The Decline of Big Coal in West Virginia (Extra Credit Post #4)

West Virginia is my home state and we are known for our mountains. Our beautiful mountains provide scenic views, recreation and habitats for wildlife. These mountains are also filled with coal. Coal has been a controversial issue for some time now. A lot of people in my state were relying on the coal industry to provide for their families. Coal mining is dangerous and comes with a lot of health risks. Although there are safety regulations now, there did not used to be. Coal miners are at risk of breathing in harsh chemicals that can cause respiratory problems. They also are working in tight spaces and are at risk of being struck by falling objects. Even worse, they are at risk of the mine collapsing or exploding.   But what makes it worth the risk? The pay. Coal miners make $60,000 a year on average. This is a lot of money to be making right out of high school. These miners thought that they had a career for life. Unfortunately for them, coal is on its way to being dead and miners are laid off every day.

Since coal has been such a big part of West Virginia’s economy, the coal miners are not the only ones being effected by the decline of coal. It is a chain reaction. About a year ago, a company in Rand, WV was shut down. This company was responsible for building coal trucks. Not too long after that, people at a local bolt factory got laid off because their company made the bolts for the coal trucks for the company that got shut down. This effects more people than just the miners and their families. When coal finally dies completely, I believe that West Virginia’s economy will take a huge hit.

Many people voted for Donald Trump in this past election because he has claimed that he will bring coal mining back to West Virginia. Desperate for financial stability, former coal miners and their families believed him and voted for him on Election Day. What they do not understand is coal is not going to come back to West Virginia. We have discovered other ways to produce energy that do not destroy the environment. We have moved past coal and it is not coming back.

My hometown of Charleston is not like the rest of West Virginia. Although it is a small city, it is still a city. The rest of West Virginia is rural. Even the other “cities” are pretty rural. These are areas where most of the coal miners live, and these are the areas being effected the most. In Charleston, we have downtown that is filled with office buildings and an opportunity to start a professional career. We are starting to get more restaurants and more events going on in town. Although it may seem like Charleston is growing, people are still leaving West Virginia. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that West Virginia had a population decline of .25%, about 4,623 people, from July 2014 to July 2015. People are moving away because the economy is not the best and there are not many jobs. Even young professionals do not really stand a chance here.

In 2015, Gallup-Healthways released its annual Well-Being Index for 2014. It was no surprise that West Virginia was declared the most miserable state in the United States for the sixth year in a row.

Could all of this be because of the decline of coal? Sure there are other things that factor into this statistic. For example, West Virginia has also been recognized as the state with the most drug overdoses. There are 35 drug related deaths per 100,000 people in the state of West Virginia, the highest overdose rate in the country.

It is very sad to see the place that I call home decline not only economically, but overall as well. West Virginia has a bad reputation but it is a beautiful state with nicest people around. No matter what Donald Trump says, I do not think that big coal will make a return. Even if it did, I do not think that it would stop people from moving to another state. There are better opportunities in other places.


Our Repurposing Project (Extra Credit #3)

A couple of months ago, my girlfriend and I started collecting beer caps with plans to create either a beer cap table or serving tray. We ended up repurposing an old tray for this project and the end result looks really great. This is a really unique piece and I thought I would share how we did this.

For this project, you will need a serving tray, super glue or a hot glue gun, high gloss resin, a lot of beer/soda caps, an old credit card/rewards card and something to cover the resin while it dries (we used aluminum foil).

At the time that we made this tray, my girlfriend was working in a bar. To speed up this project, she emptied the beer caps out of the bottle opener behind the bar at the end of the night. We had enough bottle caps for this project in about two days. If you know someone who works in a bar and you decide to get your bottle caps from them rather than collecting them yourselves, you will need to wash them as soon as you can. They will quickly start to rust, mold and smell terrible. She just used regular dish liquid for this step and then dried them off. After the bottle caps were clean, we sorted through them and got the ones that we definitely wanted to put on the tray.

After going through all of the caps, the next step is to glue them onto the tray. You cannot skip this step. If you do, the caps will start floating as soon as you poor the resin. The caps need to be firmly glued down. We started out with super glue but found that the hot glue gun was working out better for us. This process takes several days just because of how frustrating and tedious it is. If there are any bends in the caps caused by a bottle opener, I would suggest bending the cap back to normal as much as you can before gluing it onto the tray.

We used an old tray for this project, but you can go buy a new one if you do not have one sitting around. We thought this one would be perfect for this because the sides of the tray came up just enough to keep the resin in place. If you opt to use one without sides that are high enough, you will have to find a way to build your own barrier. The tutorial we originally used for this suggested to use aluminum foil when creating your own barrier-but I highly suggest using a tray/table that already has one.

After all of the caps are glued down, it is time to pour the resin. You should figure how much resin you will be needing beforehand, due to the square footage of the surface. We used twice the amount that we needed because we wanted the caps to be completely covered to leave a smooth surface.

