CAT hosts Bristol Schumacher Conference 2010: Zero Carbon Britain – from Aspiration into Action.

“In the shadow of economic globalisation, an extraordinary variety of creative voices have emerged to challenge and reverse the dominant trends.”

On 16th October 2010 delegates from the European Environment Agency, Good Energy and the Centre for Alternative Technology will lead a day of lectures, workshops and discussion on the most pressing issue of our time – the need for a transition to a zero carbon Britain.

Britain has the potential, skills and natural resources to lead the world in carbon reduction. Join in workshop discussions with Paul Allen (CAT), Eugenie Harvey (10:10), Prof. Peter Reason (University of Bath), Victor Anderson (WWF), Jean Boulton (Sustain), Mark Gater and others.

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Become part of the solution. Put the date in your diary!

Continue reading “CAT hosts Bristol Schumacher Conference 2010: Zero Carbon Britain – from Aspiration into Action.”

Site Community and Open Day

It’s all go in site community this Summer… for the last few weekends the cottage area of site has been opened up for visitors to come by and take a look at what is going on. The community at CAT started in 1975 when a group of people disillusioned by modern day living and concerned by what they saw as a looming environmental crisis moved to the abandoned slate quarry that is now known as CAT.  Over the years, the hard work and enthusiasm of 1000’s of people has meant that the quarry has transformed into a  fertile oasis with abundant flowers, fruits, vegetables and tree’s. Although CAT has expanded and grown there is still a living community here at CAT.  It is  home to 16 people including three children and three cats ( of the feline variety) who live in a variety of different houses, from renovated old slate cottages to eco-buildings, tried and tested at CAT.

Chris, Carlos and Mary tread the clay, whilst Neru wathes on
Chris, Carlos and Mary tread the clay, whilst Neru watches on

The site community residents aim to put into practice the ethos of CAT through sustainable low impact living. All the houses are very well insulated, water is heated through a combination of wood burners and solar water heaters. Wood also provides heating for the houses. The community aims to reduce it’s carbon footprint by sharing resources such as washing machines etc   buying food together and putting into practice sustainable low impact living. As well  environmental sustainability the community is also concerned with sustaining ourselves as a community. All the decisions about the community are made through  consensus decision making process in which all residents are involved. Regular meals together and work days are also important elements of community life.

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The new community kitchen

As well as the weekend tours this summer,  residents of site community are also working on their amazing new kitchen. The building dubbed ‘mini WISE’ as it is in the shadow of the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education is a timber frame, straw bale building with a hemp and lime render on the outside and clay inside. The kitchen is going to provide much needed cooking and eating space for the site community and long and short term volunteers who come and stay at CAT.

Architecture Students find inspiration in WISE at this years professional diploma summer school.

This week the new WISE building at CAT has been buzzing with architecture students, all working on their final projects.  We took the opportunity to go and quiz them about what they are doing and how their course is going.

The WISE was alive with creative energy, paper covering the studio floors, cardboard models and sketchbooks spread out across the tables, the huge windows were filling the airy rooms with light, connecting and framing the woods and mountains around CAT.

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Playing for the planet 2: the power down carnival

by Alex Randall Media Department

This summer children visiting CAT had the chance to explore climate change and renewable energy in a series of play activities and carnivals. The activities allowed children to explore how our reliance on fossil fuels affects the climate and what the alternatives are.

Here are some photos from last weeks ‘Power Down’ carnival in which children made their own transport out of recycled materials, dressed up as people from their vision of a zero carbon future, paraded around site and finished on the lawn with smoothies from the bike powered smoothie maker and music powered by our bike generator.

Turned on! The UK’s First Micro Grid Goes Online

This week, Jase Kuriakose an engineer at CAT turned on the UK’s first totally renewable micro grid. The systems works by combining all the wind, solar, bio mass and hydro energy we produce at CAT and storing it in a battery bank. When it needs more energy it simply connects to the grid through an intelligent electronic control device to take more, when we are producing too much it gives the energy to the national grid.

