CAT Short Courses Christmas Offer

Treat your loved ones to an inspirational Short Course this Christmas!

As well as fantastic discounts in our on-site shop, CAT is offering a 10% discount on all short courses booked between now and the 31st December at midnight. Courses at CAT cover a wide range of topics, from eco-building, ecology and sanitation to woodland and green craft courses- there is something for everybody and at all levels. Contacts us now to take advantage of this special offer 01654 704 952/

Building clay ovens

New day courses for 2012 include

–      Introduction to Compost Toilets

–      Rustic Chair Making

–      Forged Tool Making

–      Greenwood Crafts

–      Introduction to Organic Gardening

–      Introduction to Horse Logging

–      Hedgerow Herbalism


This offer applies to our longer courses too, please take a look at our course calendar online, or email us your address and we’ll send you a brochure. This offer is valid until midnight on the 31st December and can be redeemed on all courses in 2012. To book contact 01654 704 952/



Is small still beautiful? We look at the legacy of E.F. Schumacher 100 years after his birth

It’s over thirty five years since a group of young idealists adopted a derelict slate quarry  to create the Centre for Alternative Technology. They were inspired by the notion of building a living community to test sustainable technologies. At that time “being green” was less defined, and a lot less tested. Society had just emerged from the swinging sixties, and few people were watching the problems, let alone looking for the solutions. This original community set out to develop and prove, by a positive living example, new technologies which would provide practical solutions to the problems that are now worrying both the world’s ecologists and energy analysts.

Much of their vision was drawn from the life and vision of E.F. Schumacher; author of Small is Beautiful and A Guide for the Perplexed and pioneer of green economics. Today CAT remains an active member of the Schumacher Circle – a collective family of organisations in the UK that have all been inspired, one way or another, by Schumacher’s vision or involvement and who cooperate informally to support each other’s work. Schumacher was always encouraging people to see the connections between things, so the Schumacher Circle is a practical expression of this approach. It helps to provide the “joined up thinking” which gives the environmental movement its coherence and helps the individual organisations get a wider perspective on their work. The Schumacher Circle members are the Schumacher SocietySoil AssociationPractical ActionGreen Books and the New Economics Foundation.

2011 is a celebration, marking the centenary of Schumacher’s birth so this year’s annual conference will be special. The annual Schumacher Lectures have been held in Bristol since 1978, and last year featured CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain work . Not only will they be presenting a selection of speakers, the event will be capped with a world music concert, with an incredible line-up from Africa, India and the UK.

CAT is pleased to be contributing to this important celebration. On the Saturday in Colston Hall as one of a range of presentations from the range of Schumacher Circle organisations, I will be presenting an overview of the origins of CAT, some of the experiments we have tried out and what we have learned over the past 35 years plus some indications of where CAT is heading next.

On the Sunday, CAT’s Head of Innovation Peter Harper is part of a team presenting a workshop “How can householders join the energy revolution?”. Renewable energy is developing fast at all scales. The workshop will explore the prospects for householders to generate their own energy, or become involved in large-scale developments.

We are pleased to contribute to such an important event which celebrates the wisdom and insight of E.F. Schumacher, so it may to inspire a new generation who are seeking relevant and practical solutions to heal a world in crisis and build a sane, humane and ecological society – we hope to see you there.

Tick Tick Tick….

The number of secondary passes is now so low, that I am on my way home. By train it’s 24 hours, but that includes a reasonable nights sleep on the Copenhagen to Cologne night train. Over the 10 days the CAT team have been here, we have distributed two thousand leaflets inviting delegates to download the Zero Carbon Britain ‘Copenhagen Special’ report, we have given four TV interviews, two radio interviews, I presented at two side events, and personally offered a copy of the report, or an invitation to download it to every single country delegation.

Together with members of the International Forum for Sustainable Energy, CAT has continually staffed two information stalls, one in the Bella Centre, the main negotiating hall and one in the ‘Klimaforum’ event for civil society. We have literally talked to hundreds of people, making the point clearly and repeatedly that the barriers to agreement at COP15 do not arise from the technology; we know we have the means to change – our limits are social and political. I believe we made an impact. But as well as presenting what we have learned, we have re-vitalised links with old friends, made many new contacts, and explored grounds for future collaborations with others organisations doing similar work.

I must admit I leave with some feeling of apprehension, particularly with the resignation of Connie Hedegaard as president of the summit. If we don’t shape up and pull something solid out of this, its hard to see where the process can go next to deliver what is needed fast enough. We are beyond the limits to growth, it is now a simple race against time. The first ticking clock is the expiry of the hard-won Kyoto protocol, which took a lot of effort to reach, and still offers a viable platform for moving forward. The second ticking clock is the on-going breakdown of the earth’s climate systems, as peak oil now drives us in desperation to dirtier and dirtier fuels. I saw Al Gore personally presenting his most recent work on ice melt, and it is very sobering stuff.

