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A dumpster-dwelling professor and his students are conducting the most radical micro-home experiment ever. Read more

Austin, TX Design
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162
backers
$15,892
pledged of $100,000 goal

Funding Canceled

Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on June 30, 2014.

A dumpster-dwelling professor and his students are conducting the most radical micro-home experiment ever.

Austin, TX Design
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About this project

 

*** NOTICE: We have cancelled this Kickstarter campaign. Your contribution has been cancelled as well. We've learned a lot from the experience and would like to extend a huge thank you to all of our generous and enthusiastic supporters. 

We're still on track and the Dumpster Team is just as dedicated to the project as ever! The only major difference is that the timeline for Phases 2 & 3 will take a little longer than originally expected. Professor Dumpster is used to sweating things out in the Texas heat, so he'll be fine.

We still NEED YOUR HELP. We've set up a page where you can now transfer your pledge directly to The Dumpster Project non-profit by clicking here. You will receive similar rewards and the added bonus that your donation is tax deductible! We can't pull off this is amazing design and education project without your help. Please consider contributing your financial support--it definitely won't go to waste.***

Again, click THIS LINK to transfer your donation. 

THANK YOU SUPPORTERS! 

The Dumpster Project is the tiniest of radical design experiments. Over the course of a year, a team of designers, engineers, scientists, and students will transform a 33 sq. ft. used trash receptacle into the most high-tech, sustainable micro-living space in the world. For the duration of the project, Dr. Jeff Wilson, aka, ‘Professor Dumpster,’ will make the dumpster his home. He’s testing the hypothesis that one can have a happy life with much, much less. When it’s all said and done, we’ll have an entire modern home packed into a box!

The Dumpster Project is taking this experiment to the extreme reaches of design. Yet the question we’re trying to answer is a practical one that applies to every single person on earth. As it stands, we’ve got 7 billion people (with 3 billion more scheduled to join the family as early as 2050), limited planetary resources, and a lot of unsolved riddles about how to make the good life equitable, affordable, and widely available to all. What does home look like in a world of 10 billion people?
 

The efficient use of space and resources is an important piece of the puzzle—and we’ve chosen to tackle it with a dumpster. We admit a used dumpster is a slightly unconventional choice for a design lab, but we think it works. When it comes to design, the dumpster is a highly compact space that forces our super-skilled team to completely re-imagine the definition of home sweet home. It’s also an iconic symbol of waste that’s widespread yet invisible—a magic, metal box that swallows trash. Plus, there’s something about ‘Crazy, Trashy Professor Lives in Dumpster’ that just has a sweet ring to it.

Do we expect a world of 10 billion people to live in dumpster homes? Of course not! We want to accomplish THREE goals by tricking out a used dumpster with cutting-edge design and technology:

1)  EXPERIMENT with the possibilities for a pretty gosh-darn-awesome life using dramatically fewer resources in a very small space.

2)  Start and sustain a powerful (and educational) CONVERSATION about what is truly necessary for living well with less.

3)  Develop INNOVATIVE DESIGN IDEAS that can be practically applied from Texas to Mars, or anywhere else life needs to be sustained.

In the final analysis, we'd like to learn what we can from this experiment to build the tiniest off-grid home allowable to city code in America. We figure that if we can make the iPhone we can certainly make a larger iPad. 

As far as we know, there’s no step-by-step manual for remodeling a dumpster into a high-tech living space. Believe it or not, we actually prefer it that way. When we call The Dumpster Project the tiniest of radical experiments, we mean it. There are a million ways to retrofit a dumpster, but we want to discover the best and most practical solutions—for water, energy, space allocation, health and sanity. To do that, our design geniuses will be engineering a variety of options, while Professor Dumpster (the lucky guinea pig) tests what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to watch the experiment in real time via the online ‘Dumpster Dashboard’ equipped with dumpster cams and a data feed with current dumpster conditions. Our experimental approach opens up space for real learning and truly innovative results (though, if we’re being perfectly honest, we’re kinda hoping the composting toilet works the first time around).

