It’s the real-life Oscar the Grouch, without any of the grouch and a little bit of Bill Nye the Science Guy mixed in. That is the best way to describe Dr. Jeff Wilson, Environmental Science Professor at Huston Tillotson University in Austin, Texas who is taking the concept of sustainability and bringing it close to home, literally.
The Dumpster Project started when Wilson, who has now been deemed “Professor Dumpster,” stared at a dumpster outside of Starbucks and wondered how he could transform it. This idealization became a reality as he teamed up with students, scientists, engineers and the community as he transforms a standard 33-squared-foot dumpster into his home for a year. Since then, this has become more than a statement, it is an interactive learning project.
The dumpster was cleared out, sanitized, painted and made to be suitable for a man to sustain a healthy life inside. The dumpster even has a mailbox inside! Showers and lack of plumbing have become a challenge, but that is where Wilson relies on the community. He has said that this journey has allowed him to communicate with and make use of his wide community more.
The dumpster is currently situated on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University which makes it easy for the community to get involved in a project that is so interactive. After all, the idea is to heavily engage students in the process. The dumpster is also made to be portable so that it can be displayed at several Austin events to promote the project. Basically, it has become a travelling educational tool!
So why a dumpster? According to a statement, the dumpster is a symbol of waste. People view dumpsters as containers full of things that people no longer want. Wilson has hope that this project will make people think the next time they see a dumpster, “If a man could live in a dumpster, what can I do?”
The idea isn’t to insist everyone to live in a dumpster, but to remind others it is possible to change direction and live simply. He started living in the dumpster since February 4, 2014 and although the project was to live in the dumpster for 365, Wilson has stated that if all goes well, he is not completely opposed to making the dumpster his permanent home.
Here is a mini-documentary which highlights his life in the dumpster and gives more information on the importance of the project:
Photo credit: dumpsterproject.org