Architecture

Professor living in a dumpster for a year to investigate sustainable living

Professor living in a dumpster...
Dr. Jeff Wilson of Huston-Tillotson University is transforming a dumpster and living in it for a year (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Dr. Jeff Wilson of Huston-Tillotson University is transforming a dumpster and living in it for a year (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
View 19 Images
Dr. Jeff Wilson of Huston-Tillotson University is transforming a dumpster and living in it for a year (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
1/19
Dr. Jeff Wilson of Huston-Tillotson University is transforming a dumpster and living in it for a year (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
The Dumpster Project is aimed at investigating sustainable living and "doing with less" (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
2/19
The Dumpster Project is aimed at investigating sustainable living and "doing with less" (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Wilson is working with his students and the local community for the project (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
3/19
Wilson is working with his students and the local community for the project (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
The Dumpster is located on the Huston Tillotson University campus (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
4/19
The Dumpster is located on the Huston Tillotson University campus (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
The dumpster measures 33 sq ft (3 sq m) (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
5/19
The dumpster measures 33 sq ft (3 sq m) (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
A number of modifications have been made to make the dumpster habitable (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
6/19
A number of modifications have been made to make the dumpster habitable (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
The dumpster first had to be cleaned and rust-proofed (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
7/19
The dumpster first had to be cleaned and rust-proofed (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Insulation was required to provide some degree of warmth in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
8/19
Insulation was required to provide some degree of warmth in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
A weather station has been added to the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
9/19
A weather station has been added to the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
A barrel is used to collect water (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
10/19
A barrel is used to collect water (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
A rain garden has been added (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
11/19
A rain garden has been added (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
The dumpster pockets have been sealed so that it cannot be mistaken for and serviced as a standard trash receptacle (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
12/19
The dumpster pockets have been sealed so that it cannot be mistaken for and serviced as a standard trash receptacle (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Wilson has furnished the inside of the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
13/19
Wilson has furnished the inside of the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Electricity has been installed in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
14/19
Electricity has been installed in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
A false floor provide storage in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
15/19
A false floor provide storage in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Air conditioning has been installed in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
16/19
Air conditioning has been installed in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
The dumpster is only a little longer than Wilson is tall (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
17/19
The dumpster is only a little longer than Wilson is tall (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Wilson moved into the dumpster on February 4th, 2014 (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
18/19
Wilson moved into the dumpster on February 4th, 2014 (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Wilson plans to live in the dumpster for at least one year (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
19/19
Wilson plans to live in the dumpster for at least one year (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)

Lots of us make sacrifices for the environment, but few of us would consider supporting the cause by moving into a dumpster. Dr. Jeff Wilson of Huston-Tillotson University, however, is doing just that. Working with his students and the community, he's transforming an old dumpster and living in it for a year.

Gizmag has covered tiny living spaces made from all sorts of things previously, including repurposed water tanks and shipping containers. We've never featured a home made from a dumpster before, though.

The aim of the Dumpster Project is to investigate sustainable living practices in recognition of a world with an increasing population but decreasing space and resources to go around. The dumpster itself is 33 sq ft (3 sq m), compared to the average American home of 2,500 sq ft (232 sq m). Wilson says he is not suggesting that everyone should consider downscaling to such an extent, but should consider to what extent they can "do with less" and hopes that the project will encourage conversations and ideas around the topic.

Electricity has been installed in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)
Electricity has been installed in the dumpster (Photo: Sarah Natsumi Moore)

In the bid to see whether a dumpster of this size could provide a legitimate living space, a number of modifications have been (and continue to be) made. In order to prepare the dumpster, it had to be thoroughly cleaned and rust-proofed. Insulation was required to provide some degree of warmth, and more simple solutions such as a clothes line and rain garden were added.

More complex additions, meanwhile, have included solar panels to generate electricity, a high-efficiency toilet, a false floor to provide storage, a weather station, air conditioning, a pitched roof, locks and a mailbox. The pockets have been sealed so that the dumpster cannot be mistaken for and serviced as a standard trash receptacle, and Wilson has furnished the inside.

The Dumpster is located on the Huston-Tillotson University campus in Austin, Texas. The project began last year, and Wilson moved into the dumpster on February 4th of this year. He plans to inhabit it for at least 12 months.

The video below is a documentary of the first six months of the Dumpster Project.

Source: The Dumpster Project

18 comments
zevulon
this is moronic. if he had even the remotest interest in extreme 'sustainable living' it would be the tiny house movement. there's PLENTY of documentation about how to build and create a tiny microhome with NO steel in the walls. this means it's both CHEAPER to build, and will serve better as a house. what this professor is doing is pretending to be a random homeless person who doesn't have the sense, or for whatever other reason, might live in a working, or impaired, metal garbage dumpster. this is your tax subsidies of 'academia' at work.
Freyr Gunnar
Do the solar panels provided 100% of the electricity needed by the AC unit? And 24/7 in the summer?
Daishi
I have a sneaking suspicion his motivations are about 25% research into sustainable living and 75% trying to live cheap enough to pay off student loans.
Jon Smith
No wonder people get the wrong idea about Hipsters...
Conny Söre
I just love the AC, it practically screams sustainable and bare necessity. :-)
JimRD
First question: is his wife living there with him? Because he is crazy to leave her for a dumpster - and she was looking at him like he was crazy. Second: I think we all know we are in trouble. In 1953 there were 2.69 billion, in midcentury there will be 10 billion. Smaller spaces probably wont stop global warming, ocean creep and food and water shortage. So what's the point? Last question: is there something we can all do to really alleviate our world's ills short of mass suicide? I think just getting out to walk and bike will start us on the path to doing something that we can all do - and that is changing our midset about our environment and how to protect it and to inculcate habits that will lead us in the right direction - not living in 3 meters and talking about solutions but actually doing them en-mass.
Nairda
If you're living under high voltage power lines it would be good as long as its grounded correctly. Not a half bad bomb shelter in its own right. :) Also, people complain a lot. If you give the average man of our generation a 60" 4k TV, cable and a decent computer rig /console, he is more then happy to enjoy that cubicle for many seasons. And we're talking first world. Re: Conny Söre If the solar panels can drive a small 200W DC aircon compressor, then it is very sustainable. And those are moderately priced. Though not completely inexpensive. The outlay with the panels would still be the biggest cost to this project.
Grunt
It's a little worrying that this man is a university lecturer who has influence over young people, but then he is american and probably largely unaware of how huge numbers of people already exist in similar accommodation elsewhere in this world. May be he needs to get out more......
anobium
Is a dumpster what in the UK is called a skip?
Jay Finke
In my day, that would be on it's side with the teacher trapped in it. ha ha !