Some college kids regard “trash” as a verb, as in, “we totally trashed the place.” Students of Dr. Jeff Wilson, an environmental science professor and a dean at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, are learning how to reduce the amount of trash, the noun, generated, in an effort to create a more sustainable planet, as exemplified by their visual metaphor – a dumpster.
“This project has a couple of objectives. First, we hope to build the most carefully designed small space, save a manned space capsule. So you can think about it as a manned space capsule on earth in a trash can,” says Dr. Wilson.
Professor Dumpster, the moniker Dr. Wilson has adopted for The Dumpster Project, will live in a 6’ by 6’ dumpster for one year, beginning with just a plain, empty dumpster. In Phase One students are challenged to convert the dumpster into a comfortable, if not very cozy, self-sustaining living space.
“And second of all, we want to run an experiment where we see what life might be like with less. A lot less. In this case, one percent the size of the average home, probably smaller than most people’s walk-in closets,” Wilson tells KTRH News.
In Phase Two they’ll build-out a very small, elementary-functioning living space, and add air-conditioning, a portable toilet from Lowes, insulation from Walmart, and end up with a hodge-podge dumpster. In Phase Three, high-tech devices and advanced design principles will be applied to create a truly livable space including solar-panels to produce energy, a functioning shower, an energy-producing toilet, a sink, a flat-screen TV, an X-Box, a comfortable chair – all the creature comforts of home and all self-sustaining.
The goal for the Dumpster Professor and his students is to demonstrate that you can have a normal life – go to work, drive a car, be a parent – and do it in a smaller, more sustainable space. That’s something future generations, as the world’s population edges toward 10 billion by 2050, are going to have to consider.