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Dumpster Digs
October 16, 2013 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Do you think you could live in 33 square feet? What about a 33 square foot dumpster? Beginning this fall, Professor Dumpster will take up residence in the customized trash bin in order to spread awareness about sustainability and promote the model of "less is more."
posted by jim in austin (54 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
For times when the professor just needs to get out of the trash can, students can opt to stay overnight in the dumpster.

If it were me, I'd set it up so the kids are in the dumpster every night, and then throw up my hands at the end of the year when someone points out I never actually slept there. WHAAAT? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:56 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


It depends on if there is actual trash in the dumpster with me.
posted by fancyoats at 7:16 PM on October 16, 2013


Amateur.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:18 PM on October 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


Professor! What's another word for trash enclosure?
posted by tss at 7:18 PM on October 16, 2013


Secondary objective is to devise a pocket mulching system.
posted by planetesimal at 7:19 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it a pristine fresh from the factory dumpster or have there been items of refuse in it
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:23 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get it now, he has a magic dumpster that contains a wormhole that will transport him between Austin and Portland, to dive as needed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:47 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wilson plans on taking the bin across the country to teach students about the possibility of living outside the box while living, well, inside a box.

Get this man a TED talk.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:08 PM on October 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is it a pristine fresh from the factory dumpster or have there been items of refuse in it

If the latter I think I'd steam clean it, sand it down to the metal -- at least the interior -- disinfect and then repaint.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:22 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, this guy claimed to have lived in the 8x8x8 foot cube sculpture in Astor Place in New York, but it turned out to be staged, a marketing ploy for some meditation fad.

It's cool to see someone trying it for real.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:30 PM on October 16, 2013






Swap the bow tie and Harvard education for a family sharing your small space; wedge dumpster in a whole city district of similarly sized boxes with families and now, professor, you are living in Condition Normal for most of humanity. Is this made interesting if I look at it through the prism that is the myopia of sheltered privilege?

A lot of irony went into pressing that nice shirt on that professor in a dumpster.
posted by astrobiophysican at 8:41 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If the dumpster were bigger on the inside than the outside, it'd be like a kind of low-rent Dr. Who -- Mister Dumpster.
posted by smcameron at 8:45 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this made interesting if I look at it through the prism that is the myopia of sheltered privilege?

Sustainability and environmental awareness is a luxury that many people can't afford, true. But that doesn't mean that it's not worth talking about.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:49 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


> you are living in Condition Normal for most of humanity

Really, most of humanity is stacked in little 6x6 oases within the usual American configuration of personal transport and public space?
posted by postcommunism at 9:02 PM on October 16, 2013


Well, it is bulletproof; that is still of some importance in the 7th and Chicon area.
posted by buzzman at 9:14 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It feels good to say words like sustainability and environmental awareness but, at this point, we all know they are pleasant euphemisms for genocide or plague or some other post modern fantasy. Gimmicks like eating from or living in a dumpster haven't changed the world and thinking they will is a dangerous delusion designed to shoulder the blame on individuals that have no actual control over a system that is largely out of control of any individual. Even if he lived in a hay barrel mansion his 'footprint' is so intimately intertwined with a massive industrial consumer complex that is so far out of control that the professor in the dumpster is about what we get from environmental education today.

And yes postcommunism - especially you should know! - most of humanity is now Urban and the large majority of that lives in shanty towns where 6x6 of personal space would be an improvement.
posted by astrobiophysican at 9:15 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


My point was that you're ignoring his context and also doing the "we Westerners are all in the global 1%!" silliness, but on the other hand...

> Gimmicks like this [...] shoulder blame on individuals that have no actual control over a system that is largely out of control of any individual. Even if he lived in a hay barrel mansion his 'footprint' is so intimately intertwined with a massive industrial consumer complex

I actually agree with a chunk of that.
posted by postcommunism at 9:21 PM on October 16, 2013


It feels good to say words like sustainability and environmental awareness but, at this point, we all know they are pleasant euphemisms for genocide or plague or some other post modern fantasy.

Yeah, I think we are speaking different languages.

Gimmicks like eating from or living in a dumpster haven't changed the world and thinking they will is a dangerous delusion designed to shoulder the blame on individuals that have no actual control over a system that is largely out of control of any individual.

He's an environmental scientist with a focus on sustainability. I don't think that it is evident that he is looking to blame anyone. If anything, he is trying to make a point to and about the high-consumption consumerist middle and upper class.

