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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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:

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

Food miles calculator

Fracking and the Forest – guest blog by Owen Adams


Q. What does campaign group Frack Off Our Forest, and the latest Star Wars and Harry Potter films have in common?

A. They all feature heroes battling dark forces in a beautiful forest.


I inhabit, and cherish, the The Forest of Dean where these films were made. Ironically, in the same week the tourism industry sought to capitalise on the Forest of Dean’s starring role in Star Wars, the Government quietly announced it had granted licences to frack under this verdant paradise; leaving us locals to engage in fighting a truly dark force – the oil and gas industry.

This end-times industry has a stranglehold on the Government: for the past two years, the Government has packed its Treasury, Cabinet, environment and energy departments with ecocidal corporate insiders.

In the meantime, our elected illustrious leaders claim to be doing their bit by signing a deal to reduce global warming from the current disastrous trajectory of a 4% rise, to ‘well below’ 2% of pre-industrial levels.

CAT’s CEO, Adrian Ramsay, had this to say after the Paris talks:”To have a reasonable chance of meeting the [well below] 2°C goal, all investment in new fossil fuels must be halted now – both coal and fracking. Public funds spent subsidising fossil fuels should be redirected into renewable energy and used to support poorer majority world countries to build the clean energy infrastructure they need.”

The Government have cut spending on flood defences, slashed incentives for renewable energy projects and while wind turbines and solar panels can be prevented from taking root in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s now legally acceptable to frack underneath them.

It is hard to engage people in battling this imminent threat. In 2014, I and a concerted group of activists were opposing the Infrastructure Bill (now an Act, a law) which makes it compulsory to recover oil and gas beneath our land where it is found, and allows it to take place anywhere and everywhere.

In Lancashire, the testing ground for shale gas fracking, a campaign by “the Nanas” managed to persuade the county council to turn down planning applications. The Government’s response was (as per the Infrastructure Act 2015) for the minister to call in those decisions. The latest Government initiative to get fracking underway is to issue secondary legislation (we received this news on Christmas Eve) which means no public need to be notified nor planning consent sought for the first stage of gas exploration – namely environmentally damaging seismic testing involving vibrating plates and/or explosives, and drilling boreholes and monitoring drinking water.

So the fracking exploration firm, newly established South Western Energy, could arrive at any time stealthily to start exploring for coalbed methane (CBM) – their stated primary objective.

Government and the Forest’s local MP – Mark Harper, chief whip – will doubtlessly try to tell us that CBM does not mean fracking. The Government definition of fracking is hydraulic fracturing which uses at least 1,000 cubic metres of fluid (a mix of water, sand and chemicals) pumped into rock. CBM involves pumping water out of the coal seams. Only if the gas doesn’t flow out naturally once the coal has been “dewatered” is the fracking technique used – and because it typically only uses 200 cubic metres of water, it isn’t subject to any restrictions. It can also take place just 200 metres below ground, rather than 1,000m (or 1,200m in ‘protected areas’) as for shale gas.

The gorgeous woodland hollows as seen in the new Star Wars film are in the private showcase Puzzlewood, on the edge of the Forest of Dean. The hollows are unique natural phenomena called scowles and were used since pre-Roman times to extract iron ore from close to the surface. Some reckon that Tolkien, involved in archaeological digs in a nearby set of scowles, found his inspiration here for the Shire and Middle Earth’s battle against the dark forces of Mordor in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (though the forest scenes in the film were in New Zealand).

The scowles frame the Forest of Dean coalfield. Since ancient times, locals have had the right to “freemine” – a tradition that continues and is enshrined in law. But the law also allows freeminers to sell their gales (mining areas) to outsider capitalists – and this meant that between the 1780s and early 1960s, the Forest’s stability was undermined by colossal honeycombs created by a massive coal-mining industry.

These days, there is a push and pull between celebrating the Forest’s mining heritage and the continuing freemining of coal and stone. Old timers in the Forest, my own family included, remember spending their waking hours underground in order to earn a crust, preferable to starving. But a free market economy doesn’t let us hanker back to the old days of working-class camaraderie and full employment.

Gerwyn Williams, director of South Western Energy – and other fracking exploration entities Coastal Energy and UK Methane – is from the Bridgend area of South Wales. Williams’ background is in mining engineering – he worked for British Coal for more than 20 years. He witnessed the devastating impact of the end of the coal industry on South Wales communities.

He tried and failed to get CBM going in the Mendips, Somerset, but in his own backyard, he has found sympathetic councils waving aside protests and granting planning permission for CBM and shale gas exploration. Fractivists are currently on the alert for the arrival of machinery.

Williams may find less support for this approach in North Somerset, West Wiltshire and Dorset, where he has also been granted licences. For many of these licence blocks, Williams/ SW Energy has made a “firm commitment” to drill at least one well.

The argument that fracking is a “transitional” energy source, which – along with nuclear power – is essential for keeping the lights on until our renewables technology is up to the task, is a nonsense.

The Centre for Alternative Technology‘s flagship research project and report Who’s Getting Ready for Zero? robustly charts “over 100 research projects and programmes that demonstrate how we can reach very low or net zero emissions by the second half of the century with existing technology and without harming social or economic development”.

The Resilience Centre has calculated the Forest of Dean could produce 160% of its energy needs from renewable sources.

Even with the quite unprecedented achievement of the Forest of Dean District Council unanimously backing a motion to call on the Government not to issue fracking licences, the Government ignored it.

The most vociferous people against the Resilient Energy model of community renewables have been local gentry. UKIP, the Tories, the Greens, Labour and anarchists are mostly united against fracking.