Looking forward to ideal roofing technology.
Looking forward to ideal roofing technology.

Although dumpster design is a lot like the Wild West (anything goes), we do have three hard-and-fast guiding design parameters in place:

  • STEALTH MODE: There’s an element of subversion that comes with converting a dumpster into a home and we want to preserve that. That’s why we want the ability to go into ‘stealth mode’ at any time. When all the gears, shade tarps, lifts, and panels are folded away, the dumpster will look exactly like your average, back-alley dumpster. We want to be able to put it anywhere—a school, a posh neighborhood, a coffee shop parking lot—and have it go unnoticed (and yes, there are endless possibilities for pranks). If we have our way, you’ll never be able to look at a dumpster quite the same again.
  • ON-THE-MOVE: We want the dumpster to be movable with standard equipment (like a forklift, a flatbed truck, or our future biofuel truck). This will allow us to move the dumpster without totally trashing the house. Also, portability is an interesting feature to consider with micro-homes.
  • THE 1% RULE: By the final phase of the project, the dumpster is slated to consume 1% of the water, energy, and space of the average American home. We also want Professor Dumpster to produce 1% of the waste. It’s a tall order, but we’re up to the challenge.

The dumpster design will be rolled out in three separate phases over the course of the next 12-18 months. The first two phases are focused on experimenting with the space limitations and establishing a baseline for energy, water, and waste usage levels. The third phase is what everyone is excited about. It’s when we implement solutions to design challenges, and our proving ground for innovation. Here’s the lowdown:

PHASE 1: Dumpster Camping (Feb – June 30, 2014) Professor Dumpster is actively in Phase 1 right now and it’s a lot like what it sounds—no running water, no electricity, and no amenities (unless you count the convertible moon-roof). For water, Professor Dumpster and his students hoof a mile down to the local lake. Every task—from using the facilities to cooking ramen—requires a careful consideration of resources. Needless to say, personal hygiene is not a huge priority at this stage of the game. There are campus facilities and his trusty bottle for midnight emergencies.

Step 1: Walk the water one mile uphill from a local lake.
Step 1: Walk the water one mile uphill from a local lake.

 

Step 2: Use water to serve turkish coffee to house guests. After filtering of course!
Step 2: Use water to serve turkish coffee to house guests. After filtering of course!

PHASE 2: Average American Dumpster Home (July 1 [end of Kickstarter] – December 2014) Phase 2 begins in early summer—right as Texas heat turns the dumpster into a giant roasting oven. During this phase, Professor Dumpster will do his best to live exactly like an average American dude. We’re going to head over to a local big-box store and pick up the most popular A/C window unit, washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, toilet—you get the idea. Next we’re going plop everything next to the dumpster in a ‘utilities shed’, add a slew of monitoring devices, and connect to the grid. Why? We want to present familiar and relatable aspects of the American lifestyle while simultaneously establishing a data baseline—average levels of consumption for energy, water and waste. The final transformation to the über dumpster will be all the more striking compared to ‘average’ dumpster living.

Guiding design sketch for this summer's transition to Phase II: The 'Average American Home' Dumpster and 'Utility Closet'
Guiding design sketch for this summer's transition to Phase II: The 'Average American Home' Dumpster and 'Utility Closet'

PHASE 3: Space Capsule Über Dumpster (December 2014 – Summer 2015) The last dumpster phase is the ultimate home remodel. According to plan, Professor Dumpster will be living the good life in a completely sustainable, off-grid dumpster home, complete with solar energy, climate control, water catchment systems, convertible interior spaces, high-tech insulation, and cutting-edge toilet technology (fingers crossed for a shower, too). Everything is lined up – the talent, the vision, a lot of design ideas – we’re asking for your contribution to put it all together. 

