Home Sweet Dumpster — Next in Micro Living

Dr. Jeff Wilson, aka Professor Dumpster, with his dumpster. Photo by Jeff Wilson.

Dr. Jeff Wilson, aka Professor Dumpster, with his dumpster. Photo by Jeff Wilson.

In the realm of sustainable living, there are “greened” houses; there are highly efficient apartments and studios. There are micro units and there are tiny houses. And in Austin, Texas, there is The Dumpster Project: a sustainable home made in—yes—a dumpster.

The Dumpster Project is the brainchild of Jeff Wilson, aka “Professor Dumpster,” an associate professor of biological sciences at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. Wilson converted a 6×6 foot dumpster (that’s 36 square feet, folks) on the Huston-Tillotson campus into a sustainable living space. He relinquished most of his earthly possessions and moved into said dumpster for a full year, which ended in February 2015.

Surely, some of you are asking “whhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyy??????”

It seems that life for humans will change dramatically over the next 100 years as the world’s population explodes and the resources we currently depend on become scarce. We’ll all have to adjust our needs and re-imagine our personal spaces.

…And thus begins the brainstorm of a billion people.

Haha, just kidding, not that many people care. But, figuring out how to live in smaller spaces, with less stuff and using less energy is a puzzle to which more and more thinkers are dedicating time. And some very interesting design experiments are coming out of it. That includes The Dumpster Project.

Unlike, say, shipping containers or tiny houses, a dumpster is an exceptionally small space with which to work magic. It requires innovative thinking and it forces its creators to challenge conventional ideas about everyday living. To boot, the dumpster is a symbol of one of the environment’s biggest problems: waste.

Inside the dumpster. Pretty nice, no? Photo courtesy of dumpsterproject.org.

Inside the dumpster. Pretty nice, no? Photo courtesy of dumpsterproject.org.

According the project’s current website:

“By converting a dumpster into a home, we are experimenting with innovative ways to live with less, and giving environmental education an engaging platform. We hope to project will engage the next generation in creative thinking about the important topics of sustainability and science education.”

In addition to it’s use a hands-on tool for the organization’s educational program on sustainability, the project is now entering a new phase: Dumpster Project Creative-in-Residence No. 1.

A month ago, The Dumpster Project kicked off a fundraiser that will help house Bernadette Noll–author, maker and coordinator of Austin’s Mini Maker Faire–as the organization’s first creative-in-residence. Noll will insulate the dumpster using natural, recycled materials, and she’ll live there, too.

Photo courtesy of The Dumpster Project.

Photo courtesy of The Dumpster Project.

So, the question is, if a professor can live in a dumpster for a year, what might we give up to reduce our footprint? Since my closet is bigger than Professor Dumpster’s former abode, and Bernadette Noll’s future living quarters, I’m going to start by reducing my considerable shoe collection… it is the least I can do.

Find out more about The Dumpster Project online here, and to donate to the Creative-In-Residence project click here.

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