing field that countries are more willing to sign up to.

In the event of a ‘leave’ vote, there’s no clear consensus over which exit scenario the UK would follow but, irrespective of what the final arrangement might be, Brexit would result in some important changes:

  • Loss of the UK’s voice in EU decisions affecting the environment.
  • In international negotiations, such as the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change, the UK would contribute independently. This would allow us to steer our own path, but we would lose influence over the EU position, which holds more sway at a global level owing to its size and economic importance.
  • The Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy would cease to apply and we would need to find alternatives. The consequences of this change for land and marine management could be significant.


Options for the UK and Europe

Other impacts would be dependent on the type of relationship negotiated between the UK and the remaining EU Member States. There are a number of options, but it’s uncertain which option would be pursued by the UK government.

One option in the event of an ‘out’ vote is that the UK joins countries such as Norway and Iceland as part of the European Economic Area (EEA). In this scenario, most EU environmental legislation would continue to apply, with notable exceptions being the Bathing Water Directive and the Birds and Habitats Directives (see box). If the UK stayed within the EEA, we would retain some routes into EU policy debates, but could no longer vote on decisions affecting EU legislation.

In relation to industry, EU environmental law covers two broad areas: ensuring industrial processes don’t cause undue environmental damage and ensuring products entering the EEA meet agreed standards. Examples of the former include limiting emissions and setting broad standards for air and water quality; the latter includes restriction of hazardous substances in products and ensuring suitability for recycling. Most of this legislation would continue to apply if the UK left the EU but remained in the EEA.


Bathing water and habitats

The Bathing Water Directive was the main reason that the UK introduced improved water treatment from the 1970s onwards. Prior to this, the seas around the UK were some of the dirtiest in Europe, thanks to the government policy of ‘dilute and disperse’. In the event of the UK leaving the EU, this directive would cease to apply. Although it is unlikely that the UK government would take the unpopular step of weakening standards in this area, there would no longer be pressure from Europe to keep our seas clean.

Similarly, the Habitats Directive would no longer be in force under any of the likely Brexit scenarios. Enacted in 1992, this protects habitats and important species of animals and plants. The UK government has made clear its frustration with some aspects of the Habitats Directive, particularly where infrastructure developments have been affected. There is therefore real concern that UK habitats and wildlife could receive less protection outside of the EU.


Other options include a negotiated bilateral agreement with the EU, with some access to the Single Market, or the UK could withdraw completely from the Single Market.  In both of these scenarios, different types of legislation would be affected in different ways.

treeEU regulations are applied directly in member countries so would no longer be applicable in the UK if we chose to leave the EU and not join the EEA. It would then be up to the UK government to decide on UK legislation in these areas.

EU directives are not directly applicable in UK law. Many of them have been transposed into UK law so would continue to apply until changed by the UK parliament even if we left the EEA. Other directives have been implemented under the 1972 European Communities Act, so new legislation would have to be enacted if this act was repealed.

New UK legislation could of course increase, maintain or reduce the level of environmental protection. However, the current government’s actions and promises to ‘cut the green crap’ do not bode well. It’s worth noting that EU states are currently allowed to adopt ‘more stringent protection measures’ than EU legislation requires (albeit with some limitations), yet the UK government has chosen to adopt a ‘no gold plating’ approach – sticking with the minimum standards – while complaining that many of those standards are unnecessary ‘red tape’ for industry.

Even where the UK is no longer bound by EU environmental legislation, companies exporting to the EU would have to comply with EU industry standards. The EU is unlikely to allow equal access to the market for products developed under lower environmental standards where this might have implications for competitiveness.

In or out?

Overall, there’s still much uncertainty over what impact an ‘out’ vote might have. Before its involvement in Europe, the UK did not have a strong record on environmental protections, but in some areas it’s unlikely that we would move backwards. If we remain in the EEA then many protections remain.

However, evidence of the government’s dislike of ‘red tape’ and ‘green crap’, particularly when it comes to protecting the environment against the interests of big business, does give cause for concern. Environmental protection is a long-term investment, often overshadowed by headline-grabbing short-term issues, and in the age of austerity it’s easy to see how certain environmental considerations could become neglected without the safeguards offered by the EU.

