Jeff Recker, MBA’08, can point to the moment when environmental issues became personal to him. It was Labor Day weekend,and the creek that runs through his backyard in West Nashville suddenly began filling up with dead fish. As he would later come to find out, a toxic spill had occurred at a construction site upstream.
This negligence prompted Recker, a member of his local watershed association, to take action. He convinced the company believed to be at fault into donating several trash cans as a goodwill gesture to the park area surrounding the creek. While park officials agreed that more cans would help cut down on trash entering the creek, they were unable to accept the donation due to the high cost of additional trash collection.
He remembers thinking then, “There has to be a better way.”
In his first year at Owen, Recker founded Flatstone Creek LLC, a consulting firm named after the waterway in his backyard. He later added “sustainability” advising to his expertise after taking one of Professor of Management Germain Böer’s entrepreneurship courses. Among the case studies was a product called BigBelly, a solar-powered trash compactor that reduces pick-ups because it has five times the capacity of a conventional trash can.
“It was a very practical case. In class you’re not always thinking about how to apply these cases in the real world, but this was the type of product that you could,” he says.
Recker was so impressed by the BigBelly’s potential—not only the cost savings of fewer trash collections but also the “green” benefits of the resulting lower emissions—that he contacted the manufacturer about the rights to sell them. Today he distributes the compactors and recycling units throughout Tennessee and two neighboring states. The BigBelly can be seen at food courts, airports and even at Vanderbilt, where use of the compactors is being explored.