And yes postcommunism - especially you should know! - most of humanity is now Urban and the large majority of that lives in shanty towns where 6x6 of personal space would be an improvement.

My user name is a literary reference, not a political one.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:21 PM on October 16, 2013


I'm a bit confused by the priorities here. The article lists wifi as one of the amenities of the large metal box but for climate control they are "relying on creative collaboration," which I'm going to guess translates to "don't have a clue yet."

If they don't sort that one out, Professor Dumpster is going to be Professor Heatstroke in a few short months.
posted by cmyk at 9:25 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


He should devise a system where living in a dumpster isn't a very real possibility for many people and then I'll listen. Otherwise its just another form of "Why don't the poor just garden?" thinking.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 9:26 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm ok with what you are all saying. I just think the most effective use of an environmentalist's day would be spent focused on yelling at people who have more than two kids than burning down McMansions. He should build a mcmansion out of hay. He should knit a kilt out of yarn spun from the sheep he sleeps next to at night instead of the shirt made in a sweatshop and shipped to him in a container ship. He should eat blue green algae grown between his toes for breakfast and then walk to his job as a rocket scientist working on shifting the weight of humanity to another planet. Anything short of that seems like a professor in a dumpster. Sure, I'm being a bit facetious here. And any change is good change. But this seems like the same old tired hacking at branches which is dangerous noise as the roots of the problems grow stronger by the day.
posted by astrobiophysican at 9:34 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really though, dude's publicly advocating cozy living quarters in a city which, progressive image aside, has huge sprawl problems and some of the worst traffic in the nation. I mean, look at the skyline. That's the downtown of a city that claims a larger population than San Francisco. They could stand some density, as could a lot of places.

astrobiophysican, lifestyle "solutions" are often just a marketing arm of the system they purport to solve, but in this case it's still better than the opposite.
posted by postcommunism at 9:35 PM on October 16, 2013


Otherwise its just another form of "Why don't the poor just garden?" thinking.

I think it's more, "Why don't the rich stop having such giant wasteful homes" and "Why don't people stop buying so much crap they don't need". They seem very clear on drawing comparisons with the average American home.

It's certainly a stunt. But that doesn't mean it's bad, or worthless. It's a design challenge intended promote innovation. Creative solutions often come from trying to find your way out of constraints.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:36 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just think the most effective use of an environmentalist's day would be spent focused on yelling at people who have more than two kids than burning down McMansions.

He's a teacher. He is teaching.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:37 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also the US birth rate is at near record lows and is below 2 per woman. Who do you expect him to yell at?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:40 PM on October 16, 2013


If he or anyone tells you that big houses and big lawns and big cars are killing the environment... I think they are like a doctor telling a patient that their runny noise is the disease. Teaching doctors to mistake symptoms for causes seems like a mistake. You don't cure an illness by treating the symptoms. I really don't know enough to say what the root cause is, but that's what people going to Harvard are subsidized to figure out and tell us.
posted by astrobiophysican at 9:45 PM on October 16, 2013


RE US birth rates... factor in the children being supported by cross-border remittances, migration (born elsewhere but raised here) and the whole fluidity of global commerce and you quickly realize that the only demarcation that counts for population is "World". Even if the upstairs folk are not breeding like rabbits we're paying the downstairs folk just enough to do so but not enough for a Netflix account that is the best contraceptive. Same house.
posted by astrobiophysican at 9:53 PM on October 16, 2013


And yes postcommunism - especially you should know! - most of humanity is now Urban and the large majority of that lives in shanty towns where 6x6 of personal space would be an improvement.

My user name is a literary reference, not a political one.


I see now that you were addressing postcommunism the user, and not talking to me about the state of world affairs since the fall of communism in the USSR. Apologies.

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:57 PM on October 16, 2013


No worries. It was fun exchanging thoughts and perspectives with you and everyone here. I hope nothing I said offended since I'm not really offended by the Prof in a dumpster and our discourse proves that his exercise has had some of the desired effect! Thanks for the post!
posted by astrobiophysican at 10:02 PM on October 16, 2013


That very much depends on what your desired effect was.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:08 PM on October 16, 2013


Most of my in-laws think square footage is the sole measure of a house's worth, and think people are crazy to live near stuff and walk to work. This might be a news story they will listen to without changing the channel.

If you've read the Unabomber's manifesto, you probably aren't the target audience.
posted by benzenedream at 10:12 PM on October 16, 2013


I don't disagree with what this guy is doing, but I think his choice of home won't be very effective in convincing others. Use one of the traditional tiny house designs, or perhaps this very small structure, build it from recycled materials, and then live in it.