In the next few weeks, the voices for ‘in’ and ‘out’ will clamour ever more loudly for your vote – you can use this chance to ask questions about their vision for the environment, putting the issues you care about at the heart of the debate.


Climate change

Both the EU collectively and individual members states sign up to new treaties on climate change.
Climate targets are implemented through the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), covering emissions from power plants and aviation, and the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), covering emissions from elsewhere. Together, these policies govern overall totals for emissions, and EU legislation determines how allowances are allocated.

Other policies that help reduce emissions within the EU include legislation on transport and energy, including rules on energy efficiency and renewables, and emissions targets for car manufacturers. Energy efficiency rules include the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive. Targets are set for the percentage of energy that should come from renewable sources, plus targets and regulations on biomass.

EU commitments agreed at the Paris climate change talks are currently being developed into a package of new measures, including revisions to ETS, new renewables targets, changes to energy efficiency legislation, and the possibility of the inclusion of legislation on carbon stored in land and forestry.

So what would be the impact of Brexit on EU climate policy? The UK, along with other North-West Member States, has pushed for an ambitious approach to targets, whilst states in the South and East of the EU have been more reluctant. The UK has been particularly influential in determining targets for 2020 and 2030. UK support has been for market-based mechanisms such as ETS over targets for particular technologies. Under a Brexit scenario, EU policy may therefore become less ambitious and more technology-focused in its targets.


Read more

There are a few useful reports that cover these issues in more depth:

The EU Referendum and the UK Environment

The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union

Brexit – the Implications for UK Environmental Policy and Regulation



This is an extract from Clean Slate Summer 2016. To receive Clean Slate once a quarter and stay up to date with news and veiws from CAT, sign up for membership today.

Eco-Refurbishment Course at CAT

The August bank Holiday weekend saw CAT’s annual Eco Refurbishment course, covering all the theory and practicalities of how to get your house towards performing better than many new- build properties. The course consists of classroom theory sessions and hands-on practicals, as well as tours of CAT’s own drainage, sewerage and water-conservation  installations and its renewable energy set-ups.

Tutor Nick Parsons said: “The practicals are an essential part of the course, giving students a chance to apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom sessions to practical situations. These sessions would not be possible without the support of the companies which provide materials and reference material free of charge

A group of eager DIY-ers have been busy learning about eco-refurbishment at CAT. Over the past few days they’ve learned about ecological improvements you can make to existing buildings through practical exercises and specialised guided tours of CAT.

The developments in environmentally conscious building are coming along in leaps and bounds, but as it currently stands few people in the UK will have the opportunity to construct their own new eco-home. Refurbishing existing housing stock can make a massive contribution towards reducing our carbon footprint and lowering our wider environmental impact.

As the week draws to a close we would like to say a big thank-you to Recovery Insulation, Natural Building Technologies, and Clan Insulation  who provided materials free of charge for the practical sessions on the Eco Refurbishment course. Thanks also to Sally and Keith Hall at Green Building Press who donated copies of the Green Building Bible for the students. Nick Parsons, the course tutor, said: “it’s great to have samples of a wide range of materials – particularly insulation materials – and to be able to work with them. Students have found this particularly valuable, and we really appreciate the generosity of the suppliers”.

You can find out more about our autumn short courses on our website.

Community energy in Wales: overcoming the challenges

The benefits of community energy projects cannot be overstated, so why do so many fail to get off the ground? Paul Burrell from Machynlleth based Anemos Renewables shows how some Welsh communities are tackling – and overcoming – the obstacles. This article orginally appears in the CAT membership magazine Clean Slate

If we are to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, we need a rapid transition to a clean, efficient, renewables-based energy system. Community energy projects have a huge role to play in delivering an equitable and fair energy system. In Denmark, for example, over 100 wind turbine co-operatives have a combined ownership of three quarters of the country’s turbines. The price per kWh for electricity from the community-owned wind parks is competitive with conventional power production.


