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HT’s ‘Professor Dumpster’ Moves Into 33-Sq. Ft. Space

(AUSTIN, Texas) 2.4.14 — Proving the premise that people can live with less, Huston-Tillotson University’s Dean of the University College and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Dr. Jeff Wilson, will move into a 33-square foot dumpster for one year. On Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 1 p.m., (CST) movers will deliver Wilson’s new abode to the HT campus at 900 Chicon Street, completely furnished with zilch.

Professor DumpsterDumpster Move In

Wilson, a recognized expert in the fields of Environmental Science and Environmental Health, is also Executive Director of The Dumpster Project, a registered Texas nonprofit focused on transforming sustainability education. He leads the project with a multi-disciplinary team of designers, academics, and students.  In his role as “Professor Dumpster” at HT, he promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education focused on reducing carbon footprints in an engaging, entertaining format. He has intrigued students with his methods in his popular Freshman Seminar class.  In addition, the newly formed Green is the New Black (GitNB) student organization under his guidance recently captured first place in the nationwide Ford Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Community Challenge held in Detroit, MI.

The students compiled a presentation around the theme titled, “Building Sustainable Communities” that captured an educational program to address issues of sustainability in Black and Hispanic communities.  The group introduced the challenge of transforming a 33-square foot dumpster into a fully functioning home complete with running water, toilet, shower, bed, and solar-generated electricity. Some students also plan to live in the dumpster.

“The overarching goal of The Dumpster Project is to test whether one can have a pretty good life while treading lightly on the planet—all from a dumpster that is one percent the size of the average new American home,” Wilson said.

The dumpster transformation will teach students about the positive aspects of reducing the waste of space, water, and food. Wilson plans to use a dumpster as an experimental teaching tool in broad areas of sustainability, such as converting dirty water to clean, drinking water, and generating electricity to power electronic and home devices.

In addition to the dumpster move in, a dumpster “house warming” party is planned on Friday, Feb. 7 at 4:30 p.m. on the campus in the Dickey-Lawless Science Building, Room 301.  Dumpster registry items include water filtering devices, a hammock, web cams, and a door mat.  He has generated support from Johnson Controls, Inc.; Texas Disposal Systems; Tree House Green Building Supply; and Whole Earth Provision Company.

HT students Maurice Fleming and Olivia Sanchez, co-captains of the GitNB team, shared that the win helped raise awareness among minority communities traditionally left out of the sustainability conversation. Fleming is African American and Sanchez is Hispanic.

Wilson completed his post-doctoral work at Harvard and holds a doctorate in Environmental Science from the University of Canterbury.  Over the course of his 13 years in higher education, he has been active in both research and teaching. He has authored dozens of articles in the area of environmental science and health and has received National Science Foundation funding for work on enhancing graduate studies and retention among underrepresented groups.

During the past five years, HT has enhanced its STEM offerings by developing new Environmental Studies courses, renovating the Dickey-Lawless Science Building, retrofitting and upgrading the laboratories, incorporating energy efficient lighting with sensors, and installing new heating and air conditioning units throughout the campus to support carbon footprint reduction and sustainability efforts.

Recently, HT was named a finalist in the 2014 Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards (CLA).  The annual competition is held among United States colleges and universities that are signatories of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The awards program is sponsored by Second Nature, a national nonprofit that seeks to create a sustainable society by transforming higher education, and Planet Forward, an organization that engages innovators and publishes compelling ideas for some of society’s biggest challenges.

“We continue to raise awareness of sustainability efforts within the campus environment in our efforts to influence behavioral changes that will ultimately benefit the greater society,” said Larry L. Earvin, Ph.D, President and Chief Executive Officer

Reducing total municipal waste by more than 80% and other green efforts resulted in recognition for HT from the National Wildlife Federation. In 2008, the University received an award for its sustainability efforts and commitment to creating a campus community that focuses on recycling, energy conservation, and waste reduction.

Huston-Tillotson University with roots dating to 1875, is the oldest institution of higher education in Austin, Texas, offering Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree in 20 areas of study. 

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