Jase, the engineer behind the island generation project
Jase, the engineer behind the island generation project

Currently we waste around 65% of energy from power stations by transporting it to our homes, not only that but the electricity sector in the EU is responsible for over 1,2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Something that Jase says is unsustainable.

There is a vital need and enormous opportunity to move towards a more sustainable decentralised system, which protects the climate and provide future generations with secure energy.”

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PHOTOS: construction site tour of the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education

On Friday Phil Horton the project manager of our biggest building project took some of the CAT staff on a tour of the construction site. The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education is the biggest project we’ve ever undertaken. Phil showed us many of the sustainability features of the building including the hemp lime render and rammed earth walls in the lecture theatre.

Here are some of the photos from the tour

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

Learning exercise: Welsh universities have a wealth of natural resources on tap for adventurous students

For schools, colleges and universities in Wales, the centre at Machynlleth in Powys, half an hour’s drive from Aberystwyth, is a resource that runs a free information service, visits for schools and residential courses.

The centre has teamed up with the University of East London which validates specialist diplomas and Masters degrees delivered by academic staff at the centre. It offers an architecture MSc and a Masters in renewable energy and the built environment. Student Owen Morgan, 26, says enrolling on the MSc course helped him land a job with Bright Light Solar, a mid-Wales renewable energy company which provides solar powered vaccine fridges, water pumps and heating systems to rural areas worldwide.

“Everyone is there because they are passionate about sustainability. We inspire each other to push the frontiers of what can be achieved,”

Q&A: Renewable energy: The UK aims to produce 15% of its energy from renewables by 2020. Alok Jha explains the technology behind the target

By 2007, there were 2GW of turbines installed. The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) says 9GW of offshore wind will be in place by 2015, overtaking installed nuclear power. This month, Centrica and RWE npower came close to approving two offshore wind farms costing an estimated £3bn.

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology, wave power could supply 10% of the UK’s energy needs but this technology is at a much earlier stage. Although there are scores of British designs for wave energy converters, none are anywhere near commercial scale.

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Eco homes: how to slash your fuel bills. Funding is available for those wanting to go green.

The Centre for Alternative Technology, a think-tank for energy-saving devices for more than 35 years, says the credit crunch has led to a surge in interest in eco-measures.

“People are beginning to think about investing their money in something that will provide them with affordable, reliable energy, whatever the economic climate,” says spokesman David Hood.

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

Video Round up: the videos that have got us talking this week

by Alex Randall

Three short films have done the rounds and got us talking in the staff room this week. All three have also generated a fair amount of chatter on the Facebook page.

The first two films are very different but powerful demonstrations of the effect climate change will have on less developed countries. The third film is a lecturer by American academic Jared Diamond in which he outlines why some of the greatest societies in human history have collapsed and explores whether we are headed in the same direction.

The videos are embedded below. If you’d like to suggest something for the next video round up please post a comment.

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VIDEO: Is biochar the answer?

by Lewis Winks Biology Department

The charcoal industry has had an interesting history, once being the staple commerce of woodlands in the British Isles, it provided work for many and was a quintessential part of our landscape. Soon after the discovery of coal as a fuel source in the early 1700s charcoal became an unprofitable venture, and the woodsmen who made it became a part of history, lost to the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

So who would have thought, that 250 years after the first use of fossil fuels we would be turning back to charcoal as a means of undoing the damage of those emissions. Poetic it may seem, but to those who are studying the capacity for Biochar to sequester Co2 from the atmosphere, this is an all too real opportunity. And it doesnt stop at mopping up emissions; Biochar has the potential to improve degraded agricultural land and reduce fertiliser dependency while creating rural jobs, providing a use for organic waste and becoming an integrated part of our biomass energy systems. Continue reading “VIDEO: Is biochar the answer?”

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.

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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.

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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

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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.