Community energy is the natural tonic to commercial renewable energy developments, which are largely owned and operated by corporations. Utility companies and large development companies are often based financially outside of the UK. Current planning guidance only requires commercial projects to give a small percentage of this revenue to the local community, whilst the lion’s share is funnelled out to commercial shareholders.

In contrast, a community-scale energy project places ownership of the power generator, either wholly or in part, within the local community, and the net revenue accumulated during the lifespan of the project is distributed to local people and projects. These projects ensure that members of the local community retain some control over their power generation options, which then reduces reliance on imported power and, in the longer term, reduces carbon emissions.

Community energy development within Wales, particularly in the case of wind energy schemes, are supported by national planning policy that recommends planning departments support projects owned and operated by local communities. Furthermore, there are grant funds available for community energy development (Ynni’r fro is one example). A well-sited renewable energy scheme is a valuable long-term asset, particularly with rising power costs and strong UK incentives for generation. Wales also has an extensive network of established communities which, until fairly recently, still operated a large number of hydroelectric projects and are therefore used to being in control of their power generation.

A well-sited renewable energy scheme is a valuable long-term asset.

This all sounds good so far, especially when you factor in the excellent wind and water resources that Wales possesses in abundance across a large percentage of the country. Yet despite the factors in their favour, community energy schemes across Wales are being held up by lengthy planning processes and local opposition.

In the South Wales Valleys economic cuts are biting, and opportunities for communities to generate extra revenue are limited. To combat these negative factors a local arts-based organisation decided that a windblown hilltop in Ferndale village would be the perfect place for a community-owned wind energy scheme of significant scale. The group approached the local landowner and quickly developed an idea to deliver a cluster of commercial-scale turbines that would then generate revenue for the community, to be used in improving access to art facilities for all. The site itself was commercially viable and able to technically accommodate the wind energy scheme, and so the planning application was prepared, submitted and, after some time, approved by the local planning authority. By then, however, delays during the planning process meant that the legal agreement between the landowner and the group had expired. Meanwhile a commercial developer had approached the landowner and placed a better offer on the table than that from the community group. The landowner signed with the commercial developer, who subsequently developed the wind energy scheme, retaining all ongoing profits. The local group now have the pleasure of watching the turbines spin whilst receiving almost none of the revenue produced. The group are still working on developing another community renewable energy scheme.


Further north, in the Black Mountains, another community group has set up a community development trust with the aim of improving opportunities within the locale. Awel AmanTawe (AAT) had approached a local landowner (as in Ferndale) and agreed a deal to deliver a small cluster of commercial-scale turbines across the site area. The majority of the revenue from the scheme was to be routed back into the community, with many expected benefits to the economic situation. That was over ten years ago. Since then, despite the site finally gaining planning consent after an extended and expensive battle with the planning authority, the turbines are yet to be installed. The reason for the delay is a combination of local opposition to the scheme and the council planning department obstructing the commission and construction of the site. Visit the proposed site today and you are unlikely to find a more suitable wind site in Wales. It is, in fact, only the ongoing commitment of AAT that has kept the scheme and local hopes alive, and the group is now working towards an installation date of 2016. Having spent 10 years developing the project with nothing yet on the ground, the organisation has discovered just how costly and time-sapping this process can be.

Over in Pembrokeshire two other community schemes have been threatened by council policies. Both schemes are for medium-scale turbines and located in areas where planning consent should be achievable. The projects were undertaken using EU grant money, with volunteers and employed consultants working on development.

The planning applications clearly illustrated that revenue from the installed wind turbines would be retained by local groups and that any visual impact of the turbines would be offset by the positive effects of local ownership. However, Pembrokeshire Council ruled that both schemes were in conflict with landscape protection policies, and both schemes were refused at planning committee level. At this stage, resource-limited community groups face two options: to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, which incurs further costs and volunteer time, or to hold back on the project. In this particular case both groups appealed, one of them successfully. The Planning Inspectorate acknowledged the community benefit package as offering mitigation to the potential landscape impact from the installed turbine, whilst in the other case they did not. The refused project continues to forge ahead with a redesigned scheme and hopes to resubmit planning in the near future, while the consented project is aiming for installation in the near future.

It is vital we enable communities to reap the benefits of decarbonisation.

