Eternal Returns, a community based recycling company, is seeking to change attitudes and beliefs about recycling and renewable resources by pushing education, community and healthy habits.
Taylor Patterson, 25, and Keegan Fioravanti, 22, and Haleigh Doyle, 21, cofound Eternal Return at the end of last year, 2014.
Keegan said composting and recycling is the key to helping this community become more sustainable.
Eternal Returns, based out of Brentwood, rents three acres of land from a local farm just south of Franklin where they do most of their composting.
“With composting you have unlimited resources and unlimited returns,” he said. “You have taken something that was going to be trash, and giving the new things that you’re growing life and more nutrition. That’s the best thing about it, there’s endless possibilities with this.”
COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST
Eternal Returns offers to pick up compost and recyclable items from businesses and residents across Middle Tennessee. The company sells recycling bins made of reclaim pallet wood on their website.
“We do a five gallon bucket and charge $5 a bucket a week, so most businesses will be looking at $60 to $80 a month in pick up fees,” Keegan said, “But that takes away how much businesses throw away so it takes out the amount of picks up to the pricey waste management.”
Keegan said the ideal ratio for composting is 70% nitrogen, (anything that still has life in it like green leafs and fresh cut shrubs, food scraps) and 30% carbon (things like dead leaves and dead branches). He said once a small amount of soil is added to the pile, microorganism and bacteria begin feeding on each other and producing good nutrients.
Once the process is complete, Eternal Returns sells the compost wholesale back to farmers, home gardeners or businesses. The nutrient rich soil helps plants become healthier and live longer.
Keegan and Taylor said there are not a lot of places where people can go for composting. They said part of that problem is that composting is heavily regulated the wrong way.
“The state of Tennessee doesn’t recognize a composting site. There’s one other company we know doing this, but it’s being treated as a landfill,” they said. “There are other parts of the country where they are doing it large scale and it’s going fine but that’s because they have a separate legislation for it.
The main difference between a landfill and composting site is one little, or big, thing: the trash.
“A landfill is taking all waste and putting it in a hole,” Taylor said. “Due to leaching and other things, the regulations for a landfill are a lot heavier than they would be for a composting site. If there’s a lot of garbage that’s piled up and not breaking down they have to have a giant concentrate bunker like a bowl to hold those fluids from not leaching elsewhere.”
He said the standard for a large-scale composting site should be different.
“Leaching can occur in large-scale composting but if done right, it can be avoided by having on site ponds and other smaller bodies of water.” Eternal Returns said they want to trap the leakage in the pond and use as a hydro-organic fertilizer.
Taylor, Keegan and Haleigh are gathering information from other states to get an idea of how other large-scale composting sites are being regulated across the country. The trio hopes to present a plan to state legislatures sometime in the near future.
“It’s going to be a lot of trial and error because it’s going to be something new here,” Keegan said. “It’s going to be a big step, and it has to be a community-based understanding with general education, but that is where it starts.”
Taylor and Keegan said it is mind-blowing how much landfills are contributing to methane levels. They suggest, as many studies have also, that trash breaking down in landfills is releasing harmful gases into the environment.
According to the EPA’s website, “Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 18.2 percent of these emissions in 2012.”
Keegan said more and more small businesses want an alternative to waste and are looking at composting or recycling. He said when people don’t know how to properly dispose of waste things like light bulbs, which contain mercury; they end up in landfills, break down and can negatively affect the environment and human beings.
On their website, Eternal Return pushes education and community:
“We believe that by starting a recycling company that is involved in our communities, we can implement a positive change for Tennessee. What sets us apart from other recycling and waste companies is our plan to educate. Our plan is to educate all generations on what they can do to be a part of the change. We will plan workshops and events so that our community will grow to be more environmentally conscious.”
Keegan said it’s not only about recycling, but also eating and being healthy as well.
“If people start to eat healthy and start to feel healthy then they’re not going to want to go back to the junk food,” he said.
ABOUT the CREW
Taylor, Keegan and Haleigh all met at Whole Foods in Cool Springs, where the three of them worked together for about year and a half.
“I was head of their zero waste department, and I was basically taking care of their recycling stuff,” Keegan said. He and Taylor became frustrated with the company because he felt they weren’t doing their part to educate their customers and didn’t feel they cared to make those steps, so in summer of 2014 the boys left Whole Foods to starting something on their own.
Originally hailing from Oregon, Keegan moved from Hawaii to Tennessee with his family in 2012.
Keegan has traveled to many third world countries for mission trips with his family and has seen how trash can affect people’s lives if not handled properly. He said it was at that time that he started to become aware of how beneficial recycling was to communities around the world.
“In India, the whole country burns their trash every morning, and every morning you wake up and your eyes are burning,” he said.” You’re coughing and you get so much crap in your lungs. You can feel the intensity of the pollution in the air.”
That experience shaped Keegan’s mindset about recycling, healthy living and its impact on cities and the people inhabiting them.
Taylor was born in Atlanta and moved to Tennessee as a one year old. He spent most of his time growing up in the rural town of Leiper’s Fork, about 40 minutes southwest of Nashville.
“I had to move to the city to realize how things actually worked,” he said. “The places were I grew up that I knew and loved were actually deteriorating over time. I guess I realized then that [consumerism] had taken over people’s awareness for our environment, the place you live and future generations.”
Taylor said it really started to affect him around the age of 19 when he started working at Whole Foods and met his future business partners and best friends. He graduated from Middle College High School, now Renaissance High School, in Franklin in 2008.
Born and raised in Tennessee, Haleigh went to Franklin High School and graduated in 2011. She said she didn’t start to become more green conscience until she started working at Whole Foods.
As the marketing director for Eternal Returns she said she wants to inspire people to live a better life.
“Social media is such a great way to interact with generations and empower people to take control of their lives,” she said.
“Nashville is growing, especially in the sustainability world,” she said. “There are a lot of younger generations who are realizing just how much we can impact the community and change our habits.”
COMPOST and COMMUNITY
“A community is a collective of people to a similar consciousness that all band together to support each other and focus on an end goal that is beneficial and effective to everyone’s different needs,” Taylor said. “It’s something everyone is a part of whether they want to be or not.”
“We’re focused on driving the community to become the greater factor in the system,” he said. “We’re trying to get down in the trenches against green warfare and really uproot the deep seeded aspects of consciousness to inspire everyone to not be so wasteful.”
Keegan said one of the main objectives of the company is to make their relationships as personally and community orientated as possible.
“With composting we get to involve ourselves into the community,” he said. “It gives people the ability to regenerate something for themselves.”
Haleigh said she definitely sees that “green consciousness” is a trend for most people, and she said she hopes that it stays around.
“It’s okay that’s it’s trendy right now, because at least people are aware of certain things that they weren’t before,” she said.
Keegan said there hasn’t really been a movement here in Tennessee like there has been in other places, but he said once the change starts to happen and people realize they can still maintain their fast pace life while still being conscious of what’s going on around them, then thing will start to change.
“We all have a really big passion for recycling because we love the Earth we live on,” Keegan said. “I want my kids and their grandkids to be able to live on it. I don’t want to just leave them with something that they’re going to have to fix. I’d rather give them something with a system to help future generations.”
To find ways to get involved with Eternal Returns and to plan your pick up, visit their website by clicking on the highlighted link.