After waking in the wee hours of the morning, we piled into the bus with our ever-cheerful driver, Keith, and made our way north from Cardiff to the Centre for Alternative Technology. The drive itself took about three hours on the same winding roads we loved so much on the way to Brecon Beacons National Park, but luckily most of us slept on our way north.
To our disappointment, upon arrival at CAT we discovered that the hydro-powered tram usually used to carry tourists up the hillside to the community does not run in winter. We reluctantly trudged up 58 steep steps built into the side of the hill, but were pleasantly surprised to be met with the breathtaking array of eco-friendly projects spanning the site. There were solar panels, a community garden, a multi-purpose auditorium with sustainable cob walls, green roofing, rain-water trapping technology, and a sustainably planned café offering local vegetarian fare.
We were split into two groups—one to sit in on a workshop about the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, and one to learn more about the exciting strategies of Zero Carbon Britain. Our group, Ecotourism and Conservation, considered the Biosphere Reserve. We were challenged to put a puzzle map of an aerial view of the Biosphere together on the floor. As Hollins women, we rose to the challenge and were able to complete this project successfully, even without being too familiar with the area. Our host, Julie, complimented us on our geography skills, which we attribute to the enthusiasm of Professor Bohland!
Julie then gave us an overview of the Biosphere and gave us each ten minutes to tackle a tough topic that challenges the area. We role-played as managers for the Biosphere, each developing strategies we would implement if were in charge of organizing the site. This covered areas like food, ecotourism, building, and renewable energy.
As a general rule, we found that most of us suggested either incentives for positive eco-friendly behavior within the Biosphere, or financial penalties for non-renewable choices. Some examples include: a tax on products that must be transported from a distance outside of the Biosphere, a charge for the amount of trash the city must collect from each individual, a financial incentive for builders to share sustainable technologies with each other and the public, incentives for recycling, and government funding for public access to compost and recycling bins.
We finished the session with a short introduction the Zero Carbon Britain from Julie, which certainly made us want to give the US Government a swift kick in the pants to draft more legislature to combat climate change.
Our experience at the Centre for Alternative technology was spectacular. Many of us have left with dreams of returning in the future for internships or other long-term projects. We are also looking forward to trying to find ways to implement some of the technologies we have learned about (like micro-hydropower or a green roof), both at CAT and at Brecon Beacons, on our home turf of Hollins University. Sounds like drafting a proposal for next year’s green fee allocation may be in our future!
Tomorrow we return to London, and then our journey home will begin. See you stateside!