The last example of a community energy project in Wales that is struggling to get off the ground is in Ceredigion, an area with some of the best wind resources in Wales. An enthusiastic community group wanted to install a single medium-sized wind turbine that could power up to 300 homes. A deal was made with a local farmer and planning work was commissioned. The local golf club argued that the wind turbine would cause the golf club to lose money, potentially causing a flickering shadow on the golf course. The objection was upheld and the landowner stepped quietly away from the project. Ceredigion Fair Wind has now found other wind energy sites and is working towards a further planning submission – speaking volumes about their indomitable spirit, something which is proving critical in delivering these kinds of projects.

The future – energy democracy

Climate change is not going away; power demand is rising and our reliance on imported fuel is growing. Meanwhile millions are struggling to pay the extortionate fuel bills from the Big Six energy companies, with over 2.28 million people in the UK living in ‘fuel poverty’.

Small energy co-ops show how we can build a sustainable and affordable energy future and offer hope to communities that are desperately trying to source extra income to keep public services and opportunities open to all. There are a great many positive examples of community energy schemes in action, but many of them have only come about through hard- fought battles with outdated council planning rules as well as prejudice against renewable energy.CSI-Energy-Democracy

2014 closed with a stark warning from UN climate scientists that we must take action now to quickly and rapidly reduce carbon emissions. It is vital that in doing so we empower and enable communities to reap the benefits of that decarbonisation. The Welsh Government continues to support such schemes via the excellent Ynni’r fro and by improving policy to help planners give favourable weight to community energy applications. Financial incentives continue to support renewable energy schemes, and the wind and rain continue to batter Wales, providing an excellent sustainable resource to be exploited. In many areas there is local ambition and, despite the challenges that community groups face, it is apparent that victories are starting to emerge. As such projects become widespread and the benefits become clear there is substantial reason to believe that Wales can vastly improve its network of community energy projects – providing hope and inspiration to future generations facing the ever-increasing challenges of climate change.

About the author

Paul Burrrell lives and works in Machynlleth, Powys, having completed an MSc in Advanced Architecture and Environmental Studies at the Centre for Alternative Technology in 2008. He currently works for the Severn Wye Energy Agency alongside Ecodyfi on the Ynni’r Fro Scheme, which supports communities who wish to install their own large-scale renewable energy systems. Paul works in both Ceredigion and Gwynedd as the Ynni’r Fro technical development officer, assisting groups from the initial contact and site assessment (feasibility) stages, then providing on-going technical support throughout the development phases of the wind, hydro or anaerobic digestion projects. He coordinates funding applications that are required at each key stage from the funding body, and can assist groups to legally constitute (if required) and to facilitate community liaison events.

Making the most of the skills he gained studying at CAT, Paul is now co-director of Anemos Renewables (set up in 2011), an independent company that works with local farmers and landowners to develop small to medium scale wind energy schemes. The company’s MCS-accredited installers offer services including a full ‘Turnkey’ service for the installation of MCS-certified Evance 5kW R9000, Aircon 10S, Winspot 5kW and Tozzi Nord TM535 wind turbines. They also offer consultancy services for the development of small and medium (<500kW) wind turbine projects, including feasibility studies, preparation of planning applications, system design, grid connection and project management of the installation. For further information see or contact Paul Burrell at




Centre for Alternative Technology launches its new ‘Climate Manifestometer’

2015 is election year and, with so many debates and promises, people need to know which political parties’ candidates will deliver the changes needed for a safe climate. The Centre for Alternative Technology’s manifestometer helps sort the greenwash from policies that would enable a zero carbon future, making a real difference to the climate.

