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.

Climate Change in My Home State

Being from West Virginia, we typically expect a harsh winter filled with snow. However, this year my home state was experiencing high temperatures through the winter months. Could this be from climate change? Growing up, winter was a time that had a lot of snow and cold temperatures. This year, I believe it only snowed in my hometown two times. One of those times was a pretty decent snow storm that lasted for only a couple of hours. The other time was a very light snow. There were days this past winter in West Virginia where the temperature would reach the high 60’s and low 70’s. With that in mind, I would say that the effects of global warming and climate change are becoming more clear. It is irregular for my home state to have a warm winter. Unfortunately, most people are not looking at this as an issue. People are happy about not having to deal with the cold weather and snow for a change. We were faced with warm winter days and this summer I am sure we will be faced with unbearable heat. Looking at the bigger picture, this will be bad for West Virginia.

The warmer temperatures will cause many environmental problems. Deer breed when the weather is warm, so the warm weather will allow the deer to reproduce even more. This could turn into a huge problem since deer are already so over populated in the state. You cannot drive anywhere without seeing a deer or two. In my neighborhood, it is not uncommon to see around five deer on your drive home. Another species that would be greatly effected is the state fish, the brook trout. The brook trout lives in cooler waters and if the temperature keeps rising, the water levels in the streams will decline and increase in temperature. This would lead for the brook trout to no longer be supported by the stream anymore. Droughts will increase along with flooding.

I did not start to see the effects of global warming in my home state until these past couple of years. I believe that this issue is only getting worse and our past winter is a great example of that.



Huggies Greenwashing

Disposable products that are intended for a one time use take up a huge amount of space in landfills. One product that non-parents forget about would be disposable diapers. Parents have the option of using cloth diapers to save money and help the environment, but how many actually do this? The concept of a cloth diaper is out dated and inconvenient for the typical busy parent. Disposable diapers take 450 years to decompose and a single baby can use up to 3360 diapers in a year. What can parents who do not wish to use cloth diapers do to help reduce the amount of diapers that end up in landfills? Huggies has a line of diapers called “Huggies Green and Natural”. When a consumer sees the words “green” or “natural” mentioned in a product, they will likely automatically assume that the product is better for the environment. If a product is being marketed as “natural”, then it must decompose at a faster rate, right? Wrong. The diapers are made from organic cotton and the packaging is made from only 20% post-consumer recycled materials. Many companies use 100% post-consumer recycled materials so it is possible for Huggies to do the same for their diapers, especially when they are advertising a product as “green”. Due to this marketing strategy, consumers may think that they are doing something good by buying this product as opposed to normal diapers that may be more cost efficient. When in reality, these are still disposable diapers. These diapers are not biodegradable and will still take 450 years to decompose in a landfill. The misleading name could convince consumers that they are helping the environment by purchasing this product, but in reality, the product is greenwashed and does not actually help reduce the amount of time the diaper spends decomposing in a landfill. This product is an example of greenwashing because it uses the product name to convince naive parents that the diapers are better for the environment when they are actually just a diaper made of organic cotton that still take 450 years to decompose.

Recently a video has been making its way around Facebook that features a group of people helping a sea turtle that has unfortunately gotten a straw stuck deep inside of his nostril. The heartbreaking video shows the people pulling the straw out of the turtles nose. The turtle is obviously in severe pain and he is bleeding. But on the bright side, this turtle was able to get help. These kinds of instances are the harsh reality for our wildlife in the ocean. This is now a video that is a couple of years old, but many people, such as myself, are just now seeing it. I am sure that we have all heard of the trash pile accumulating in the ocean that has now grown to be bigger than the state of Texas. At first thought we think that this cannot possibly be true and we wonder how we could have let this happen. But unfortunately, this is a reality that we need to face. This pile of trash is refereed to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch of garbage has accumulated into the same area due to the ocean currents. This is a huge problem and many of us do not know where to start. However, everyone can take part in prevention. One of the biggest things that we can all do is reduce our plastic waste. One of the biggest things that contributes to plastic waste is water bottles. Bottled water has become more common than ever. According to Ban the Bottle, Americans use over 50 billion water bottles in a year and almost 80% of those water bottles end up in landfills. What we can do as individuals to help this is to start recycling these plastic bottles or invest in a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles can not only help save the environment, but also help save you some money in the long run. Another thing that we can do to help prevent more trash going into landfills is to stop using plastic ware like plastic forks and spoons, paper plates, solo cups and paper towels. As college students, these things are almost essential to us. We rarely think about the impact we have on the environment by using plastic ware and paper ware. We also think that our efforts may not matter. But everyone’s efforts make a difference and if we all turn to reusable items instead of disposable, it could make a huge difference on our environment.

