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Meet Jeff Wilson AKA Professor Dumpster, - an environmental scientist and the Dean of Huston Tillotson University in Austin,Texas. The reason for his unusual nickname? He has decided to live in a dumpster for the next year - Yes, the kind that you might find filled with trash behind a restaurant or in an alley.
Wilson says the inspiration to do something this radical first hit him two years ago, when he was working on an article at a neighborhood coffee shop and caught sight of an eight-yard dumpster. So when his apartment lease ran out a year later, the professor sold all of his possessions and spent the next seven months sleeping in his office, while he searched for a suitable trash can.
Now that he has found one, Professor Dumpster is putting his students to work. After all, the point of this project isn't just to spend his life living out of a garbage can: there is, a much greater purpose involved. As an environmental scientist, the professor constantly ponders about sustainable living and how every person should try minimize his/her impact on our already stretched resources. That, is the challenge Wilson wanted his students to step up to, this entire year.
Using their math, science, engineering, and technology skills he wants them to retrofit his 33 square-foot dumpster into a modern space that includes a shower, toilet, kitchen and bed and is fitted with amenities like air-conditioning and even WiFi. The one caveat? It all has to be 'green' and sustainable.
Some important things Wilson's students will have to consider are how to retrieve water, harness energy and keep a healthy living space. To live in this dumpster comfortably, the Professor will need filtered water for drinking, cooking, as well as, for other everyday activities like the toilet and shower. While this is not that big a deal, given that the dumpster has to be sustainable means that the used water has to be recycled as efficiently as possible. In order to ensure that the professor remains healthy there also needs to be adequate ventilation, as well as, cooling and heating systems that function efficiently, without utilizing too much energy or space.
While this may sound like an impossible task, the students are stepping up to the challenge and seem to be figuring it all out. By incorporating solar panels for lighting and electricity, nano-insulation to regulate temperature, and "energy-producing" toilets, they plan to create a "net zero" model. That means that the dumpster-home will only consume as much energy as it produces. Innovative systems are also being developed for water filtration, climate control, and waste reduction, resulting in what will eventually be a comfortable living space where nothing is wasted. Meanwhile, the professor has already moved into his bare-bones home where he spends the nights 'hanging out' inside a sleeping bag on the floor - quite literally, given that he is 6'1".
When completed, Wilson's new home will boast some pretty impressive statistics - At 33 square feet the compact home will use zero electricity, just 4 gallons of water per day and apparently produce close to zero trash. In contrast, an average 2,480 square-feet American home uses about 9,500 Kilowatts of energy per month and spends 400 gallons of water and generates 4.5 pounds of trash per day!
So why is Wilson planning to go through such hardship? Because he wants to equip his students with the tools to survive in a world that is rapidly heading towards a population of 10 billion people. A world in which resources and space are going to be so restrained that a large majority of the population may have to adjust to living in tighter spaces.
By promoting awareness and education on these subjects, Wilson is helping students everywhere see that living "small" and sustainably is certainly possible. And while the dumpster project may seem a little melodramatic to some, the professor thinks of it as a “playful and imaginative” educational experiment and conversation-starter to discuss the fact that all of us can do with less as we move into the future.
The scientist is of course is not planning to spend his entire life in this dumpster - Just over a year during which time he will tour the country, visiting schools and teaching kids about sustainable living. Given that the professor is planning to do that stealthily, be sure to keep an eye out and investigate if a relatively clean-looking dumpster suddenly shows up on your playground - Professor Dumpster might just be lurking inside!
Wilson is not the first person to have come up with this idea. California designer Gregory Kloehn has already refurbished a dumpster into a luxury home and now regards it his 'home away from home' for whenever he visits New York. While his may not be as sustainable as the one that the professor is planning to create, judging from the video below, it sure is cool.