Early thoughts on a proposed design for Phase III's off-grid Ultimate Dumpster Home
Early thoughts on a proposed design for Phase III's off-grid Ultimate Dumpster Home

 

 

It has been over two years since The Dumpster Project was birthed in a coffee shop parking lot. Dr. Jeff Wilson, an environmental science professor, was sipping espresso and staring out the window when he suddenly found himself transfixed by the shiny metal gleam of the parking lot dumpster. It was one of those lightning-bolt moments. He immediately called his best friend (a balanced pragmatist) and said,

“Yvette, I’ve just decided to live in a dumpster.”

“Great,” she said, without pausing. “When do you move in?”

If anyone was a likely candidate for an “unconventional lifestyle,” it was Wilson. Shortly before the parking lot revelation, he had concluded that, with middle age fast approaching, it was time for him to shake things up. He was determined to push his limits when it came to teaching too; science education was often boring and far removed from real-world applications. He wanted to trade in eye-drying academic publications for science experiments that spiked the curiosity of students and the wider public.

Professor Dumpster assumed the primate-in-a-space-capsule role when he began camping out in the dumpster four months ago. At first glance you might be thinking, “Yeah, right - never in a million years,” but, believe it or not, Professor Dumpster’s life isn’t so different from yours. In the morning he brews a cup of coffee, grabs a hipster bowtie from his closet, throws on some clothes, and heads out to work. The difference is in the details: his coffee is brewed with filtered lake water, his bowties and clothes are stashed in a secret dumpster floor compartment, and he swings out of the house through the ‘window’ like a chimpanzee in a bar fight.

First attempt at exiting home: didn't even catch a bronze medal on the landing.
First attempt at exiting home: didn't even catch a bronze medal on the landing.

 

After four months of training, it's a perfect 10 landing!
After four months of training, it's a perfect 10 landing!

Still, one doesn’t just move into a dumpster. Taking a one year dive into a dumpster is a lifestyle that has to be eased into. Three years ago, he moved from a 3,000 sq. ft. home into an apartment. Mid-2012, Wilson held a garage sale and sold all of his worldly possessions for $1 per item. With a few changes of clothes and a shoebox of one-dollar bills, he loaded up one backpack and then (illegally) downsized to his 144 sq. ft. university office, where he lived undetected for almost eight months. In the summer of 2013, Wilson took a new position at Huston-Tillotson (HT) University, a historically black university in Austin, Texas. It was at HT that the project really began to take shape (that is—after he managed to convince the administration that he wasn’t crazy for wanting to install a residential dumpster behind the student dorms).

Since last summer, a world-class team of engineers, architects, educators, designers, filmmakers, scientists, artists, and students has gathered around the idea of transforming the dumpster into both a sustainable living space and a groundbreaking learning lab. We’ve got a crisp vision. We’ve got an incredible team. All we need now are the resources to pull it off.

This project is supported by partnerships with a whole collective of brilliant minds who have a burning passion for trashy design. We’ve got biologists sequencing the Dumpster biome, green planners assessing the dumpster carbon footprint, designers wrestling with space restrictions, architects planning the dumpster garden-scape, award-winning welders welding, green builders building, and community leaders getting the message out to Austin and beyond. Check out the Dumpster Project website for details on all of our kick-butt collaborations.

 

 

Professor Dumpster has a diagnosable obsession with gadgets, so you can be sure that the dumpster will be a showcase for the latest in sustainable technologies. We’re specifically interested in the areas of solar power, low-water use appliances (shower, toilet, washing machine), and innovative insulation materials. Whether we’re figuring out how to jam more shoes into a shoebox of a closet or how to efficiently deploy lightweight solar panels, the innovations developed in this project will have wide-ranging impact. We’re taking experimental technology from the dumpster lab and applying it to a real world challenge.

A lot of great ideas are being dumped into this.
A lot of great ideas are being dumped into this.

