Professor Dumpster: Living Large in 36 Square Feet

Professor Dumpster: Living Large in 36 Square Feet

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Jennifer Hunter
Sep 15, 2014

If you're ever in Austin and have some trash to dispose of, you'd better be careful where you throw it. Choose wrong and you might just toss your litter in Jeff Wilson's home. That's right, the University College dean is currently living full-time in a 36 sq ft green metal dumpster and guess what? He says he has a "better life than I had before."

As you may have guessed, this is no ordinary dumpster. It has built-in storage, a sliding roof, an air conditioner — the one thing everyone agreed was a necessity during an Austin summer — and even a weather center on the top to track the interior conditions. It's a year-long commitment, a sustainability experiment supported by his university called The Dumpster Project. Wilson uses his experiences to connect with local schools and raise awareness about a less-is-more approach and share his ideas for low-waste living.

So what lead Wilson to take this big (yet oh so tiny) step towards small-space living? A divorce took him from a 2,500 sq ft house to a 500 sq ft apartment before he decided to massively pare down and sell nearly everything he owned (what's left fits inside the dumpster; no storage units here). His wardrobe tally currently read like this: "four pairs of pants, four shirts, three pairs of shoes, three hats, and, in keeping with his hipsteresque aesthetic, “eight or nine” bow ties."

Life in a dumpster may have its challenges but Wilson notes how much more connected he feels to the community, now that he spends so much time outside his small abode and around East Austin. He says, "I know I have met a much wider circle of people just from going to laundromats and wandering around outside of the dumpster when I would’ve been in there if I had a large flat screen and a La-Z Boy."

Next up? More amenities like insulation, a lamp and interior locks. Eventually there are plans for an "Uber Dumpster" which will include solar panels and rainwater collection to allow Wilson to go completely off the grid.

Read the entire story over at The Atlantic.

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