Student Stories- November

This month the CAT media team met new student Ala M Hasany, an Iraqi who is currently living in London.We talked to him about his motivations for coming to CAT, inspirations and his poetry.

I started studying the Msc in Renewable Energies and the Built Environment a month ago. I have been working in Iraq and the Gulf for the last 20 years. I did a BSc in Building Surveying in London in 2008, prior to that I had completed an HNC in Electrical Engineering (1982) and an HND in Air Conditioning and Power (1985) in Baghdad
There are many reasons I have chosen to be here, obviously building my future career is one of them but I also want to look at ways the environment can survive what we are doing to it. I also want to use the course to research solutions to the Iraqi situation- and the relationship between the environment, agriculture and society. I am really inspired by the use of solar energy at CAT as a solution for a short fall in energy and by the idea of making the countryside totally independent of any grids- water or energy.

When I am not studying for my masters degree I am a writer for newspapers, blogs and the web. I write about human rights, in defence of peace, about women and children’s rights, the environment and in support of the environment. I encourage, through my work people to save energy, recycle, halt the depopualtion of the country side, promote clean, green cities and much more.
When I have finished studying I would like to work on the development of zero carbon building that are affordable for investors, builders and inhabitants. Buildings that minimize C02 usage, don’t use fossil fuels for energy. I would also like to see new structures to develop the UK using renewable energy sources. Also in Iraq, I would like to look at the sustainable development of Basra city, which has suffered lot. By 2050 I hope that we will have achieved zero carbon building and have great ways of protecting the worlds environments and be living in a world free of emissions. One of the most important things I have learnt from being at CAT is sharing ideas and information.
Here is a poem I have written about Basra outside the British Libary in London

ed note* We are currently working on a translation.

Would you like to share your student story – please write to

CAT in the news: who’s talking about us this week and what they’re saying


Learning by example at the Wise sustainability centre in Wales

It is the biggest scheme ever to be built at the centre. An increasing interest in the environment and sustainable building technologies means demand has risen for the centre’s range of advanced renewable energy courses, and the existing facilities are stretched. The WISE project will provide extra facilities with: a 200-seat rammed earth lecture theatre; a three-storey building housing 24 en-suite study bedrooms; three workshops; three seminar rooms; four offices; one laboratory and a restaurant and bar all arranged around a courtyard. In total, the centre will occupy an area of approximately 2,000sq m. Borer describes the scheme as being like a “mini university”.


Challenging Assumptions: Zero carbon futures

That there is an urgent need for action to address the potentially disastrous consequences of climate change is reflected in the latest UK Climate Change Bill. This aims to achieve an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050, compared to the previous target of 60% (see However, many argue that on
both the domestic and international front measures such as these fall far short of what will be needed to avert disaster. Furthermore, some of the measures already in place, and some of those proposed, may not reduce carbon emissions, and may also have disastrous side effects, as in the much publicised example of biofuels. In other words, the now urgent need for ‘solutions’ can lead to quick-fixes which could have serious consequences, such as further destruction of rainforests to grow palm-oil trees for biofuels, or the creation of ‘biochar’ from biomass.

Scepticism is evident among the students I teach. Many tell me that there is no point in us trying to  reduce our emissions when China is building so many coal-fired power stations. It is true that China has become the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, with 80% of its energy coming from coal. Per capita, however, the Chinese emit less than half the amount that Britons do, and a quarter of that of Americans (UNEP, 2005). Also, we tend to forget that much of China’s energy produced is used to make the goods we buy, and that China has recently announced plans to produce a fifth of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, which is the same as the EU’s target (Borger and Watts, 2009).

Daily Post

PETER Harper and Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, were named among independent, not-for-profit organisation Cynnal Cymru’s 52 sustainable development champions. The “green heroes” have been recognised for taking action to create a brighter, more sustainable future. The Wales Green List celebrates individuals making Wales a better and more sustainable place to live. The CAT visitor centre attracts around 65,000 visitors a year and also runs courses.

Oxjam at CAT

If you are in the area this Saturday then come down to Oxjam, 8pm at the Straw Bale theatre in CAT. Featuring Billy Thompson, award winning improvising violinist, and his bands Amledd and Billy Thompson Gypsy Style. The event is part of the Oxjam Music Festival -a month long festival of music all over Britain in aid of Oxfam

Since 2006, more than 36,000 musicians have played to an audience of over 750,000 people at almost 3,000 Oxjam events, raising in excess of £1 million to fight poverty around the world. Deborah Sale events organizer at CAT said “ CAT is very pleased to be able to support the work of Oxfam in its fight against poverty and support this great local initiative.”

This year the festival will be helping countries in the global south cope with the devastating effects of climate change. As well as raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Oxfam’s work, gig goers will be painting their faces blue as part of a massive visual statement to the UK government to take action on climate change before it’s too late.

To find out what Oxjam events are going on locally this October, visit or call 0300 200 1255

PHOTOS: building a wind turbine

by Alex Randall

Last week I spent some time with CAT students, engieering staff and tutors as they built a new wind turbine. The students were taking part in our building a wind turbine course. These photos follow the students as they go through each stage of constructing and then putting up their wind turbine.

