The Dumpster

By Posted in - FrontPage on June 4th, 2013 13 Comments Phase III: Über Dumpster

Come on in and make yourself comfortable in our fully furnished 33 square foot house. Did we mention it’s a dumpster? While the project could have been centered around a large cargo container or a tiny house, we decided on the dumpster. A dumpster is the perfect symbol to present themes on waste and consumption in an engaging way. It’s weird. It’s fun. It gets the wheels of imagination turning.

Goal: The New One Percent

Professor Dumpster will be spending one year in a dumpster that is approximately 6 feet x 6 feet, or about 1% the size of the average new American home. Professor Dumpster, in his bid to become part of the ‘new 1%’ will strive to use 1% the water, 1% the energy, and create 1% the waste of the average American home.  Innovative systems will also be developed for water filtration, climate control, and waste reduction. Professor Dumpster will be relying on creative collaboration from the greater international design and education community to help outfit the dumpster with everything he’ll need to live comfortably in an intense central Texas climate, where average summer highs are in the high-90s.

Dumpster Evolution: Three Phases

The Dumpster will evolve through three distinct phases over the course of the year: (i) dumpster camping; (ii) average American dumpster home; and (iii) über dumpster. In the dumpster camping phase, Professor Dumpster and his students will be essentially camping in a tent that happens to be a trash can. They will try out technologies as well as ‘old school’ methods for meeting basic needs. All of their water will come from Austin’s town lake, about a mile down the hill from the Huston-Tillotson campus. Professor Dumpster began living in the dumpster in Feb 2014 and will continue to camp there until funds are raised to move to phase two and three.

In phase two, average American dumpster home, the dumpster will be plugged into the electrical and water grid and the team will start add on appliances like a washing machine, dryer, and a hot water heater (most of it in the ‘back lawn’). We’ll measure the amount of ‘baseline’ water and power once Professor Dumpster is completely comfortable and feels right at home.

Phase II: Average American Dumpster Home

Guiding design sketch for Phase II: The ‘Average American Home’ Dumpster and ‘Utility Closet’

In the third phase, über dumpster, the team will ‘drop it low’, attempting to get to 1% the energy use and water use of an average American home, all fully contained in 10 cubic yards.

Phase III: Über Dumpster

Phase III: Über Dumpster – early thoughts on a proposed design



Trash Talkers: Our Audience

Professor Dumpster’s ongoing dumpster experiment is geared to capture the attention of a wide audience and ignite accessible (and entertaining) dialogue around the concept of living with less. It’s also just one of many platforms in a groundbreaking green campus initiative at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. While the dumpster is based in the heart of East Austin it’s also intended to be a mobile house that will move around the state and country on educational tours. Let us know if you’d like the dumpster to make a stop at your school or community event. Our “casa” es su casa!

In the final analysis, the dumpster project is a grand experiment that asks: “Can one have a pretty good life as part of the ‘new one percent’, that is, living on 1% the energy and water of the average American home? ” Professor Dumpster and his students think so. Join us on the journey and support the project today.

(13) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Rob -

    April 6, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Very good professor! I live aboard a sailboat and have always had tiny if not socially unacceptable housing situations and totally enjoy the simplicity and ease of heating such places… power should be no problem with you, with the LED lights and tiny Li-ion batteries… Try for solar panels….

  • DaveB13 -

    March 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    In addition to the usual camping items including water purification things I would like to suggest a 1 gallon garden sprayer made for use with bleach for washing hands & plates. Good Luck camping

  • […] year. However, Wilson’s dumpster will soon feel more and more like a real home. According to The Dumpster Project website, Wilson’s living space will be “plugged into the electrical and water grid, and the team will […]

  • Jacquie -

    February 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you for thinking outside the “box”…I couldn’t help myself, and challenging our society to think outside their own comforts.

    The thing that really hit me while reading about this project is that while for us in the United States it seems ludicrous to walk a mile to get our water or live in a 33 sq ft area, the reality is for many other countries that is a part of their daily life – limited water access and tent/cube housing.

    With that said, I think it is wonderful to start getting people to ask themselves if they can live with less – which universally the answer would be yes for Americans. But my question is will they? What I mean is, is your goal to create some kind of grid that uses less energy but allows people to have all the appliances and conveniences they are used to or are you trying to prove a point that a dumpster (which under normal circumstances would appear unlivable) or lessening what we think we need, is the key to going green. Maybe we have to give up some comforts but we will survive.

    From my understanding , Phase 2 you will allow Professor Dumpster to live comfortably (with appliances like A/C and internet, plumbing of some sort, washing machines, etc) and get the baseline energy use. But then in Phase 3 you plan on knocking that energy use down to 1%. With this, I’m curious if you believe at Phase 3 you will be able to maintain all the luxuries of Phase 2?

    But my big question remains: can we have our cake and eat it to? Or is the more realistic picture that in order to become sustainable and greener, we need to actually use less.

    If Professor and students can live in dumpster than that means we can live without. _____________ (insert any appliance). Thank you for making us think and I am interested in your opinions

  • Adrienne -

    February 5, 2014 at 7:34 am

    We would love to have a visit from your completed dumpster habitat in Richmond, CA, the largest city in the USA with a mayor from the Green Party.

    • admin -

      February 5, 2014 at 11:37 am

      We would love to come visit. Stay in touch and when we get the Dumpster mobile, we can talk in detail. Thanks!

  • John Curry -

    November 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Well done this is an inspirational project.
    Have look at this article.
    This is further food for thought.

    Well done again.

  • Bill -

    October 23, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Will the dumpster be close to WiFi? We can live small but we still need are internet we lived five people in 600 sq feet we would share one pair of head phones between 2 people to watch Netflix on a 13′” laptop .

    • admin -

      October 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Bill, you’ve actually hit on a really good question. It turns out that sending a WiFi through a giant metal box is a bit of a design challenge. We’re already thinking of ways to get around it so that Professor Dumpster will have internet access (a necessity that falls right after food and water).

      Sounds like you’ve got some experience with living in small spaces. Thanks for your comment! If you’ve got ideas we’d love to hear them.

  • Elizabeth S. Johns -

    October 19, 2013 at 12:47 am

    This is such a great idea. We don’t hear enough about sustainable and affordable housing; just rising home prices as the corporate media concentrates on only that. We need to address housing as a need, a right – not an investment only. Thank you for your focus on this important idea. Also I would like to recommend a website, Their focus is on sustainable and green housing as well. My father has been involved with this company and I hope they will expand their efforts in America..

    Your website is beautifully designed. I am looking forward to coming back and visiting to see the progress. Good luck!

    • admin -

      October 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth! It would certainly be ideal if sustainable housing was available to all communities.

      We appreciate your support and look forward to sharing the adventure.

  • Irene Brady -

    October 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Love this! I thought I lived small in my 1100sq/ft house, but this marvelous structure has mine beat all hollow. However, I do also have a 21ft Toyota Mini-motorhome which I just might move into. That would get me closer at about 130sq/ft…….

    • admin -

      October 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Irene, it sounds like you’ve already taken the “less is more” dumpster spirit to heart! Good luck to you on your low-footage adventures. : )