But the third ticking clock is the thinning patience of the majority world. COP15 had a very different mood to its predecessor in Poland. Although majority world delegates and observers were courteous, respectful of the process, I felt there was a rising fear, anger and exasperation in their voices, as they told first hand experiences of losing land, livelihoods and even their families to the ever advancing effects of climate chaos.

But I also leave with a deep and renewed sense of connection. I have met hundreds of inspiring people from projects all across the globe; individuals, communities and organisations that have not waited for their leaders to catch up with the science. There are literally millions upon millions of people from every walk of life, from every continent on earth, working for change. There is an emerging ‘ecosystem’ of activity; some documenting the problems, others monitoring and conveying the effects, yet more working on solutions, each focussed on filling their own particular niche, but aware of being part of a larger whole. I was extremely proud how many people I met had heard of CAT, and had taken inspiration from us at some point in their path. I was even more surprised how many ex-staff, volunteers and students I ran into along the way.

So whatever happens over the final three days, it’s defiantly ‘gloves off’ now and into action for the final chapter. We have the technologies; we even have (at long last) a feed in tariff. We recently have achieved access to media and campaigning tools undreamt of when I began as a peace and anti-nuclear activist in the late 1970s. There are more of us than there have ever been before, and it’s never been easier for us to find each other.

The science says we must, the technology says we can, now lets go do it!

‘Real deal’ or ‘No deal’

The pace is now accelerating at COP15, as proceedings resume after a week-end which saw 100,000 people make a peaceful protest march to the negotiating hall, and 960 detained in a ‘pre-emptive arrest’ in advance of climate protests in the city centre. The week-end respite also saw the climax of the industry ‘Bright Green’ forum with Speakers ranging from US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Whilst both speeches were eloquent and well received, they were both very much ‘as expected’ with neither pitching for the quantum leap which is clearly going to be required to deliver a real deal at Copenhagen.

As delegates returned to the ‘Bella Center’ in their droves today, now joined by ministers and heads of state/government; three broad camps have emerged. Those who want to improve upon Kyoto to ensure we keep below 2 degrees, those who want to extend it, and those who want to water it down so they can re-invent something new offering a softer ride for the long industrialized nations.

This morning CAT officially press-launched the provisional findings from the next phase of our Zero Carbon Britain research, with an invite to download it delivered to the delegats from every country attending. I was also offered an interview from the official on-line COP15 climate change TV to explain how we see the role of solutions scenarios helping forward the negotiations. You can view my interview at:

CAT’s aims for being here are three-fold. Firstly we want to show delegates from long industrialized countries that a great many solutions to climate security can also deliver energy security and long-term economic recovery. Through this path, we re-vitalize our economies, whilst also reducing emissions sufficiently to meet our historic obligations, so helping enable a global agreement. The employment and economic benefits stem from building the infrastructure, cultivate the skills and develop the enterprises that will be in increasing international demand over the next few decades.

Secondly we hope Zero Carbon Britain will encourage majority world delegates to continue to press for their rights to sustainable development, through showing the barriers to rapid western de-carbonisation are not technical or economic, but are social and political.

Finally, we want to learn. COP15 is a unique watering hole attracting radical thinkers from across the globe. CAT wants to learn from the vision of other, share notes, compare methodologies, swap knowledge & experience and build on-going networks with others working in the same sphere.

As the tension mounts during the coming week, and the political pressure for a deal rises, individuals, communities, climate groups, media and governments across the globe must all raise their voice in unison to make sure it is the ‘real deal’, grounded in what the science, rather than the politics demands.
Paul Allen, 4pm Monday 14th December

Why green manure is important and how to use it in your garden

by Katie Croft Gardens Department

As the sun’s finally shining and our seedlings are ready for planting out, now’s the time for turning in the green manures on site. In these pictures you can see me turning in the field beans in our green manure display, where we demonstrate a few different kinds and what they’re used for.


Green manures are a key part of organic gardening, and they serve a number of different purposes. They improve soil structure, prevent soil erosion, can inhibit weed growth and most importantly, increase the soil’s fertility. The main idea is that you grow a certain green manure crop on your land, and when it’s still young (about 6 weeks is perfect), you ‘turn’ it in, or dig it in. The plant then slowly releases its nutrients as it decays and increases the amount of organic matter in the soil. Green manure crops are hardy and can be grown over winter and spring, so you don’t need to leave the ground bare.



Field beans, like all of the bean family, is a nitrogen-fixing plant. It has little nodules on its roots where nitrogen-fixing bacteria live in a fascinating mutual relationship- the bacteria transform nutrients from the air into a form usable for the plant, and the plant feeds the bacteria with sugars from its roots.

There loads of great green manure crops that can be grown at different times of year and well in different climates, or even as a ground cover underneath other crops to increase fertility year round so do a bit of research and plan some into your sowing calendar


You might be interested in our organic gardening courses, our free information and books on garening or visiting the gardens here at CAT. You might also want to download a detailed guide to using green manures produced by Garden Organic or have a look at the BBC’s guide to green manures.