Humboldt State University


What is CCAT?

The Campus Center for Appropriate Technology is a live-in demonstration home and educational center for appropriate technology and resource conservation. CCAT is a registered non-profit organization and home for three students who live in the house and direct the program for one-year periods. We are located on the Humboldt State University Campus in Arcata, California. Motivated by an ethic of “education by example,” CCAT offers tours, workshops, and opportunities for hands-on involvement to university students and the general public. Approximately eighteen part-time student employees keep operations going. We are a student-funded, student run organization.

See our Overview section for more information.

What is Appropriate Technology?

Appropriate Technology (AT) describes a way of providing for human needs with the least impact on the Earth’s finite resources. When determining if a technology is appropriate for a specific use, we at CCAT examine a number of issues: is the technology built locally or use local materials? Can it be built, or at least maintained, with a minimum of specialized training? Is its use sustainable over many generations? Does it cause suffering in its manufacturing or use, human or otherwise, disproportionate to its benefits? Can we financially afford it? With answers to these questions, or at least predictions, we try to balance the benefits and harms of a technology to determine if it is appropriate.

Appropriate technology is not a specific item—it’s not solar panels, or a greywater marsh, or anything. It’s a way of evaluating a technology, a way of thinking about the social, economic, and environmental impacts of introducing a technology into our lives, and a technology may be appropriate in some situations and not in others. As E.F. Schumacher said when he coined the phrase, “AT is technology with a human face.”

If you would like a more thorough description of the history of CCAT and four other demonstration sites at universities across the United States, see “Campus Demonstration Sites for Sustainable Systems and Design: Five ‘Creation’ Stories” (PDF), a paper written by graduate student Kathy Jack under the advisement of Dan Ihara of HSU and the Center for Economic and Environmental Development.

What is Sustainability?

In the broadest terms, something that is sustainable meets the everyday needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to satisfy their needs. The earth’s ecosystems and cultures cannot be harmed past the point of maintaining a healthy balance if humanity is to flourish into the future. Sustainability involves being aware of how our actions, and the actions of our community, impact the environment and society as a whole. It involves taking positive steps toward creating a healthy future.

How can I get involved at CCAT?

There are many ways! You can join us at one of our workshops, classes, or events; volunteer with us to help us maintain our projects and build new ones; or even come work for us.

See our Things To Do section for more details.

How did CCAT get started?

CCAT began as an idea in 1978. A group of students worked under the auspices of an existing student program (funded by HSU Associated Students) to find a place to demonstrate appropriate technologies and sustainable living. Things really got off the ground when the group found a home to inhabit. It was an old house owned by the university that was slated for destruction. Through a lot of schmoozing with faculty and administration, the group was able to start renovating the house. The administration soon after allowed three students to live in the house. Although not a program of it’s own, Associated Students (AS) agreed to cover liability, and the house was leased to AS.

See our History section for more information.

How is CCAT funded?

In the beginning, all money to the program was by donation and from small grants. The program got popular fast and it didn’t take long to be recognized as an official Associated Students (AS) program. This status allows CCAT to receive a portion of student fee money, which is paid with tuition each semester. Being student funded has a number of benefits over being funded by an academic department (or solely by grants). 1) A student board decides how student money is spent. 2) Student money does not diminish in tight budget years. 3) Our program is a higher priority to students than it ever could be to an academic department.

Who runs CCAT?

As well as being funded by students, CCAT is run by students. Three student directors administer the program. The directors manage and write the budget, hire and supervise employees, coordinate student projects, maintain relations with the administration, and work to expand the program. The directors live in the house for one year, and work full time in exchange for rent and experience. CCAT has 18 student employees (each working 8 hours/week). These include gardeners, groundskeepers, herbalists, project engineers, maintenance technicians, a tour guide coordinator, an office manager, an outreach coordinator, an info request coordinator, and an events publicist. In addition, plenty of volunteers also help out.

How is CCAT involved in HSU classes?

We have many ties to academic departments. Teachers in a dozen different departments bring their classes on tours of our facility. The environmental science major (appropriate technology concentration) and the Appropriate Technology minor use CCAT as an integral part of the degree program. Students in many classes (in Engineering, Industrial Technology, Environmental Science, and Art) engage in hands-on learning projects at CCAT for course credit. Some examples of these projects include building a straw bale shed, building a pedal powered blender, creating interpretive signs, and making thermal curtains.

How is CCAT involved in the community?

Our facilities are open to the public. We give free tours to school groups and community members and offer nearly 100 workshops each year on topics related to appropriate technology and sustainable living. All in all, CCAT involves well over 4,000 people a year in its programs.

What can you find at CCAT?

We demonstrate a myriad of energy and resource conserving technologies, including solar electricity, solar water heating, passive solar heating, bamboo, straw-bale, and cob construction, rainwater catchment, greywater recycling, organic vegetable and herb gardening, native plant landscaping, large scale vermicomposting, pedal power tools, thermal curtains, and more. Through education by example, we are able to positively influence nearly everyone who comes here.

See our Projects page for more information.

Does CCAT have a newsletter?

Our newsletter, the AT Transfer, is published twice a year (once per semester).

View them online in our Newsletter section.

How do I get to CCAT?

We’re located at the corner of streets 14th & B in Arcata, California, USA.

See the Visit CCAT page for detailed maps and directions.

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