The Alternative Technology Association (ATA) began its life in 1980 with a group of environmentally conscious enthusiasts who were concerned about fossil fuels and pollution. A meeting was held in a church hall in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton and the ATA was formed.
The interests of the founding members varied but the main aim was to lessen the human impact on our planet by action, not just talk. Environmentally friendly, grassroots technology was the focus. The early can-do, practical approach has been at the heart of the ATA ever since.
It was recognised quickly that the good news of alternative technology needed to be spread not just to those who lived in Melbourne, but to regional and rural areas and across Australia. The first issue of the magazine Soft Technology was published in June 1980 and cost the princely sum of 85 cents.
ATA members were early adopters of new technology like solar power and solar hot water, and shared their knowledge and experiences with the broader community. One early success in the 1980s was the building of the Solar Workshop, a demonstration passive solar house with its own wind generator. Built at the CERES environment park in Melbourne, it was the site for regular courses in wind power, solar hot water, low-voltage appliances, home welding, alternative building techniques and off-grid living.
Inspired by the Solar Workshop, members took alternative technology displays to schools and community events. This led to the creation of the 10-tonne, 12-metre-long Energymobile. The interior of this semi-trailer vehicle had an array of equipment, displays and information. Photovoltaic panels and wind generators on the roof provided the power for the interactive displays. The Energymobile attracted great interest wherever it went.
In the 1990s the ATA grew as it embraced the alternative technologies and environmentally friendly practices of its members. Magazine readership increased as Soft Technology was renamed ReNew. ATA members started branches in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Later, more branches appeared in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Perth, rural Queensland and even Auckland (NZ). By the mid-1990s, the ATA had its first regular paid staff in an office in Ross House in Melbourne’s CBD.
In 2006, the ATA launched its second magazine, Sanctuary: modern green homes to support the growing movement of green building, design and renovating.
The ATA has continued to build on the knowledge and experience of its members, who are consistently the early adopters of sustainable technologies. Household solar power, once considered a novelty but enthusiastically embraced and passionately advocated by the ATA, is now mainstream with solar panels on more than 1 million Australian homes.
Whether advocating to governments for support for household energy efficiency, holding innovative public events like Sustainable House Day and Speed Date a Sustainability Expert, publishing informative magazines on new technologies or running stalls at events across the country, the ATA is Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisation promoting sustainable living.