Carbon-Free Blogging: Saving Wales

IT contributing writer Andrew Evans sends along a carbon footprint-free blog post after spending this afternoon at the Centre for Alternative Technology in northern Wales.

I’m writing this from a recycled wooden desk in northern Wales. What’s more, I’m writing it on a computer that’s powered by a windmill and uploading these pictures using electricity generated by solar power–that makes this a 100% renewable, carbon-free blog post.  

Traveling across northern Wales has landed me at C.A.T., the Centre for Alternative Technology. Located in the shale foothills of Snowdonia National Park, the eco-village and education center functions as a model of sustainable living with a special focus on renewable energy resources. What’s their main goal? To show visitors the problems caused by climate change and then teach real-life solutions through education and suggestion.

In the few hours I’ve been here I’ve learned loads about renewable energy–wind, solar, wave, and more. I’ve also had a lot of fun. This is a great place to bring young children. Instead of pushing buttons to hear a voice recording, children must generate the energy to power the audio themselves (a counterclockwise spin gives it to you in Welsh). A gigantic pinball machine teaches best practices in reducing waste, and a wind-powered playground ride lifts you right off the ground. There are dozens of ingenious displays about alternative energy, including different solar water heaters attached to faucets to let you test their effectiveness. The coolest thing is how you get up the hillside–riding a funicular railway powered entirely by a free-flowing water counterweight.

My favorite thing is that nothing here is hypothetical. The people at C.A.T. all practice what they preach. For example, every building is made with sustainable materials (the gift shop is made of “rammed earth” and insulated with sheep wool), everything is powered by renewable energy (a combination of micro-hydro, wind, and solar), and the restaurant serves salads grown in their own extensive certified-organic garden (where visitors can volunteer).  

The center welcomes a growing number of visitors who come for a day of fun and education or several weeks of technical learning. C.A.T. already offers professional courses on everything from sustainable construction to “greening” your house. Welsh schoolchildren also come for week-long field trips where they stay in a pair of off-the-grid eco-cabins. A class of fifteen students is allotted a limited supply of energy and water for the week and together they have to make the best decisions on how to use it.   

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What’s their first word of advice for American visitors? “Don’t come, or at least don’t fly,” says Adam Thorogood, who works at the center.  “We encourage slow travel,” he explains, but adds that if you’re already planning a visit to the UK, you should definitely stop by. I second the motion and will now sign off and go back to making carbon footprints.

Photos: Above, Boys riding the water-powered funicular up the hillside; Below, Girl generating her own electricity. By Andrew Evans

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