While signing petitions, lobbying politicians and opposing planning applications should go on, the only way fracking will be stopped is by mass direct action. We are watching and waiting.

Meanwhile, the pursuit of profit continues while out of control climate change manifests as extreme weather events.

Join Frack Off Our Forest on Facebook here.

CAT’s latest research project, Making it Happen, explores the barriers to achieving a Zero Carbon future, at the rate required by the climate science. Join the Facebook page here.

Owen Adams is part of the campaign group Frack Off Our Forest.

ZCB and the 21st Century Office Worker

Achieving a zero carbon world, starting right here at home with the Zero Carbon Britain initiative, requires some pretty fundamental changes to the way we live our lives. The ZCB report gives some brilliant insights into this, and as part of the project CAT asked for additional papers which would neatly complement the main report.

As someone who is passionate about the environment, because I love the natural world and all its wonders, I can see a direct link between my line of work – communications – and fundamental changes which can lead directly to significant reductions in our energy use as a nation.

Whilst the Government continues to expound the benefits of HS2 – a rail link which could prove significantly more environmentally sound than solo commutes over increasingly long distances, yet which relies for its business case upon passenger numbers and expectations of regional economic growth – I think that as a society we’re moving in a direction which will make regular business travel far less necessary for a large number of us.

I have worked on voice and ‘unified communications’ solutions for nearly 20 years, and in that time there has been a slow shift from office-based working to remote working. Businesses increasingly are happy to accept employees working from home, coffee shops, or, of course, whilst sitting on a train, because in return they get access, regardless of geography, to the employees who can perform best for them. Employees who can mix work and personal time flexibly are happier and more likely to stay with their employer in an increasingly mobile job market. Indications are that they are also more productive: certainly any amount of time reclaimed from the daily commute can always be put to better use. Not all workers can work remotely, but huge numbers of us are now office workers who, with the benefit of a good communications system, can work just as effectively at home – or elsewhere – as in the office. Gone are the days when “out of the office” meant “out of contact”: from home, given the right tools, we can talk to, see, and collaborate with our colleagues wherever they themselves may be.

So what if we went a step further: what if our government took definite steps to vastly increase home working in order to reduce the need for office space and, consequently, reduce travel, and hence congestion? How would a reduced need for office space and reduced commuting contribute to a better world for our children?

This is the topic that I explore in my paper, ‘ZCB and the 21st Century Office Worker‘.

Mike Barnes is a consultant specialising in business communications. His passion for using modern communications technology to oil the cogs of the workplace, driving information both within and between organisations, led to the publication of the book “An Infinite Number of Monkeys: A Guide to Effective Business Communications”. You can find him online at

ZCB and community energy

During the Zero Carbon Britain research phase which led up to the launch of our new report, Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future, and now into the communications phase, we’ve had lots of individuals and organisations contributing their thoughts and ideas relating to ZCB – what it might mean for society and what might help us get there – in our ‘ZCB and …‘ discussion paper series.

Here’s a new contribution from the Community Innovation for Sustainable Energy (CISE) research project. The project studies community energy projects in the UK, and involves researchers in the Sussex Energy Group (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, and 3S at the University of East Anglia. Here’s what they have to say by means of introduction. You can read the full paper here.

In our article ZCB and Community Energy: Models of a Zero Carbon Future we outline some of the challenges and opportunities community energy projects face in the UK.

Community energy projects are very diverse and involve a variety of activities from awareness raising campaigns to energy saving measures and renewable energy installations. People and groups involved in developing such projects are also diverse and motivated by issues such as saving money on heating bills and doing their bit for climate change. However, they usually face challenges such as organising finance, filling in planning applications and getting the right people with the right skills to work together.

What is impressive about these projects is that they are often run by people with great enthusiasm and drive to make positive things happen in their neighbourhoods. These community groups form an integral part of a Zero Carbon Britain and we can all learn from them.

The full two-page discussion paper, ZCB and Community Energy: Models of a Zero Carbon Future, is available to read online or download free of charge here.

For more information, and access to the latest findings of the CISE research, visit:




ZCB and an adequate economics?

At the recent launch of Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future, we were asked ‘how much would it cost?’ to achieve our scenario. It’s a hard one to answer as we haven’t done an economic analysis of ZCB. It also a hard because an analysis which merely tots up the costs of a scenario like ours and compares it with alternatives just isn’t adequate to explore the economic and social impacts of one scenario versus another, in order that we could fairly choose between them.

Much of the dialogue around the energy system is about meeting climate change targets at ‘lowest cost’. But an adequate economics should also discuss the benefits in terms of job creation, widespread ownership of our energy system, and greater dispersal of profits from the energy system throughout our country. These could all be achieved in a scenario like ZCB.

The debate has to be about more than how much money we spend to ‘keep the lights on’ and move around, because spending money on fossil fuels supplied from abroad by multinational companies is manifestly not the same thing as spending money on renewable energy made, maintained and owned by millions of people across the UK. They will have totally different economic and societal impacts, and these must be discussed as we determine the nature of our future energy system and crucially how it is financed, owned and operated.

We’d like to work with others to try and develop an adequate economic discussion of ZCB and to disperse the language of this discussion into the public debate around our energy system (and our other systems for that matter). The paper ZCB and an adequate economics? can hopefully start the discussion.

Adequate economics This discussion paper was written by Philip James, Energy System Researcher during the research phase leading to the publication of the latest report. Prior to working on ZCB he completed an Engineering Doctorate at the University of Manchester, researching strategies for low and zero carbon buildings.