To help voters determine which political party’s climate manifesto is up to the task, CAT has developed a ‘Manifestometer’. Its purpose is to open debate with all political parties and help the electorate decide who is up to the job, by checking if their election pledges are rooted in the scientific evidence.” Adrian Ramsay, CAT CEO




In the build-up to the General Election, each party will release its latest climate policy; CAT will be examining these party manifestos and weighing up what’s on offer against what the science tells us actually needs to happen and what our research has shown is possible. The Climate Manifestometer helps the electorate put the most vital climate questions to MPs and policy makers from each party so we can assess if their climate manifestos are fit for purpose

The window of opportunity is still open: it is time to change, or be changed.” Adrian Ramsay

Manifestometer questions include:

  • Is your party’s climate policy evidence-based? Does it accept the urgency of the evidence? If implemented, what chance will your measures offer of avoiding the crucial 2°C average global temperature rise?
  • Does your party’s policy take any account of the historic legacy of UK carbon emissions?
  • Does your policy recognise that to reach a global agreement, the long-industrialised countries such as the UK must show leadership and sign up to a more rapid decarbonisation?
  • Does your party’s climate policy recognise that there are already more fossil fuels on the books of the big energy companies that we can safely burn?
  • Does your party’s policy rise to the challenge of achieving ‘net-zero’ emissions?
  • Does your climate policy recognise the massive renewable resources available in and around the UK, and the potential for jobs and economic returns in harvesting them?

As the danger of serious climate change grows, it is vital that the elected government is held to high standards in the difficult but important task of cutting CO2 emissions. We hope our Manifestometer will be a useful tool for choosing a government that has the will to do the work.” Adrian Ramsay

To follow the work of CAT in the run-up to the General election see

Notes to Editors

The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales is an environmental education charity that aims to ‘inform, inspire and enable’ practical solutions for sustainable living. As well as a 7-acre visitor centre demonstrating sustainability it provides educational training across the board from school children to post graduate level.

The UK is at a crucial turning point. Much of the present energy system is coming to the end of its life, and the choices made in the next couple of years will lock the UK into an energy path for decades to come. Even if we achieve our current global emissions reduction pledges, and the Climate Change Act succeeds in holding the UK to 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, it is not enough to offer a good chance of preventing dangerous climate change. The evidence demands that the next UK government immediately set us on the path to a net-zero emissions Britain. This will require a strong policy framework that enables skills development – to take advantage of new job opportunities – and ensures that everyone in the UK is supported in the transition towards net-zero carbon electricity, heating, transport and food systems.

The policies we select are crucial because the UK has put more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere per person than all but one other country in the world – for this reason it is our responsibility to lead on eliminating emissions.

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 



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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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; , or include in the blog comments.

Zero Carbon Britain Short Course Scholarship

CAT is offering a funded placement for grass roots campaigners to join us on our next Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) course. Join us at CAT on 6-8th February for an empowering and inspiring weekend looking at this ground-breaking research. ZCB offers a robust, evidence-based scenario that explores ways we can deliver a climate positive future, whilst also maintaining a modern lifestyle. The course also covers how ZCB can be successfully used as a powerful tool to inspire positive action, stimulate debate and build consensus in our communities and places of work. The course is ideal for Change Makers working in Local Green Groups, Transition Towns, FOE groups, CAT members, students and activists etc
To enter please send us no more than 300 words (posted to the CAT Facebook or email about why you should get a funded place what you will do with the knowledge you get from the course.

Deadline is 5pm GMT 29th January.
The winner will be judged by a panel of CAT staff and announced on 30th January on our Facebook page.
By entering you accept that CAT will post your name to the CAT Facebook page should you win.
Travel to CAT is not included but vegetarian wholefood full board and onsite accommodation at CAT is included.

Apply today! and please share around your networks- many thanks

Ecosystems, sewage and the fun side of sustainable architecture

Architecture studentsTasha Aitken is studying for a Professional Diploma in Architecture at CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment. Here she reports of a module in which saw students getting knee deep in poo, learning about ecological sanitation (with less involved options for the those of a more delicate disposition!), ecosystem services, Gaia theory and water and waste management. The module was held jointly with students from the masters degree in sustainability and adaptation.


I think many of my fellow students would agree with me that returning to CAT for the November module, our third of 18 for the Professional Diploma course, was like returning home. Everyone dribbled in at various times throughout the evening and each time, everyone gathered round to greet the new arrivals.

I think many of my fellow students would also agree that the pace had really been cranked up as October turned to November. Ready to greet us on Monday and Tuesday mornings respectively were our first assessed presentation and submission deadlines for a 3,000 word essay and 1250 word practical. So, with the brief intermissions to welcome course-mates we hadn’t seen for weeks, most of us were beavering away at the finishing touches to our written work and starting (!) our presentations for the following morning.