We also want each step in the dumpster development to be interactive, collaborative, and open-source. From day one, Professor Dumpster has been querying the public for design and technology hacks. Right now the questions are basic (“What can I do to keep my dumpster from flooding?” or “How can I protect myself from being eaten by mosquitos?”), but as the dumpster increases in sophistication, so will the tech challenges.

In the spirit of technological collaboration, we’re thrilled to be building an online Dumpster Dashboard on the our home page that will allow anyone with an internet connection to view detailed, real-time stats on the dumpster (temperature, air quality, water levels, electricity usage or production, weather, live cams, etc.).

Emerging technology combined with a quirky professor and his dumpster make for a fantastic educational opportunity—especially when it comes to science, tech, engineering and math (better known as STEM in the education community). The dumpster is a hands-on learning lab where STEM-related skills have obvious, real-world applications. For example, Professor Dumpster’s health is at serious risk if too much carbon dioxide builds up in the dumpster. How do we measure the risk and help him find a safe solution? What materials make for the best insulation? Let’s measure the reflectivity and heat capacity of different insulation materials and talk about what he should use on his home.

A dumpster isn't safe without some tests.
A dumpster isn't safe without some tests.

 

The Dumpster Project is already teaming up with a local education non-profit to develop open-source K-12 lessons and curricula that interface with the project and the interactive Dumpster Dashboard. Professor Dumpster’s Bill Nye/Oscar the Grouch persona adds a fresh dimension of fun to the learning process and kids will eventually be able to watch him introduce various science and engineering challenges in a series of short films designed to complement the curricula.

 

Documentation and publication are critical elements of any experiment, which is why we've partnered with A!R Media. They not only shot and produced our Kickstarter video, but are a critical part of the Dumpster team. We want to share our experience and findings with the world in a thoughtful and engaging manner, and A!R has been working with us to make that happen since way back when the dumpster was just a twinkle in Professor Dumpster’s eye.

The A!R team is always capturing.
The A!R team is always capturing.

 

Seriously...always
Seriously...always

We are very excited about this collaboration because A!R is a company that embodies our experimental spirit. While we’re pushing the limits of design, they are trading in traditional documentary filmmaking methods for a new type of storytelling—an ongoing, interactive story that couples the best of documentary filmmaking with the latest web technology. It's a perfect match.

We’re pretty excited that the Dumpster Project has already proven to be a powerful conversation starter, but we’re even more thrilled that new voices are joining the conversation. Discussions about green design and the sustainable use of resources often leave minority and other underserved communities out of the conversation. We’re changing that by conducting the experiment right in the middle of a historically black campus in East Austin, one of the most diverse and rapidly changing neighborhoods in the United States (we’ve even got Bushwick beat). The Dumpster Project is just one piece of a broader, student-supported campaign to make Huston-Tillotson University the most sustainable historically black university campus in the nation. It’s a big goal and we’re incredibly proud to be part of it.

We are extremely proud of our student leaders.
We are extremely proud of our student leaders.

Green is the New Black, the student team driving the Dumpster Project on campus. Even though they’ve already won a national competition for the project concept, they’ve got tons of ambition to go around. Their vision is to leverage design to transform the sustainability conversation among young minority students and connect to the broader community.

A dumpster may be tiny, but the Dumpster Project’s vision is huge. Beyond the actual dumpster structure, we need the dumpster tech. An über dumpster with the latest photovoltaics, cutting-edge energy-producing toilets, and nanotech insulation requires more than we can make recycling aluminum cans. And then there are the minds that have the design expertise to put this all together—bringing our world-class team together also requires substantial funding.

The dumpster is a conversation box and we also need dollars to make sure this project not only kickstarts a conversation, but keeps it going for years. With our top-notch production company, A!R Media, we want the Dumpster Project website and dashboard to be freely available to educate and entertain for years to come and preserve the knowledge gained over the course of the experiment.

Our conversations and discoveries will go beyond the traditional news.
Our conversations and discoveries will go beyond the traditional news.

