About CCAT

CCAT is the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, a live-in laboratory for sustainability! Student-funded, student-led and student-staffed, the Humboldt State University Associated Students program serves the HSU student body, the local Arcata community and the international community providing information and hands on experience about appropriate technologies and methods for living lightly on the earth. We embrace our unique pedagogy of experimental learning and community-based knowledge, and offers tours, workshops, and opportunities for hands-on involvement in our demonstration home.

Our Vision

CCAT strives to effectively demonstrate sustainable living through the promotion of environmental and socially responsible behavior and community building. Student driven at its core, CCAT supports student engagement and innovation to create practical Appropriate Technology demonstrations. Contributing to local, national, and international networks, CCAT seeks to be an information resource center on Appropriate Technology and sustainable living, accessible to people across the world. We also seek to critically examine assumptions surrounding technologies and promote a more holistic, systems approach to the thought process behind and the use of technology in society. Through integration into the HSU curriculum, the organization brings the ethos of sustainability directly to students, challenging them to experiment in the living laboratory that is CCAT. Operating as a consensus-based collective, CCAT works to bring a variety of viewpoints and experiences into the organization, creating a comprehensive and diverse view of what it means to be a demonstration site and education center for Appropriate Technology.

Our Mission

CCAT strives to demonstrate that living lightly on the Earth is both practical and rewarding.

  • CCAT seeks to accomplish its mission by:
    • Demonstrating appropriate technology in a residential setting
    • Providing hands-on experiential learning opportunities to Humboldt State University and the surrounding community
    • Collecting and disseminating information about Appropriate Technology
    • Examining the ethical and social consequences of technology

Guiding Principles

  • Students teach students
  • Lighten human impacts on the built and natural environments
  • Efficient utilization of existing resources
  • Experiential hands-on learning opportunities
  • Constantly seek to refine the definition of “sustainability”
  • Deconstruct or challenge social assumptions and preconceived notions regarding technology
  • Be community-centered and facilitate community building
  • Promote progressive and diverse strategies to create positive societal change
  • Cooperation: collaboration, negotiation and compromise, and consensus decision-making
  • Demonstrate inter-disciplinary living and learning

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.

A Brief History

CCAT is a live-in demonstration home and educational center for appropriate technology and resource conservation. 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.

CCAT began in 1978 when a group of students, with the support of faculty and community members, renovated a dilapidated house on the university campus and initiated an experiment that continues today. CCAT works with fifteen HSU classes a year to incorporate new appropriate technologies into this living laboratory in sustainability.

The impressive result of these students’ work: CCAT uses less than five percent of the energy consumed by the average U.S. house, produces almost no waste, and serves as a national model for appropriate technology.

Just as important as what CCAT does, is how it is done. Three students live in the house and direct the program for one-year periods. Eighteen student employees keep operations going. Being directed, staffed, and funded by students makes CCAT a place where young adults become leaders; it nurtures creativity and hones professional and technical skills. CCAT helps to infuse HSU with a practical idealism and a desire to serve the global community.