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Professor to Live ‘Green’ in Dumpster

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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If you think your house is a dump, try moving into an actual Dumpster.

A biology professor at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX, is doing just that—in an attempt to educate his students about sustainable living.

Professor Wilson
Jeff Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Jeff Wilson, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Huston-Tillotson University, will spend one year living in a Dumpster.

Dr. Jeff Wilson recently sold his possessions to move into the sanitized 33-square-foot Dumpster for a year, according to local news reports and the project website.

Dumpster Digs

The idea for the project came to Wilson when he was in a Starbucks coffee shop thinking of ways to make his research more interactive and looked outside to see a Dumpster, he told KXAN Austin News.

“A Dumpster is the perfect symbol to present themes on waste and consumption in an engaging way,” according to project details.

“It’s weird. It’s fun. It gets the wheels of imagination turning.”

3 Phases

The project will involve three phases of Dumpster living: a camping site; an average American (Dumpster) home; and a space-capsule design or über Dumpster. At each stage, students from elementary school to college will pitch in to plan and test solutions for the abode. Experts will also offer advice.

In the first phase, "Professor Dumpster" (Wilson’s nickname) will have a 15-degree-rated sleeping bag for camping in the trash can tent. (Temperatures in Austin have been in the 40s this week.) He will filter water for drinking from a nearby lake and use campus facilities for bathing.

During the second phase, the Dumpster will be flashier, “plugged into the electrical and water grid” and feature appliances, such as a washing machine and dryer, according to project details.

Dumpster Project
Dumpster Project / Facebook

Ultimately, Wilson wants to answer this question: “Can you have a pretty good life living in 1 percent of the average new American home with 1 percent the energy, 1 percent the water, and 1 percent the waste?”

In the third phase, the student team will attempt to get one percent of the energy and water use of an average American home, all contained in the tiny container.

At the end of the project, Wilson hopes to answer this question: “Can you have a pretty good life living in 1 percent of the average new American home with 1 percent the energy, 1 percent the water, and 1 percent the waste?”

The Ford Foundation is donating $75,000 to the effort.

Expert Advisor

Others have also tossed around the idea of Dumpster living.

In 2011, California artist Gregory Kloehn transformed a trash container into a fully functional home, equipped with a working kitchen, toilet, storage and sleeping area.

Kim Aronson / YouTube

In this video, Kloehn offers a tour of his Dumpster design.

Kloehn is listed as a “Dumpster Yoda” who will provide expert advice to the Dumpster Project team.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Color + Design; Design; Eco-efficiency; Energy efficiency; Green building; Research; Sustainability

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