Big Feast at CAT

On Saturday the 3rd of October CAT hosted its first sustainable food fayre, the Big Feast. The event was a great success, with over 300 people attending and a plethora of local food stalls selling scrumptious delicacies from the Machnylleth area- including cheeses, mustards, cakes, apple jacs, wines, ciders and organic vegetables. Julie Bromilow one of the organizers of the event said that “ despite the wet weather it was a great day, people came from near and far. It was also amazing to see all the local produce on display.”

Visitors were kept well entertained by musicians, the pedal powered smoothie machine, the apple expert and interesting workshops dealing with a range of different food related topics . Well done to Dan, CAT’s new long term volunteer for his rapid fixing of the pedal powered smoothie machine when over zealous pedallers caused the hose pipe to fall off!

Plans are afoot for further markets in the future. Watch this space…

Centre for Alternative Technology receives £650,000 Thanks to Graham and Margaret Sheppard

CAT charity has received its biggest donation from an individual in its 35-year history thanks to Margaret and Graham Sheppard. Graham, who was a long time supporter of CAT sadly passed away four years ago leaving his house as a legacy to the organisation.
Margaret remembers that Graham had decided that he wanted to leave a legacy to a worthy cause and that “We were so impressed when we first visited CAT. Graham just said, yes, this is the way things have got to go”

James Cass speaking on behalf of CAT said, “this is a fantastic donation to CAT’s activities, we are incredibly grateful to the Sheppard’s.”

The proceeds from the sale of the house will go towards the completion of the building of the Welsh Institute for Sustainable Education. The WISE institute will provide a state of the art educational facility at CAT in Machnylleth. Built to the highest environmental standards the building will include a 200-seat lecture theatre incorporating the highest rammed earth structure in the UK. Graham and Margaret Sheppard
CAT will be calling the lecture theatre Sheppard in honour of Grahams memory. James Cass also said that ” We at CAT are incredibly grateful for this generous gift to CAT that enables us to carry on our work. We are also particularly grateful to Margaret whose steadfast friendship to our organisation has made all this possible”

For further information or to contact the CAT media department

CAT student to cycle 20,000 for £20,000

Chris Pasby enrolled this week to study an Msc in Architecture: Advanced Renewable Energy Studies at CAT’s renowned graduate school. But unlike other students at CAT, many who come on the train, Chris who lives in the French Alps cycled here to raise money for CAT. After leaving his home in the French Alps on Tuesday 2nd of September he cycled an astonishing 1,300 km in just 8 days- arriving at 2pm on Thursday 10th of September.
Chris has pledged that every journey he makes between his home in the French alp and CAT will be made overland and that this journey was just the beginning.

“ Every journey will be to raise awareness and money about this important organization, maybe next time I’ll swim the channel and run from Portsmouth”

Chris says that he cycles to raise awareness about the environment, and promote cycling as a healthy alternative form of transport.

“I hope to raise 20,000 for CAT in 20,000 miles, but first of all I have a week of learning ahead!”

For further information about Chrises adventures please contact

Watch your Waste

On Sunday, CAT was delighted to be host to a Co Operative supermarkets member’s event.The straw bale theatre was transformed into a celebrity chef style kitchen as chef Mark Earnden  took to the stage! The Co-operative is conducting a series of Watch your Waste cookery demonstrations to raise awareness of issues surrounding food waste and to support WRAP with their Love Food Hate Waste campaign. The informative talk and demonstration was led by community chef, Mark Earnden. Mark provided the audience with fast and easy tips on how best to use left over’s and demonstrate healthy, easy recipes.

We say yum yum!

Sustainable Land Use Seminar

Over 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds met yesterday at CAT to discuss and debate sustainable land use in a Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) scenario. The seminar asked key questions that society must address if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change. Peter Harper speaking for CAT said,     “ ZCB is a plan for a rapid decarbonisation scenario, at 5% reduction in emission per year”

Peter also said that there is currently is a “huge gap between what is physically needed and what might be politically realistic”

The seminar called for a re ranking in the priorities of land use away from highly emitting practices and towards looking for economic incentives for low emission practices to be deployed across the agricultural sector. The seminar asked some hugely topical questions and agreed that whilst there was no absolute answer yet we must deal with the realities of climate change. The next seminar on ZCB will be from the 2nd- 4th of October Power and Place: good energy practice in the transition from fossil fuel dependency

Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine

“The task of the truly concerned citizen is not simply to navigate through various consumer choices remaining as ethically pure as possible. Our task must be to fully engage in whatever way we can to bring about positive change”

Last month Ethical Consumer magazine asked us to write a piece about technological versus community or political solutions to climate change. You can subscribe to Ethical Consumer here. The full article is below:

Technology obviously plays a vital role in tackling climate change. Smart meters of various kinds and smart appliances are clearly a crucial part of the jigsaw that allows us to monitor and reduce our carbon emissions. But we must be careful not forget the rest of the jigsaw. Looking at the impact of the rest of your lifestyle is still vital. Engaging in the climate change debate, communicating the issues and using your voice a citizen to bring about wider change are all crucially important at the moment.

Continue reading “Consumption versus Community: article for Ethical Consumer magazine”