The presentation topic was unspecified, but the length was strictly 10 minutes, really getting us to think about content, flow and conciseness of delivery. As a result, the day was a brief snapshot into the other three-quarters of each-others’ lives outside of CAT-week. Topics ranged from building out of found materials in an eco-village and involvement in community projects to the principles of teaching Forest School. Even those, including myself, who presented on an aspect of their Ceinws Sustainable Rural Affordable Housing Project were putting across a chosen interest personal to them. It was a brilliant enlightenment to the expanse of knowledge and experience we have as a collective.

After a day of presentations, Tuesday saw us revert back to a more normal schedule of lectures. This month’s module has been “Ecosystem Services, Land-Use and Water and Waste Management”: a mouthful to say and an even bigger plateful of really practical information taking us back to the basics of resource use. As ProfDips, we didn’t attend the entire lecture series but still managed to cover topics such as: Contaminated Land, Ecological Sanitation, Flooding and Urban Design, Food Security, Ecosystems Services, and Resource Management. To pick out a single issue to tell you about is tricky, but perhaps one most relevant to CAT philosophy is the idea of the Meta-Industrial Era. The Resource Management lecture by Peter Harper talked about the transitions made from Pre-Industrial to Early Industrial and to the Mature Industrial Era, our current position, increasingly abandoning low impact natural materials in favour of high performance, high impact technologies. Discussion related to the modern day relevance of natural pre-industrial materials, where it was suggested that the “Meta-Industrial Age” involves using low energy materials wherever possible, but adding ‘industrial vitamins’, such as internet, electricity and high-quality glazing, allowing expected standards of living to continue.

Meta-Industrial materials
Material Impacts in Successive Inudstrial Ages (Harper P. 2014 Resources and Resource Management; powerpoint presentation at CAT, 11.11.2014)


On Thursday, Brian Moss, the noted ecologist sandwiched dinner with two lectures, and whose stimulating content was centred around, firstly, the idea of natural selection and the debate between co-operative and selfish evolution: pack behaviour versus the protective female instinct. His point was that we are an invasive species and to overcome our selfish nature – self-promotion and self-indulgence – would be to allow the Earth to survive. The second part was really about what the human species’ place in the world is: Is our work to restore the planet unnatural? If we are part of nature, can anything we do be unnatural? And finally, explaining that “the spirit level” may be a Silver Bullet for the Earth. Moss pointed out that the feudal system gave few an enormous sphere of influence with potential to ruin the Earth , whilst the pre-feudal clans and tribes were unable to make such an impact and would take themselves out upon acting unsustainably, therefore removing the problem.

Possibly the most exciting part of the week for everyone was Practical Day, and the prospect of getting knee deep in poo during Louise’s sanitation option! However, you will have to ask someone else about that as I chose to walk around Machynlleth and observe existing and potential ecosystem services, in other words, the ways in which nature can provide for us, e.g. trees giving shade or plants as a food source.

Ecosystem services plants
Ecosystem services outside the coop (author’s photograph)

And on to the Friday night social, in the absence of Tim, Tom Barker took up the mantle and introduced the theme of Moodle, our online information service that had been causing a few hiccups recently. Poems with as many oodle-rhyming words as possible were read out in Irish accents and with guitar accompaniments and people stamped their user-numbers on their foreheads. Oh, and there was an entirely unrelated acro-yoga session, the pinnacle of which was our human pyramid!

Human Engineering (author’s photograph)

Come to our Professional Diploma in Architecture end of year exhibition on Friday 16th January

The stakes are tropospheric; Why the Lima climate talks are so important.

The climate talks have opened in Peru,  their aim is to lay the foundation for an agreement in Paris and the stakes could not be higher. 195 countries are meeting to lay the groundwork for a new global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The stakes are tropospheric, and far clearer now than when Kyoto was negotiated. High tide floods are becoming common across the coastal U.S. Greenhouse gases are making seas hotter and more acidic. Climate change is clearly amping heat waves, which are fueling wildfires. Global temperatures have risen 1.5°F since the Industrial Revolution, pushing sea levels and storm surges up an average of 8 inches. Greenhouse gas levels are rising now faster than ever.

