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Embracing Sustainability

A Journey Off the Grid at the Centre of Alternative Technology...

In Machynlleth Wales, lies a beacon of sustainability: the Centre of Alternative Technology (CAT). Recently, our Year 10 Design Technology students embarked on a transformative three-day trip to CAT, immersing themselves in a world where eco-conscious living takes centre stage. What made this excursion particularly unique was the group’s decision to go off-grid, delving into an experience which broadened their minds and left an impression on their understanding of sustainable living.

Setting off from our school, we chose a mode of transportation that aligned with our eco-friendly ethos. Opting for the train, we significantly reduced our carbon footprint, emitting 70% less CO2 compared to a conventional coach journey. This conscientious decision set the tone for the rest of our adventure, as they journeyed toward CAT with a sense of purpose and environmental responsibility.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the serene beauty of the Welsh countryside and the warm hospitality of the CAT staff. We were welcomed with open arms and at once immersed in the ethos of sustainability that surrounds every aspect of the centre. As we settled in, we were warmly welcomed with a captivating talk about the infrastructure and systems used around the area to sustain CAT by a truly knowledgeable and experienced staff who had a lot to share. Among the topics discussed was the innovative use of insulation materials such as denim and cotton—a testament to CAT’s commitment to creative and sustainable solutions.

Throughout our stay, we embraced a lifestyle that was both environmentally conscious and enriching. Water sourced from a nearby lake quenched our thirst, while electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels powered our activities. Mealtimes offered a delicious array of vegetarian dishes -from a mouthwatering pizza, large enough to rival the size of your head to a delicious and decadently sweet sticky toffee pudding- sourced locally and grown on-site to minimize carbon emissions associated with animal agriculture. The very buildings we inhabited were constructed from carbon-negative materials like rammed earth and lime, displaying the possibilities of sustainable construction.

In between scheduled activities, we had many opportunities to explore the vast expanse of CAT’s grounds. Scavenger hunts led us on adventures through lush greenery, while intense games- such as mafia and ‘Kahoots’ with the resident cat (Diego) to keep us company- brought moments of joy and connection. Two of the most memorable experiences involved us creating a brick of rammed earth and creating our mini windmills. We created a brick of rammed earth which included materials such as lime and clay—a tangible symbol of our determination to learn and engage with sustainable practices firsthand. With shovels in hand and a shared sense of purpose, we worked collaboratively to mould the earth into a solid block, examining the life cycle of clay which transforms into bricks, starting from the refinement of coarse sand to the gradual evolution into semi-liquid clay. We then created our windmills, exploring the effects on the number of wings but also the angle and shape of them and how these statistics affect the amount of energy generated. The intense competition resulted in team BAM winning, which consisted of Bahar, Areesha and Mahathi. The second experience helped to build our teamwork but also led to us leaving the building with newfound knowledge.

As the trip drew to a close, we departed CAT with a newfound appreciation for the power of sustainable living. Our time off-grid has not only broadened our understanding of environmental issues but has also inspired us to incorporate eco-friendly practices into our daily lives. Although enduring mishaps during the train journeys back home, armed with knowledge, enthusiasm, and a deeper connection to the natural world, we returned home prepared to implement sustainability practices in our daily lives, extending beyond our NEAs, and ensuring our safe arrival.

In a world where environmental challenges are large, experiences like the trip to CAT are powerful reminders of the positive impact individuals can make when they choose to live to protect the planet. As we reflect on our journey, we carry with us the words of the CAT staff and the lessons learnt from our time off-grid—a testament to the enduring power of sustainable living and the potential for a brighter, greener future for all.

by Mahathi and Areej in Year 10