It is extremely important to follow the mixing directions of the resin exactly how they are said. After mixing the resin accordingly, pour the mixture on top of the glued-down bottle caps and use that old credit card to evenly spread the resin. There will be some air bubbles, but those will go away on their own. After all of the resin is poured, you will need to cover it up. We used aluminum foil to cover the tray. This keeps dust, gnats and other things from falling into the resin and hardening with it. The resin will need to harden for the amount of time indicated on the instructions before uncovering.

We took the extra resin and put a thin layer on the actual wood as well to make it look newer. Below is the finished product. This project is a lot easier than it sounds so if anyone would like something like this I would suggest giving it a try. It was really cool to do something that involved reusing items that would otherwise get thrown away!


Reducing Your Global Footprint (Extra Credit #2)

In this class we have learned a lot about the environment and sustainability. We can all take information from this class and use it to rethink the choices that we make every day. For example, what can we do to lessen our personal global footprints? Global footprints can consist of how much waste we produce, how often we drive our cars and even how much water and electricity we use. If we gradually start to cut back on these things, it could really start to make a difference.

Humans produce a large amount of waste. According to National Geographic, each American citizen produces 4.6 pounds of waste per day on average. An alarming 55% of this waste is buried in landfills, only 33% of the waste gets recycled and the rest is sent to incinerators. It is important for us to start to be more aware of what things we should be throwing away and what things we should be recycling. Plastic bottles should always be recycled. If you are someone who drinks a lot of water and is guilty of purchasing cases of bottled water, it is time for you to consider investing in a reusable cup. I say “invest” because not only will you be helping the environment, but you will also be saving money since you will no longer be purchasing bottled water. Eventually the reusable cup you have purchased will have paid for itself. My favorite reusable bottle that I have is my Yeti Rambler. These keep your drink hot or cold for hours. For instance, I have had the same ice in mine since noon today. It is now 2:15am and the ice has still not completely melted. These are a little pricey. I was lucky enough to get mine on sale, but a lot of people tell me that the generic ones from Walmart work just as well.

Another way we can reduce our waste is to purchase reusable grocery bags. I just started doing this recently and it feels really good to not throw away five or six plastic bags every time I return from the grocery store. These reusable bags are inexpensive and come in a lot of different sizes. Even the ones that look small hold more than a regular grocery bag would. They are also more durable. Most grocery stores will sell reusable grocery bags near the register, or you could try to order them online. These bags usually cost less than one dollar and if you are a household of one, you probably only need one or two of these bags anyway, depending on what size you opt for. I really love my reusable bags due to their durability compared to the plastic ones. I also know that using these bags has greatly reduced the amount of plastic that I put into the landfill, so that feels great too.

It is really easy to go without driving your car here in Charleston. A lot of people bike here and pretty much everything is within biking distance when you live downtown. I usually do not drive unless I go to the grocery store or to somewhere like Mount Pleasant. However, where I am from, it is really difficult to go anywhere without driving. West Virginia is known for their mountains. I live on a mountain, and so does pretty much everyone else. Unless you live downtown. In this situation where it is impossible to avoid driving, I would suggest to carpool with your friends that are going to the same place as you or using services such as Uber.

Reducing water and electricity use are extremely easy. It is important to turn off all of your lights and electronics before leaving your home. Also, turning off electronics that you are not using when you are home. Taking shorter showers and turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth are ways that you can preserve water. Also, making sure that your faucets are turned all the way off without any drips.

It may seem hard to get a start on these things, but every decision that positively impacts the environment that each person makes can start to make a big difference in the long run.




My Favorite Fishing Spot (Extra Credit Post #1)

With this being my first year in Charleston, I did a lot of exploring in my free time. One of my favorite things to do here is to find new places to go fishing. In West Virginia, you can try to go fishing year round on the warmer days in the winter but you may not have much luck. Fishing is one of my favorite things to do so it is great to have a chance to fish during the winter.

One of the places that I fish at the most is on the harbor. I usually catch small fish here such as mullets. The harbor is not far from my apartment at all so if I do not have time to go on a longer fishing trip, this is where I go. I just put everything in my backpack and ride there on my bike. The harbor is also a great place to use my crab trap. The most crabs I have caught in my trap at one time was six. Most of the time I just let the crabs go after catching them. Sometimes there will be a Stone Crab in my trap. Stone crabs cannot be kept, so you have to throw these back when you find them in your trap.

The Folly Beach Pier is another spot that I like to go when I would like to go fishing.  It costs a couple bucks to fish on the pier, but it is worth it because you are getting to fish deeper in the ocean, there is not sand everywhere and you have a great view. There are also a lot of other people fishing there so there is an opportunity to share tips with each other about fishing in the area. I have actually learned a lot from talking to the older guys when I am at fishing spots. I am really glad to have had the chance to fish throughout the year while going to school here because fishing is my favorite thing to do.