The Man Who Lived in a Dumpster

I think it’s fair to assume that “Professor Dumpster” is not a nickname any of us would like to have. Yet Professor Jeff Wilson is being called just that and as far as nicknames go, it’s surprisingly accurate: this man willingly gave up his 2,500 square foot home and lived in a 33 square foot dumpster for a year. And as it turns out, there’s a lot we can learn about sustainability from his experience.  


Wilson had a multitude of reasons for undergoing such a drastic change in lifestyle. For one, he wanted to challenge his students to think critically about their environmental impacts, which he planned on doing by constructing a sustainable and thoughtfully designed tiny living space from the ground up. However, his goals were also personal in nature: he admits that he wanted to challenge himself to live “more deliberately”.

More deliberately, indeed. Before moving into a campus dumpster, he decided to sell most of his possessions, deciding to own only what he had room to keep. As a nod to his hipster roots, he managed to keep 8 or 9 bow-ties (which is a shockingly high number, considering he had only 4 shirts). But why not? No matter what place I end up calling home, I have no doubt I’ll be taking my purple-felted, top-hatted octopus, deliberate living or not. 

But enough of one man’s however shocking life changing decisions. How is his bold decision helping to change the face of sustainability? For one, he used the dumpster as a guinea-pig for a number of sustainable living ideas. Thus, the final phase of the dumpster project was purported to include solar panels, a composting toilet, and perhaps even a, solar heated shower.

But that’s not all dumpster living has done for him. Wilson notes that downsizing his life had major mental benefits too, mainly the decrease of what he referred to as, “noise”. In this case, noise refers to the daily onslaught of distractions that most of us experience in the information age, which he argues spawns the mental fatigue that often keeps us pursuing those passions and ideas that give our lives meaning.


Professor Dumpster is currently working to bring the micro-living experience to major American cities through his company Kasita. Their 208 square-foot homes are meant to be stacked together on specially designed racks in the center of major American cities. These homes have the potential to be incredibly socially sustainable: They plan to combat gentrification by selling at half the price of the average studio apartment.  Provided that one's city of choice has such a rack, one can easily pack up their entire life, house and all, and relocate to new opportunities.

I will leave you with Jeff Wilson’s powerful words:

“The average American has 12 pairs of shoes and the average American house is 2480-square-feet. We can happily live with much less than that.”

*photos are taken from The Atlantic. 


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