If he's pushing smaller, sustainable living then the choice of house should be something most people would find at least somewhat resembles the sort of house they're used to.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:26 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gimmicks like eating from or living in a dumpster haven't changed the world and thinking they will is a dangerous delusion designed to shoulder the blame on individuals that have no actual control over a system that is largely out of control of any individual.

Sure, Mario Savio, but if you're advocating sustainability and you don't do this, then people are all "Well Al Gore has the carbon footprint of Denmark."
posted by dhartung at 10:27 PM on October 16, 2013


I think it's more, "Why don't the rich stop having such giant wasteful homes"

Oh, that's a simple question with a simple answer: because they have money.

The rich have huge wasteful homes because they can afford to do so. If you want them to have the lifestyle of a lower- class Hong Kong resident, then you're going to have to make them as poor as that Hong Kong resident. If you want the middle class to stop splurging on wasteful middle-class material culture, then you're going to have to make them so poor that they cannot afford to do so.

If you want people to live like they're in a favella, you have two choices; make poverty the norm through general massive economic and environmental collapse, or force them into gulags. I recommend the latter, because then you and your companions can then live in the big houses, as just rewards for heroes of the Revolution.
posted by happyroach at 12:24 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dumpster? This professor is lucky to have a Dumpster! We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! Dumpster!? Hmph.
posted by three blind mice at 2:06 AM on October 17, 2013


I don't disagree with what this guy is doing, but I think his choice of home won't be very effective in convincing others. Use one of the traditional tiny house designs, or perhaps this very small structure, build it from recycled materials, and then live in it.

... And if he had done that, we wouldn't be talking about him - he wouldn't be getting his message across.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:10 AM on October 17, 2013


The rich have huge wasteful homes because they can afford to do so. If you want them to have the lifestyle of a lower- class Hong Kong resident, then you're going to have to make them as poor as that Hong Kong resident. If you want the middle class to stop splurging on wasteful middle-class material culture, then you're going to have to make them so poor that they cannot afford to do so.

This assumes that people have no choice in their spending - that rich people are unable to not spend their money on large wasteful homes. That is preposterous.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:51 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it any time that anyone tries to do or say anything artistically about this sort of thing that it gets completely slagged on and covered in tomatoes and beer bottles 5 seconds in by internet armchair admirals?

It really is a great example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. How would you like to see this guy making a statement about this? The point above about this being the way to get housing excess and the conditions that a significant number of people live in as a topic of conversation for the average person who just watches soundbite news and doesn't give a fuck is a big thing here.

This is weird, it's quirky, it has all the elements of being something that will get a bunch of attention online and probably reach to somewhere around the oprah level in offline media.

So you can harp all you want on how this guys an asshole doing cartwheels with his privilege. What have you done to get the average person who doesn't give a fuck talking about this? Snark all you want, because the answer is not much.

Also, i was genuinely surprised that this wasn't an evergreen professor. This kind of shit would be so in character for there, and is exactly the sort of thing Matt Groening would throw into futurama or the simpsons to poke fun at that place.
posted by emptythought at 3:34 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it any time that anyone tries to do or say anything artistically about this sort of thing that it gets completely slagged on and covered in tomatoes and beer bottles 5 seconds in by internet armchair admirals?

I don't know, but if you find out, tell me, because I've found some reactions in this thread genuinely perplexing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:50 AM on October 17, 2013


The rich have huge wasteful homes because they can afford to do so. If you want them to have the lifestyle of a lower- class Hong Kong resident, then you're going to have to make them as poor as that Hong Kong resident. If you want the middle class to stop splurging on wasteful middle-class material culture, then you're going to have to make them so poor that they cannot afford to do so.

This assumes that people have no choice in their spending - that rich people are unable to not spend their money on large wasteful homes. That is preposterous.


