September 14, 2014

This Guy Lives in a Dumpster—On Purpose.

tiny dumpster home

Dr. Jeff Wilson is a professor of biological sciences. He also lives in a dumpster.

Dr. Wilson started The Dumpster Project, a non-profit that is transforming a trash dumpster into a home with a focus on sustainability education. He is being supported whole-heartedly in this endeavor by his employer, Huston-Tillotson University, a historically black college in east Austin with about 1,000 students.

The project has been featured in hundreds of local, national and international news sources including NPR, Yahoo! News, ABC News and this excellent article from The Atlantic, which is how I learned about it last week.

According to Professor Wilson, “This dumpster is 33 square feet, which is one percent the size of the new American home in 2011.”

He moved into the tiny home in February, 2014 and plans to stay at least a year. It also serves as a learning tool, with his university students spending a year making it not only livable but environmentally sound, not to mention a popular field trip destination for younger students and curious neighbors.

Is he saying that we should all live in dumpsters? No, “the idea here is to ultimately show one can have a pretty good life in a dumpster.”

According to their website:

The Dumpster Project aims to start a conversation around the idea of “less is more” by taking a creative and engaging route instead of a preachy one. Wilson and his students are suggesting that you can be a normal American—drive a car, work a job, be a parent, and contribute to society—all while living well in a small, low-impact space.

I am not planning to move into a dumpster, but I see the value of this project and appreciate the conversations that it is starting.

I myself live in a small (though not “tiny”) house that is approximately 700 square feet. This month, my husband, daughter and I are house-sitting a much more luxurious place about five times the size of our normal house. Am I happier in a bigger home? No.

It is nice to have a bigger space and better amenities, but it doesn’t actually affect my quality of life. What it does affect is how I use the space (keeping it clean, minimally furnished and organized) and how I use my time (balancing work and play, effort and relaxation).

Thank you, Dr. Wilson for your purposeful way of teaching by example.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: The Dumpster Project

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