Centre for Alternative Technology

Education for environmental change

5.0 rating
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Pantperthog, Wales, SY20 9AZ 01654705950
  • Winner

    Sustainable Innovation Award 2020

CAT’s mission is to inspire, inform and enable people to take practical action for sustainability in their homes, workplaces and communities. We are a visitor's centre, with interactive displays and vegan/ vegetarian cafe, and an education centre running short courses and a graduate degree programme.

Our products/services

Education for a sustainable society, in person and online, for all ages: nine sustainable postgraduate courses, short courses, school and university visits, toddler groups and online learning. Zero Carbon Britain research and training programme. Visitors' centre with sustainable buildings, organic gardens, woodlands, vegetarian café and accommodation and venue hire options.

Story and ethos

For more than 45 years CAT has inspired, informed and enabled people to achieve practical solutions for sustainability. Founded in 1973 on a disused slate quarry in Mid Wales, CAT has evolved from a community to a visitor centre to an educational charity specialising in sharing practical solutions for sustainability. CAT was started by a group of committed volunteers, including engineers, architects, builders and growers, who wanted to find ways of living without relying on fossil fuels. It began life as an off-grid community that acted as a test-bed for experimenting with alternative types of technology in response to the 1970s oil crisis and a growing concern about the environmental impact of fossil fuels. “What was needed was a project to show the nature of the problem and indicate ways of going forward.” CAT founder, Gerard Morgan-Grenville. Early experiments with wind and solar contributed to the development of the commercial systems that are now pivotal in the fight against climate change. As word spread about this pioneering organisation, more and more people wanted to see it for themselves. The CAT visitor centre opened in 1975 as a way of sharing the vision and ideas with a much wider range of people, showcasing the technologies and choices that can help us build a more sustainable society.

CAT has a long history of research and innovation: from early experiments with wind power that helped with the development of modern wind turbines, to the creation of prototypes of solar-powered vaccine fridges that are now saving lives across the world. We have experimented with new ways of producing compost and treating waste, innovative low-carbon building materials and methods, various types of renewable heat (some more successful than others!), and much more. Since 2007, our main research focus has been our Zero Carbon Britain project, which provides a model for how the UK could reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions using technology available today.

To create the gardens, soil had to be built up by making compost, trees and shrubs were planted to create diverse wildlife habitats, existing buildings were completely refurbished, and a range of new buildings have been added across the decades, including most recently the award-winning WISE education and conference centre, which opened its doors in 2010. At first, all heat and electricity had to be produced on-site as CAT was entirely off-grid. As the centre expanded, it made more sense to connect to the grid via a green electricity tariff, although we still generate some of our own electricity via solar and hydro (the site isn’t great for wind power). We also generate our own heat and hot water through solar thermal panels and efficient biomass boilers.

As the urgency of climate change became increasingly obvious, CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment opened in 2007 to provide the essential knowledge and skills to help people understand and develop solutions to this and other environmental challenges. To date, 1,795 people have studied with us, going on to use the information and understanding gained at CAT to make a real difference in the world. You can read some of their stories in our ‘What we do’ section. We speak to government and campaigners about policies that would help create a zero carbon Britain; we train students in all aspects of sustainability; we help schoolchildren to understand the importance of action on climate change; and we give advice to householders on what they can do in their own homes. Will you help create change? “The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future.” Debra Roberts, IPCC We need people like you who care about the world and all those who share it to help make change happen. Will you join us today and become part of the change?

Reviews

learning online

5.0 rating
8 April 2021

I attended the online Zero Carbon Britain, it was clear, informative and has totally changed my view of what we need to do in the next few years. A Must Do course for everyone that cares about the future.

Sam S

Go!

5.0 rating
5 November 2020

We attended the Zero Carbon Britain weekend workshop before lockdown. It was an incredible experience and we learnt so much, it’s not just a beautiful place to visit but you feel you could start there for months soaking up the information. Great food too. We’ll go back as soon as we can.

Nick

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