He had an epiphany while living in a dumpster. And it could help change the future of housing.

He was living in a dumpster when the idea first came to him.

His name's Jeff Wilson — Dr. Jeff Wilson, actually. He's a professor at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, known fondly on campus as "Professor Dumpster."


Photo by Jeff Wilson/Wikimedia Commons.

Wilson made himself the guinea pig in a year-long experiment on sustainable living.

He traded a 3,000-square-foot home and most of his worldly possessions for a spartan 33-square-foot living space created in a big green dumpster.

Wilson's experiment eventually became a nonprofit called The Dumpster Project that "invites learners of all ages to rethink sustainability through the quirky task of turning a dumpster into a home." Photos (exterior, interior) by Unilarity/Wikimedia Commons.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Wilson said the experience made him happier than he's ever been. He was unburdened by the weights of adulthood, saving big on rent and utilities, doing less housework, cutting his commute down to near-nonexistence, and just having less stuff to clutter his space and mind.

Living in a dumpster may not be for everyone, but Wilson thinks smart home engineering can yield the same benefits.

Case in point: tiny houses. They're exactly what they sound like — homes of varying tininess, often pictured in bucolic ruralities.

Photo by Benjamin Chun/Flickr.

Some are craftily adapted from materials not typically used with home building.

Photo by ROLU/Flickr.

And some are designed to go with you when you want to move.

Photo by Guillaume Dutilh/Wikimedia Commons.

Tiny houses are gaining more attention as a viable housing alternative, which is great news for a few reasons.

They're an option — for the crafty and willing — with affordable housing growing scarcer as cities sell out their locals for higher bidders. Then there are some, like Wilson, who just want to live simpler, less materially crowded and wasteful lives.

Wilson's verve for simple living became an entrepreneurial mission — to build a new generation of smart homes.

His company is called Kasita, but they're not building homes for country living. They're bringing the tiny house movement to the city — although, in a press statement, they say they don't call what they're building "tiny houses":

"The Kasita completely reimagines the home with industrial design at its core. There's nothing quite like it out there. The Kasita does not contain a loft, Murphy bed, pitched roof, or wheels. It's designed from the ground up as opposed to an adaptation of an existing structure intended to store and transport merchandise (but we have lots of love and respect for our friends in the Tiny House and container communities!)."

Their 208-square-foot design slides into multi-level structures called "racks," which connect to municipal utilities like electricity and plumbing.

The first rack is scheduled to open in Austin in 2016, and plans are underway to build them in 10 more cities by 2017.

With Kasita, you can move your entire home to any city with a rack. All you have to do is make a call, schedule a big-rig pickup, and off it'll go to your next destination.

Kasitas are equipped with all the amenities of a modern home, including a kitchen with a cooktop, convection oven, and dishwasher; a bathroom with a walk-in shower; and a combined washer and dryer unit.

The walls use a special tile system that lets you customize the space to your needs.

Plus, they'll have voice-activated components like lighting, entertainment, and a hidden queen-size bed that rolls out on your command, like a boss at bedtime.

To make Kasita an affordable housing opportunity, they're building community partnerships for creative land use.

They haven't yet announced pricing for buyers, but one of their stated goals is to offer rentals at half the market rate of standard studio apartments. In the country's most rapidly gentrifying cities, that could add up to serious savings.

Housing may be an internationally recognized human right, but not enough is being done to ensure everyone has access to it. Until then, it's encouraging to know there are businesses out there like Kasita that aren't just in the business of making things worse.

Kasita won't stop the housing crisis dead in its tracks. But if it proves successful, it could help inspire the kind of innovation we need to eventually send it flying off its rails.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less