Well no, it assumes that they have a choice to spend their money on comfortable living quarters. It is possible to live in a tiny space, sure, but it's not as comfortable as living somewhere roomier. So while all the lower and middle classes get to be lauded for their greenness and sustainability and minimalizing, the fatcats will still be enjoying open spaces, breathing room, and luxurious digs. Heck, while everyone else is being all conservationist, that means more resourses for the worthy elite to burn through!
posted by Hal Mumkin at 4:13 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


(And I say this as someone who has been comfortably living in a conex for nearly two years.)
posted by Hal Mumkin at 4:15 AM on October 17, 2013


I understand that this is well-intentioned, especially on the sustainability front, but we have building codes for a reason, and they're so that people, especially those with lower incomes, aren't pushed into unbelievably horrific living situations and we have at least a minimum standard for things like sanitation. We don't always meet that standard but I think that this is pretty misguided and creates a situation where people can say "See? This rich Harvard guy is CHOOSING to live in a dumpster! Why don't you poor people just take your kids THERE? Who needs bathrooms/hot water/washing facilities? What, are you going to want food and jobs next?"
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:07 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree with what this guy is doing, but I think his choice of home won't be very effective in convincing others. Use one of the traditional tiny house designs, or perhaps this very small structure, build it from recycled materials, and then live in it.

... And if he had done that, we wouldn't be talking about him - he wouldn't be getting his message across.


If you really, REALLY wanted to both get your message across and do something to help at the same time... buy a tract of land, build a dozen of these "tiny houses", rent them out at reasonable rates (possibly even to the homeless), and then show people that this sort of thing actually works as a thing instead of a theoretical concept.

Otherwise, I see this as just another ridiculous "look at me" token gesture. Until that happens this guy's story has been filed into the rather overflowing mental file folder titled "individuals can do great things, but people as a whole suck."
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:54 AM on October 17, 2013


ctrl-f

"Zoidberg"

zero results

disappointed!
posted by thewalrus at 7:51 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like this idea. But I'd like to see him do it with a partner and a kid. See how that works out.
posted by hot_monster at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2013


What about living in a structure that was in fact both portable and compactable/expandable? I'm basically talking about living in a tent. BUT. What if the core services of a house were based around some sort of rolling unit that you put the tent up around. So you have a tent and it has heating and some sort of flush toilet and a cooker and electricity and whatnot and it's all built in to this thing that lives in the tent with you. And you have space. as well as portability. Hell the structure might as well serve as the centre-pole of the house too.
posted by aesop at 8:29 AM on October 17, 2013


If you really, REALLY wanted to both get your message across and do something to help at the same time... buy a tract of land, build a dozen of these "tiny houses", rent them out at reasonable rates (possibly even to the homeless), and then show people that this sort of thing actually works as a thing instead of a theoretical concept.

Excuse me, but what the fuck? This type of 'LOL you say you care about X but you dont and if you really did you should do Y' is really annoying.

Maybe if you really wanted to change this guys behavior you would actually do something about it rather than just resort to commenting on the internet?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:29 AM on October 17, 2013


What if the core services of a house were based around some sort of rolling unit that you put the tent up around.

That would probably be good for disaster relief housing in emergencies, though not significantly better than a regular trailer. Wouldn't be much fun in the long term, though. There's a reason nobody lives in a tent unless they're not planning to stay long or don't have other options. They kinda suck compared to floors and walls and foundations and actual roofs.
posted by echo target at 9:11 AM on October 17, 2013


There is an entire class of folks that dream about such an expansive interior. The micro cruiser crowd. No, really, there are folks that have crossed oceans in boats shorter than me, in comfort and having just a great life.
posted by sammyo at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2013


Those 12-foot boats are shorter than you?! Jesus, man! You must have a lot of trouble looking for apartments.
posted by echo target at 9:24 AM on October 17, 2013


If you really, REALLY wanted to both get your message across and do something to help at the same time... buy a tract of land, build a dozen of these "tiny houses", rent them out at reasonable rates (possibly even to the homeless), and then show people that this sort of thing actually works as a thing instead of a theoretical concept.

...And if he did that, you'd be complaining that he only built like 10 of them in a city of 1000s of homeless and it's still just a token gesture to make himself look so cool and "compassionate" and "progressive".

It reminds me of a certain part of this article, mainly
Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke”.
Specifically, the backstroke part.

This guy could house an entire cities worth of homeless people and people like you would be complaining about how he only did one city, or "SURE IS AMERICA-CENTRIC LOL" or something like that.

It's pretty tiresome.
posted by emptythought at 5:12 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those 12-foot boats are shorter than you?! Jesus, man! You must have a lot of trouble looking for apartments.


LOL, not quite that tall, actually just fairly normal, here's the reference to the actual short boats:

St. John's, Newfoundland sailing to Falmouth, England in a 5 foot 4 inch sailboat taking 115 days.
posted by sammyo at 7:39 AM on October 18, 2013


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