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Author: Austin Miller


Welcome to The Fuel-Free Frontier: Austin Rinebolt-Miller ’17 at GoSun Stove in Cincinnati, Ohio

Feb 09, 2016

The only smell in the air was that of bird crap. With outstretched wings and an enviable confidence, pelicans and ibises soared overhead, letting the warm breeze cushion their wings as they swooped towards a small island with moss and stags. I left the other intern behind me as I paddled towards the same island as the birds. I had to work against the waves and wind, which were meeting me head on. Ahead of me, atop a No Wake sign, an Osprey looked in my direction, disinterested. Behind it was the island, our destination, which the sea birds have been relegated to since the aspiration of progress so many years ago brought development of condominums to the land they’d known for millenia. I doubt they were ever compensated for the real estate robbed of them. I marveled at how peacefully the bird species coexisted and yearned for the same amongst our primate relatives. As I looked back towards the docks at all the high rise condos, I thought maybe the chimps are better off not knowing this unsustainable life. I had only ever kayaked in Ohio, so the taste of salt as waves splashed into my face caught me off guard. I’d tasted salt thousands of times, but never like that. I imagined it was how Prometheus felt when he first tasted wood smoke.

Working for a solar oven company has got me thinking about climate change much more than I normally would. While Professor Kim Landsbergen’s Environmental Science class was a good primer, the real learning comes from being able to recognize on a day to day basis how our actions are contributing to the change. Too many people are afraid to change, and it is that fear of change that has brought on The Inevitable Change. As I circled around the bird island back towards the condos, I imagined the scene 50 years from now: I saw the green groomed lawns, perfectly placed palms, and cookie cutter condos submerged underwater and the birds once again with a solitary home.

Welcome to the Fuel-Free Frontier.
Patrick Sherwin woke me up from a nap one afternoon near the end of Fall Quarter of 2014. At first I paid no mind to the unknown number but called it back when I realized it was from Cincinnati. Patrick introduced himself. “Hi, this is Patrick from GoSun Stove,” a phrase I learned to love, hearing it nearly a 100 times since I started the job. He seemed impressed with my cover letter and work experience and our conversation diverted into a lofty criticism of top down corporate hierarchies. I knew I had the job… but it’s not hard to get an Ohio co-op when all of your classmates are looking out of state. He told me he’d call me a week from the day he called me, to let me know if I got the job. I waited and waited and waited, until I finally got the call. Alas I got the job and for the first time, was going to experience what life in a city was like. Moving to Antioch ushered in my first experience living within the boundaries of a town. I thought Yellow Springs was big. Now I was going to be living in the biggest metropolitan area in Ohio.

Welcome to Porkopolis
My family hasn’t been in Cincinnati since the 1820s. We left the city long ago for the sweet agricultural plains of Northwest Ohio so the knowledge of urbanity hasn’t been in our veins for awhile. Therefore I had no schema for what living within the confines of a city would be like.
My only knowledge of GoSun Stove was what I could glean from the website. People would ask me what I was doing and my answer was simple: “working for a solar oven company.” That answer at first illustrated my lack of understanding of the job, now it is a proud declaration of my involvement in subverting the dominant paradigm.
The first day, I met the other intern Wes on the porch of what was soon to be our palace for the next few months. My boss Patrick showed up shortly after I did, and he gave us our first tour of the house. It was a nice three story house painted gray with a porch swing. It had an unimposing for sale sign in the front yard. The house to the right of it was identical. I moved into the attic.
My attic room was small, a little den at the top of the stairs where all is quiet despite what’s going on downstairs. I borrowed a futon from a current student’s parents in Cincinnati and the other intern gave me a bookshelf. I hung up posters of Antioch and surrounded myself with my things to make it like home.
There was no heat to the attic, and I soon found myself freezing. I reached out to alumni and the Bickett family left me a few blankets on their porch to stay warm. An alumni, Jill, from ’93, gave me a blanket she knitted herself. Although I was far from home, from day one I had a system of support.
I had originally reached out to alumni on the facebook page to find friends in this city in which I found myself alone. Angie and Tom Hester graduated in 1995, a month before I was born. They have two lovely children and a nice home in the town of Wyoming, twenty minutes from my attic bedroom. I soon became friends with them, rekindling their interest in Antioch and assuring them that it was still a place where noncomformative and radically fun people can find a home. We are now best friends, and Angie and I eat lunch together frequently. We talk about Antioch a lot, and there seem to be more similarities between their Antioch of twenty years ago and that of today.
They credit their co-op experiences with having the most formative impact on their lives. They found themselves in cities all alone, and they too found alumni who were willing to help. I am grateful to be a part of a giant community of Antiochians who are always there for current students as they too had the same co-op struggles.

First Month: Blue Ridge Chairs
My first month at GoSun Stove was eventful but boring. I elected to do data entry for my company’s database. I entered names and emails from business cards for nearly the entire month. My best friend became a canvas chair from Blue Ridge Chairworks, the owner of which I was to meet later in my co-op in North Carolina. January taught me a lot about the world of office work. I found myself struggling with staring at a computer screen all day and feeling fulfilled from the work.
I saw my first returns from all my hard work entering data when I learned how to use MailChimp. MailChimp is an online tool for organizing mailing lists and sending out mass newsletters. When all was said and done, I had entered nearly 2000 new contacts into our system. Now more people could be up to date with our company and our endeavors. I learned that seemingly meaningless computer work could add insurmountable value to my work at the company… On my internship outline I told my boss I wasn’t afraid of grunt work.
I also learned how to package and ship solar ovens to all of our buying customers. I worked closely with the head of fulfillment, Ben, and together we sent out more than 300 boxes. It was eye opening to be on that end of the process, as we often take for granted our bought products being nicely packaged and sent without damage. It is fulfilling to know that I have had a hand in spreading the joy of solar cooking.

Second Month: Cold February
February was cold… Too cold.

Third Month: March/Antioch Adventure
I had never been out of Ohio for more than seven days prior to my vacation/business trip with the GoSun team. I had never seen the ocean, the Gulf, or a mountain. I had the most amazing time of my life, and I saw creatures and species I had never seen before. I saw an alligator, pelicans, ibises, ducks, and more.
I saw condo life for the first time, and relished in the idea of all of their lovely condominiums being flooded due to climate change. I saw a glimpse into lives that are so far removed from my own, that it was a culture shock to consider them. I’d talk more about our trip, but as most of it was proprietary prototype shooting for our kickstarter campaign, I’ve got to keep the details hush hush until our kickstarter drops. I had a life changing adventure and it was all thanks to GoSun. Because of GoSun, i’ve experienced things I’ve never experienced before, and I feel like a new person because of it.