Updated: 10 April 2015
Lisa Rayner is the author of The Sunny Side of Cooking solar cookbook. Her other three books (see below) also include solar cooking chapters or sections.
What if there was a year-round method of cooking that was low cost, powered by sunlight, non-polluting, and easy to do even in college dorms, apartment balconies and off-the-grid locations? There is: solar cooking.
Read about Lisa's ongoing solar cooking adventures on her Tumblr blog, along with other posts on sustainable food and textiles.
Who is Lisa Rayner?
Lisa Rayner has been a solar cook since 1996. She started her solar cooking adventures with a used cardboard CooKit panel cooker from Solar Cookers International bought for $10 and later purchased the Global Sun Oven she currently cooks with on her south-facing townhome balcony. In 2007, she published The Sunny Side of Cooking: Solar cooking and other ecologically friendly cooking methods for the 21st century. In March 2009 Lisa published her newest book, "Wild Bread: Hand-baked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen." Wild Bread includes baking directions for conventional ovens, solar cookers and earth ovens.
"My goal is to 'normalize' solar cooking as an everyday practice, not something for which you need a special cookbook," says Lisa. All of my future cookbooks will include solar cooking directions.
Lisa Rayner is a writer and teacher of sustainable cooking and permaculture workshops in northern Arizona. She is currently working on several cookbooks with bioregional, vegan and renewable energy themes. In Flagstaff, Lisa is known as a progressive political activist who rides her bicycle everywhere and writes frequent letters to the editor for the local daily newspaper. Lisa gardens on two small balconies and is the coordinator for Juniper Street Community Garden.
Lisa has lived in Flagstaff, Arizona since 1987. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Interpretation from Northern Arizona University. She is a graduate of the 1993 Black Mesa Permaculture Project's Design Certification Course and 1994 Coconino County Master Gardener Program.
The daughter of a chemist and a biologist, Lisa Rayner has long had an interest in the natural world. As a young girl she was an avid sea shell collector. The evidence can be found in every room of her house. She spent much of her time exploring the forest around her Delaware home. A child of politically liberal parents, Rayner learned as a child about the world of activism.
"My mom was very active in the League of Women Voters, and I got taken around to dozens of meetings in the 1970s," Rayner said. "They were dealing with women's issues and urban sprawl."
Lisa hated cooking growing up. Then, in 1985 she became vegetarian, and soon after, vegan. She spent the next year-and-a-half teaching herself to cook and in the process discovered she enjoyed it. Lisa's reasons for being vegan include animal welfare and factory farms, world hunger and environmental sustainability. In 1993 she was teaching a vegetarian cooking class when she realized that she wanted to learn about which foods grew in her cool, dry mountain home. She began to learn all she could about growing and cooking bioregionally-appropriate foods.
In 1996 Lisa obtained a word processor while dumpster-diving and wrote the first edition of Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains: A Permaculture Approach to Gardening Above 6,500 Feet in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado and Southern Utah. Also in 1996, Lisa got to know her future husband Dan Frazier at monthly vegetarian EarthSave potlucks. From 2000 to 2002, Lisa and Dan published a small progressive newspaper that advocated for the protection of northern Arizona's environmental riches and the preservation of Flagstaff's small-town charm. During this time, Lisa also ran a community currency program called Flagstaff Neighborly Notes.
In 2008, the Martin-Springer Institute at northern Arizona University gave Rayner its Moral Courage Award in the community category. The award was given for her political activism on behalf of women, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people, ethnic and religious minorities, energy issues, world peace, and endangered ecosystems. Started five years ago, the Moral Courage Awards reflect the institute's mission of applying the lessons of the Holocaust to teach about moral courage, altruism and tolerance.
For Rayner, 48, social, political and environmental issues are all linked.
"I have a vision of a world where we have ecological sustainability," she said. "I feel if we don't do anything, we're going to have a societal collapse in 50 years. You need to focus on the social issues, too. I wouldn't want a world that was ecologically good, without social justice. What's the point of trying to create a better world, if you're not going to make it better for all the people in it?"
In October 2008, Lisa won Friends of Flagstaff's Future's Livable Community Award for her efforts to provide a sustainable, high quality of life for Flagstaff residents. In 2009, Lisa was named a Garden's for Humanity 2009 Visionary Awardee.
Books by Lisa Rayner
- Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains: A Permaculture Approach to Home Gardening Above 6,500 Feet in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado and Southern Utah, 4th edition (c) 2013.
- The Natural Canning Resource Book: A guide to home canning with locally-grown, sustainably-produced and fair trade foods, 1st edition (c) 2010 (contains an entire chapter on solar cooking)
- Wild Bread: Hand-baked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen, 1st edition (c) 2009 (contains an entire chapter on solar cooking)
- The Sunny Side of Cooking: Solar cooking and other ecologically friendly cooking methods for the 21st century, 1st edition (c) 2007
Articles in the media
- March 2010: Vegan Activist Lisa Rayner Walks Her Talk - Lorna Sass at Large
- April 2008: Flagstaff activist goes green by biking, baking in solar oven - Arizona Daily Sun newspaper
- Spring 2006: Ecological Collapse, Trauma Theory and Permaculture, by Lisa Rayner - Gatherings, online journal of the International Community for Ecopsychology