Our Year in Review at The Congaree Milling Company January 03 2016

A Year to Remember!

A year of struggle and adversity brought out the best in our fair state. Through tragedy, we as citizens led our elected officials to make the right decisions that have made a more inclusive State Government. Although this only indirectly affected our business (as when violent hate groups flocked to our state, driving down business at local markets), we were there, cheering the positive change that so seldom seems to come from our state leaders. From the tragedy of hatred, the people of South Carolina harnessed the momentum, using the inertia of Justice to change this place we call home for the better. We applaud you, the people of South Carolina and Governor Haley.

Even as we as a state may have thought the long, hot, dry summer of 2015 was historic, our weather took a drastic turn and gave us a nasty surprise. The weeks of rain that preceded the weekend of October 1st and had seemed just an inconvenience suddenly took a deadly turn.

The rivers and streams of the Piedmont and Low Country swelled with rain and overflowed their banks, destroying property and taking lives. As I recount it now, I'm sure no-one who lived in Columbia through those fateful days will ever forget those tragic events. Many lost everything.

How We Helped

From our inception as a company, being part of the fabric of our community was a goal. So, on the 3rd of October, I called my friend Bryan Tayara of the Rosewood Market, and we delivered several pallets of drinking water to various shelters in the Columbia area. As the call went out for trucks to deliver water and food to affected communities, we were able to spend a day helping the Harvest Hope Food Bank deliver water and food to two different flooded neighborhoods. For these opportunities, I would like to thank Carrie Draper for alerting me.

As business-as-usual took a back seat to the need to find fresh water and provisions, economic pressures affected not only our business, but those that we rely on, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and farmer's markets. But throughout the difficulty, we always knew that we were the lucky ones, still in our own homes with our families.

As the City struggled to its feet, some of our creative and fun-loving citizens decided to help by doing one of the things we do so well. We had a party! For the "Big Dam" benefit, we would like to thank Mr.Tom Hall, Eric and Robbie McClam, and Emile DeFelice (not to mention the staff of City Roots and Soda City)! Thanks to all involved parties for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a great event!

In 2016, we resolve to revisit our flood relief efforts, assisting the organizations and charities still leading the charge in ongoing recovery efforts.

Sticking to Our Goals

The freakish weather of 2015 introduces a perfect segue into a brief summary of our efforts to become a zero-waste business. Even as businesses took the forefront in addressing their roles in anthropomorphic global climate change, many unapologetic polluters doubled down. Of the many instances of this counter-offensive by businesses ignoring all the available evidence, I found a few memorable: the worst by far was the "recycling is terrible" article I read. 

Recycling (especially of cardboard, paper, aluminum, and other metals) will save energy in the refining process, and preserve the environment by reducing the need for extraction.

We still believe that recycling is the best way for us to be good corporate citizens. And we did quite a bit of recycling in 2015!

The Results

We recycle a great deal of paper and cardboard at The Congaree Milling Company. In 2015, we recycled 73 pounds of cardboard and 220 pounds of paper. These range from Kraft paper sacks to junk mail and office paper. I would like to thank Allie Mason (the Farm Manager at USC's Green Quad) for taking some of these as a biodegradeable mulch for the Carolina Community Garden at USC. By doing this, we took a waste product and made it a helpful part of a food-generating system. On an interpersonal level, we made some great friends!

We also recycle metal (90 pounds recycled in 2015), some batteries (27 pounds), electronics, motor oil, and even cooking oil (8 gallons). We even helped negotiate a contract with a local restaurant and Midlands Bio-fuels (one of our favorite businesses) to get their cooking oil turned into bio-diesel.

With the help of Dan Scheel, we composted over 1,000 pounds of restaurant waste!. Our composting project actually cost us money, but it fulfilled the goal of bringing our company very close to being a zero-waste business (a stated goal of ours). Additionally, it provided some great compost for our friends at City Roots!

As we move forward, we hope to bring our clients, vendors, and business associates into the fold, working to be a community that takes only what it needs from the environment to accomplish our goals.

Other Charities

We continued our charitable work, most notably our donation of a gift basket to the Harvest Hope Food Bank's Empty Bowls silent auction. We were also proud to donate some Shrimp and Grits to the SERTOMA Club's annual Tailgate Party benefiting charity. As we did last year, we donated another gift basket to the silent auction at Rosewood Elementary.

In our volunteering efforts, we did volunteer shifts for Sustainable Midlands at both the Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival (directing parking), and at the St. Patrick's Day Festival (collecting recyclables).

Here's to 2016!

We hope that in 2016, we strengthen our ties to our community and other like-minded businesses and people, and remain dedicated to our goals of sustainability and success.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your patronage that makes all of this possible.

Happy New Year!