Determined to Climb Mt. Everest? You May Have to Carry Some Poop

iStock.com/hadynyah
iStock.com/hadynyah

At nearly 5.5 miles high, Mt. Everest’s peak is notoriously hard to climb. The mountain's unforgiving weather, harsh terrain, and high-altitude, low-oxygen "death zone" make it difficult and expensive to retrieve items left behind by those making an ascent. That includes waste and, more gruesomely, the bodies of more than 200 mountaineers who perished at some point along the way.

Many of the bodies end up staying on the mountain, but waste management is somewhat easier to tackle. According to Fodor’s Travel, climbers on the Tibetan side of Mt. Everest are now required to start carrying all of their waste (including the waste their bodies produce naturally). So yes, they’ll have to make room in their backpacks for poop.

These measures aren’t exactly extreme, though. Similar requirements are in place at popular climbing spots in the U.S., like Washington state’s Mt. Rainier and Yosemite’s El Capitan, where climbers have to poop in a bag and bring it back with them.

In addition, climbers without permits are now indefinitely banned from the Tibetan base camp. The lack of tourists will give a team of 200 people space to clean up the mountainside and remove trash, which has become a growing problem in recent years.

These new guidelines were announced by Ci Luo, director of the Chinese Mountaineering Association. Because Mt. Everest straddles the border between Nepal and China, each country manages its own side. About 70 percent of all climbers go through to Nepal, but the popularity of the Tibetan side is growing.

Mountaineer Adrian Ballinger, who has scaled Mt. Everest eight times, lauded the new changes. “Like many of the world's most beautiful places, Mount Everest is at risk of being loved to death,” he wrote in an opinion piece for ABC News. “Too many climbers, too much inexperience, and too many ethically questionable commercial outfitters chasing only profits have led to problems with trash, human waste, and unnecessary accidents, many of which unfairly impact mountain workers like the Sherpa, Tibetans, and other local groups.”

As for the Nepalese side, the government requires climbers to pay a $4000 waste deposit, which gets refunded when they return with at least 18 pounds of waste. By Fodor’s estimates, each person produces about 50 pounds of human waste over the course of a two-month trip.

[h/t Fodor’s Travel]

Two Eco-Minded Kids in England Are Petitioning McDonald’s and Burger King to Nix Plastic Toys

romrodinka/iStock via Getty Images
romrodinka/iStock via Getty Images

Some kids are not content to wait around while the grown-ups sort out the future of our planet. Two of them, 9-year-old Ella and 7-year-old Caitlin, have launched a petition on Change.org requesting that McDonald’s and Burger King stop giving out plastic toys with their kid’s meals, Thrillist reports.

“Children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea,” the British girls wrote on Change.org. “We want anything they give us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.” The petition has almost 400,000 signatures so far, and their current goal is to reach 500,000.

McDonald's Happy Meal
McDonald's

Last October, UK environment minister Thérèse Coffey also implored McDonald’s to stop giving out plastic toys, suggesting instead that they develop smartphone-friendly games to accompany the meals. At the time, a UK McDonald’s spokesman acknowledged the importance of reducing plastic waste and cited their promise to switch to paper straws, but countered the assumption that the plastic toys were only used for a few minutes, telling The Telegraph that they “provide many more fun-filled hours at home, too.”

The fast food giant did study the environmental effects of their toys last year and found that they are hard to recycle, since they’re manufactured from various types of plastic. As a result, McDonald’s is researching more Earth-friendly ways to make their toys. A Burger King representative told The Wall Street Journal that it, too, is exploring “alternative toy solutions.”

But according to Ella and Caitlin, “It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all.” The young activists themselves recycle as much as they can, and even hung a poster in their window about saving the planet.

You can sign their petition here, and learn how to reduce your own environmental impact.

[h/t Thrillist]

An Underpass for Turtles in Wisconsin Is Saving Dozens of the Little Guys’ Lives

Anthony Cedrone/iStock via Getty Images
Anthony Cedrone/iStock via Getty Images

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because an underground tunnel made it safe to do so.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel beneath Highway 66, hoping to cut down on high turtle mortality rates, reports Robert Mentzer for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The tunnel, with Jordan Pond on one side and wetlands on the other, was a noble venture, but the turtles had no way of knowing it was a crossing point rather than a dark and potentially dangerous hole. So Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, installed aluminum flashing outside of each opening, which would reflect the sky and let turtles know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Zani also installed grates above the tunnel to make it less shadowy, and a small cul-de-sac in a nearby piece of the fencing to encourage turtles who had missed the tunnel to turn around.

Zani and his team found that in the first year after construction, 85 percent fewer turtles were killed on the road, and no baby turtles were among the casualties. In the last few years combined, only 40 turtles died, compared to 66 deaths in 2015 alone.

That’s great news for local turtles, of course, and it’s great news for local humans, too. The intersection in question is always busy with truckers, commuters, and families en route to Jordan Pond, and turtle crossing can exacerbate traffic congestion and increase the chance of accidents.

Not all turtles have caught on, however, and it looks like some might never get the memo. Zani found that about 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles make it through the tunnel, and those numbers have been consistent each year since construction. “They either get it or they don’t,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Other animals are getting it, too. As part of the experiment, Zani set up a turtle-wrangling program in which students monitored trail cameras for turtle activity outside the underpass. In photos captured by the cameras, they noticed that rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and even house cats were traveling by turtle tunnel.

[h/t Wisconsin Public Radio]

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