So go ahead, join us on the expedition and toss in some disposable income! The air is ripe for transforming the way we view happiness, health and home.

REWARDS. We've got dumpster loads of rewards for our sponsors!

Tees and Totes ($15 and up)
Tees and Totes ($15 and up)

 

Dumpster Cactus (at right) + Night in Dumpster ($2,000)
Dumpster Cactus (at right) + Night in Dumpster ($2,000)

 

Risks and challenges

Living in a dumpster? How risky can it be?

We are passionate about turning a dumpster into a high-tech home. Our only real risk is not getting the project funded. Our primary challenge is engaging everyone in this conversation.

There are two types of risks—personal injury and project injury. The most commonly asked question is: what if Professor Dumpster gets 'dumped'? Well, we've welded shut the 'pockets' used by dump trucks and turned them into functional spaces (like Professor Dumpster's mailbox) so that's not going to be a problem.

The second risk is that the über dumpster doesn't live up to its name and ends up just being a trashed out tiny house. We agree that it's a grand challenge and that's part of the reason we have an über team on board that is up to a big challenge. The very worst possible outcome, in the final analysis, is that we create the coolest dumpster home ever built (the Dumpster Yoda has seen this so it must be true) and learn a whole lot along the way.

Ultimately, this project is going to be made by small donors, so we need your help sharing this project with as many people as possible! We can’t do this alone.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

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Rewards

  • You selected
    $1 reward

    30 backers

    DUMPSTER FIST BUMP
    … an ancient ritual. Professor Dumpster will (gently) fist bump the dumpster (on the inside) while whispering your full birth name. Rumored to bring good luck. Most importantly as a backer, you’ll be linked to the project for the duration. You're on the list and part of the team. At this level and above your name will be placed on our 'Friends of Dumpster' page on the dumpsterproject.org website at the end of the successful campaign!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $10 reward

    14 backers

    DUMPSTER MAGNETRON - Stick with us and we stick to you. A dumpster magnet for your fridge, car, or if you wish – your very own favorite neighborhood dumpster!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $15 reward

    15 backers

    TOTE SOME TRASH – A certified Dumpster Project tote bag for all your dumpster diving treasures. Made from recycled organic cotton with the Dumpster ‘Tardis’ logo on the side. It’s bigger on the inside!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $25 reward

    28 backers

    SHIRT OFF OUR BACK (and for our backers) – Dumpster t-shirt – The trashiest look in town! With a designer Dumpster Project t-shirt they’ll see you coming, even if they don’t smell you. Royal Apparel organic cotton shirt from our friends at KONG Screen Printing here in Austin.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $35 reward

    11 backers Limited (9 left of 20)

    Tote + T-shirt. You'll get a tote for your groceries (or dumpster dived produce) and a Dumpster Project 'Yes we can' t-shirt to wear while you are diving. Trashiest look in town!

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $50 reward

    13 backers

    SHIRT + BETA ACCESS TO DOCUMENTARY - It’s an ‘A’ list sort of thing, just Dumpster-style. Beta-access to the interactive Dumpster documentary. You’ll be the first to see it and your input will help shape what will ultimately be the story of the Dumpster Project documented for posterity. You’ll get to see new cuts and give the AIR media company feedback.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $75 reward

    8 backers Limited (42 left of 50)

    TOTE + OFFICIAL DUMPSTER TITLE - You'll be Entered into the Royal Order of the Dumpster with your very own trashy title (Dumpster Diva, Sir In Sin Orator) – It’s like being knighted by the Queen but‘Queen’ happens to live in a 33 sq ft palace. Professor Dumpster will come up with a ‘punny’ Dumpster title for you, we will stamp it onto a metal fastener and attach it to a Dumpster tote. It’s limited to 50 because puns are non-renewable resources!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $100 reward

    7 backers Limited (193 left of 200)

