About the Author
I’ve been a sun worshipper since I was a kid, spending every possible minute outdoors (though now mostly with sunscreen or a hat). Energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energies were my first professional passion. I studied mechanical engineering at University of Wisconsin so I could re-invent the steam-powered automobile to run on renewable energy. Just throw a few chunks of wood in the furnace (located in the trunk) and off you go! This morphed into studying hybrid energy storage vehicles. Energy storage vehicles recover braking energy and use it to start up the vehicle again, just like winding up a spring when you press the brake and releasing it to make you go again. I got my first patent on a “continuously variable automatic transmission” after graduating from school. Too far ahead of my time, though. The first such auto transmission wasn’t built till 20 years later, after my patent expired!
Instead of becoming a hybrid automobile tycoon, I became involved with residential and commercial energy use and began looking at alternative energies such as ethanol, solar, wind and biomass. I worked on high-efficiency heating systems and designed and built several passive solar systems. Interest in solar energy led to the idea of a solar heated sauna. Collaborating with my architect step-father, we developed a portable version that was marketed as the “Endless Summer Solar Sauna.” It worked incredibly well and was novel enough to have appeared in magazines like Playboy, Popular Science (see June 1982 photo below), and Cosmopolitan . You could sunbathe and tan in it at temperatures below freezing, and it even worked on the snow. In spite of our great design work, it was only a fleeting commercial success. Perhaps it was the experience of being inside a solar sauna that made me certain that a solar food dryer could be simple, effective and fun!
After working in the energy field for 15 years, there was literally no work to be found in the conservation, efficiency or renewable energy fields (thanks, Ronald Regan!). So I pursued other interests, namely sustainability. I completed graduate work at the University of Oregon in environmental studies and urban planning, where I became interested in land use – particularly our preoccupation with paving it. I started working in the land use and growth management field, mostly for non-profits and community groups trying to stop or scale back harmful developments. This experience led to my first book, Better Not Bigger: How to Take Control of Urban Growth and Improve Your Community, which has become the official slow growth handbook of land use activist. Related research, writing, speaking and consulting work have kept me busy since.
I love organic gardening – both vegetables and fruits, as well as landscaping with native plants. My wife and I eat mostly organic produce that we either grow or buy from local farmers. Food dehydrating was an obvious way to preserve more of the high-quality, locally-grown foods we thrive on. We generally like to know what’s in the foods we eat and stick with simple foods made with naturally-occurring ingredients, avoiding overly processed foods with long lists of additives and synthetic mystery ingredients. Favorite activities include tennis, hiking, biking, backpacking, and nature photography.