Whilst everybody agrees that they want a deal, the devil, in this case is very much in the detail. This article explores some of the sticking points around COP20/21



The 196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have set an outside target of limiting global warming to 2°C over pre-industrial levels. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and other climate-vulnerable countries want a tougher 1.5°C goal.

Legal Format

Should the pact be a “treaty” to be ratified by national parliaments, a slightly less formal “protocol” or some other form of agreement? And to what degree will it be binding under international law? These questions, crucial and explosive, are likely to be decided in the final hours in Paris, say insiders.


The deal is meant, for the first time, to bind all countries to a common climate text, with nations making pledges to curb emissions of Earth-warming greenhouse gases. Developing countries point to the principle of “differentiation” and want rich economies, who have polluted more for longer, to shoulder a bigger burden for addressing the problem. Wealthy countries, in turn, point to the rise of China and India as massive emitters of carbon from fossil fuel driving their growth, and insist on equal treatment for all. Poorer economies fear the talks are too focused on emissions curbs, known in climate jargon as “mitigation”.

They want the agreement to spell out financing for their own mitigation plans, but also help for adaptation, technology transfers, and compensation for climate damage. Not yet settled is the very wording of the pact – should the targets be called “commitments” or “contributions”?

Emissions pledges

Countries are being asked to submit their emissions pledges (“intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs) by the first quarter of 2015. In Lima, negotiators will be tasked with agreeing on the type of information the INDCs must contain, and whether they will be housed in an annex or attachment to the main accord or in less formal “national schedules”. Before they become formal, will the pledges be assessed to determine whether they are sufficient, combined, to meet the warming target?

And if they are found lacking, will parties reconsider their commitments voluntarily or would there would be a “top-down” adjustment based on a global carbon budget (the total amount of fossil fuel the world has left to burn without exceeding the warming limit)?

Countries also disagree on whether the pledges should be for five- or 10-year cycles, and how frequently they should be reconsidered, if at all.

Follow up and compliance

Reviewing and disciplining countries that fail to live up to their commitments is another thorny issue. Will there be an international review of countries’ performance, a compliance mechanism or committee, or none?

(AFP, Paris) 

Green Capitalism

The failing market in carbon

Despite the failures of the carbon market to date ( it has not reduced emissions or prevented environmental degradation) some countries seem determined to keep trying.  A new carbon market that will spur emerging nations to cut emissions is the key element of next year’s planned global climate accord.  Amber Rudd U.K. official said, “winning United Nations support for a market that would give credits for emission reductions would be the most important part of any international agreement,”

But as Oscar Reyes puts it in his briefing for Carbon trade watch– “Try again, fail again, fail better.”

There is significant opposition to schemes such carbon trading at REDD+ from a wide range of campaign groups as well as Latin American countries such as, Bolivia Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua that have a record of rejecting market-based approaches to cutting emissions. Evo Morales blames capitalism squarely for climate change: “The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which [promote them]. It’s time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated.”

The people’s summit being is being held in Lima at the same time and is calling for  an ambitious, fair, equitable, and binding climate agreement. That is able, in record time, to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by no less than 50% based on the principles of equity and common and includes climate justice for the most vulnerable. If no such agreement is reached, the life of future generations is at risk. At the summit issues such as Payment for eco system services, Green capitalism ,REDD+ will be debated and alternatives proposed that are not based in perpetuating neo liberal market economies.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-A breakthrough in Lima is vital if we to get see a global agreement in 2015, the agreement of China and the US to reduce emissions has been seen as a major boost for the climate talks. In order to reduce emissions to net zero by 2070 and earlier in developed countries there is no time to waste. Government processes are needed to create change but equally importantly is a global, popular, mass movement for climate change that builds and demonstrates the world we want to see. From the massive protests world wide in September 2014 to the mobilisations already going on ahead of Paris 2015 we can only achieve this enormous task by working together with a renewed focus and unified voice- presenting a powerful force for change.