A Wild Dolphin Sighting

Being from West Virginia, I am pretty used to seeing animals in the wild. I spend a good amount of time in the woods and by rivers or lakes when I am at home. This is my first year at College of Charleston and the wildlife that you see near the ocean is a lot different than back at home. The most incredible thing that I have seen here are the wild dolphins. I have seen them before in the distance while on the beach, but in late November, one of my friends and I decided to go for a walk at the battery around eleven in the morning during high tide. We parked in one of the parking spots along the sidewalk closest to the water. As soon as I got out of the car, I heard a commotion in the water extremely close to the edge of the wall. I quickly ran over and looked over the railing and there were two dolphins chasing fish! Assuming this moment would only last a couple of seconds, I called for my friend to come check it out. To my surprise, the two dolphins continued to play and catch fish less than five feet away from us. Sometimes they would go further out in the water, but they would always come back. For a while the dolphins would swim alongside us as we walked, then when they had a fish in sight, they would quickly chase them down. For a while, we were the only ones who noticed the pair. However, it was not long before everyone else who was taking a walk that day noticed that there were two dolphins so close to the wall. This whole thing lasted for around 45 minutes. In moments like these, I try to not focus on taking photos or videos, but instead, to enjoy the moment. However, my friend and I ended up taking a lot of photos and videos. Every time we would try to put our phones away, we would end up pulling them right back out. This obviously is not something that I would get to see at home, so it was great to be there at the right place and right time. It is great to see animals in the wild doing their own thing. It is so much better than seeing them cooped up in a zoo or tank. I like to appreciate the wildlife and wilderness as much as I can, and with that being said, this experience is one of the things that I will remember most from my time here in Charleston.

My Trout Stocking Experience

Being from West Virginia, I have grown up doing activities outside such as fishing, hiking and camping. I am a frequent fisherman and I also spend a lot of time on my kayak when the weather permits. I believe that the preservation of our wildlife and environment is extremely important. It is not uncommon for a field trip in West Virginia to take place in the great outdoors. For my junior year of high school, a group of kids from my class took a trip to the cheat river, which is located in the Northern part of the state. The cheat river is known for its strong current and beautiful scenery. When people go fishing here, it is not uncommon to catch a trout. In fact, our state’s fish is the Brook Trout. These are the types of trout that our group helped stock into the Cheat River. The Brook Trout is a pretty decent sized fish and can get up to 16 inches in certain areas (U.S. National Park Services). The trout that are being stocked come from fisheries in the area. The fisheries bring the fish in big trucks that have large coolers in the truck bed. Before we started the trout stocking, we could hear the fish moving around in the coolers. You could tell that they were eager to get into the river. When stocking any fish, you do not just dump them all in one place in the river. We started at one location and after stocking so many fish, we moved down the river. I believe that on our trout stocking trip we stopped at about six different locations along the cheat river. The West Virginia DNR also posts a trout stocking schedule on their website, along with the locations that the trout will be stocked. We got the fish from the coolers and put them into large buckets. Each bucket had two to three fish in them. Some fish were probably around five inches long, where some were at least six or seven inches long. The strategy was to walk to the edge of the river and toss the fish as far as you could, so that they could get into the deepest water possible. Some people had issues doing this because the fish were flopping around so much. After all of the fish were out of the truck and into the river, I felt very happy. It was a fun experience that I hope to participate in again someday. Although these trout would have gotten stocked with or without my help, it was very cool to be a part of the process. We take so much from the environment and it felt good to put something back into it.




United States. National Park Service. “Brook Trout.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017