    BE 'ON THE FENCE' – LITTER-ally! Why put your name on a brick and feel walked all over for an eternity when instead Professor Dumpster will tag your name on one of our white pallet picket fence posts in the dumpster back yard. We will also ‘tag’ you in the pic on social media and send you a high-resolution digital copy.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $150 reward

    6 backers

    DUMPSTER DIVING FLIGHT SUIT – A special edition Dumpster Diving zip-up onesie with the dumpster logo on the front pocket. A 'squeaky clean' white with blue logo. Protects your clothing while painting, mowing the lawn, cross country skiing, or for those last minute emergency dumpster dives. Sized to order.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $199 reward

    6 backers

    SPREAD THE LOVE (AND YOUR LOGO) ALL OVER THE DUMPSTER – Your name or business logo with a link on our special website sponsor page where we say this project is made possible by you. Plus, you can tote some trash or wear the trashiest look around with a Dumpster Project tote bag or t-shirt.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    $500 reward

    0 backers Limited (100 left of 100)

    TEXAS TRASH TALKIN’ – Professor Dumpster Speaketh. Professor Dumpster will give a talk at your organization, corporation, family reunion, or annual pagan solstice ritual out at the landfill. Limited to the state of Texas (travel costs apply outside Austin/San Antonio area).

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $777 reward

    0 backers Limited (77 left of 77)

    DUMPSTER LUCK YOU SHALL HAVE – I Ching Dumpster Fortune. Professor Dumpster will light some incense and perform a 20 minute I Ching reading (he has 15 years of experience) from inside the dumpster for you and type up your results on his 1950s typewriter. Observe in person if you are local or can get to Austin with your own transportation. Live via Skype is also welcome!

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $999 reward

    1 backer Limited (24 left of 25)

    STAY A WHILE - Air D&B – Because those places on Craigslist are always trashed. Come spend a solo night in the Dumpster in Austin and (if you wished) be filmed as part of our experiment and documentary! Conversation with Professor Dumpster in the morning over Turkish coffee! Travel is up to you but the luxury zero-star accommodations are on us. You will have access to ‘facilities’.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $2,000 reward

    2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)

    DUMPSTER ART - One of five in existence - it's a hand-crafted special edition cactus art welded from old dumpsters. Just like the one that Professor Dumpster has on his front ‘porch’ (see photos in narrative). Now you can have the perfect complement to any décor with a limited edition Dumpster Project cactus produced by artist in residence Chris at Texas Disposal Systems. These cactuses are made from recycled dumpsters and are second only to Dumpsters in terms of trashing your yard in the best way possible. It’s a Texas-sized cactus that weighs around 30 pounds but we’ll cover the shipping and handling

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States
  • You selected
    $3,500 reward

    0 backers Limited (15 left of 15)

    DUMPSTER ZEN RETREAT TO AUSTIN – Professor Dumpster will fly you to Austin and turn his humble abode over to you for a night of decadence that you will never forget. Air travel and ground transport costs covered (continental US only).

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $5,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)

    A Trashy Talk and a dumpster tattoo to remember the evening for the rest of your life – Professor Dumpster will come to YOU and give a talk at your event, community group, or private gathering. (We cover travel costs within continental US only.)
    Also, your Name/Corporate Logo ‘tattooed’ on the Dumpster and Dumpster Project website for the duration of the project. We will make a 1’x1’ magnet of your name or logo and display it on the Dumpster. Also, you or your company will be an ‘All In’ sponsor and get a social media shout out to be coordinated with you for timing.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    $10,000 reward

    0 backers Limited (5 left of 5)

    TRASH YOUR YARD (and forever make the neighbors jealous). Would you really like to trash your organization’s gala? Maybe you want the ultimate prank on your homeowners association. Professor Dumpster will deliver his ‘mobile home’ to you anywhere in Texas and you and your guest can live the high life for up to two nights in the Dumpster.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States

Funding period

- (32 days)