Greening Your Camp
So you want to green your Burning Man camp? Well, you've come to the right place. Whether you represent a massive village, a medium-sized theme camp, or stand alone as a camp of one, there are many ways that you can make your camping experience at Burning Man more environmentally friendly.
The most important thing you can do is to shift your perspective. We can (and will) give you all kinds of practical advice, tips and tricks, but inevitably you're going to have something going on that we haven't taken into consideration.
So the most valuable piece of advice is to look at everything in your planning process with a green perspective. The first step is to stop — and think. Learn and consider the 6 R's. With those in mind, how can you do things differently? Think about that question from the beginning through to the end of your playa experience.
Think about how you get to the playa, with all your stuff. Consider ride sharing to reduce the number of cars going to and from the playa. Got a lot of stuff in your camp? Coming from far away? Maybe you could band together with other folks near you who would want to go in on a truck. In the end, it saves you money, and reduces the gas you'll use, and the emissions and pollution you'll create. You can find likely candidates through your regional contact or on the eplaya.
We've compiled some transportation tips just for you.
Think about the materials you use to build your camp. Rather than using stuff that you might use once and then they become useless or get destroyed, how about creating infrastructural elements that can be repurposed year-to-year?
Rather than buying new construction materials from a (big orange box) warehouse store, how about using recycled, repurposed or reclaimed materials instead? Do some research and explore the options for obtaining repurposed materials in your area. Or seek out somebody on the eplaya or elsewhere that might have a dome or other infrastructure they're dying to get rid of.
If you really want or need to burn elements of your camp, do NOT paint them or treat them with toxic materials that would be released into the atmosphere when burned. And for whatever you burn, consider purchasing carbon offsets to counter what you're putting into the atmosphere.
At the very least, don't bring anything to the playa that you aren't able to take back with you. Every year, tons of couches are left behind on the playa or burned, which is right up there amongst the absolute worst playa offenses you can commit. Consider inflatable furniture, or a metal-framed futon, which can be disassembled to fit compactly in your car, and reused next year.
Energy and Lighting
Power and light are an integral part of almost every camp. Many people take it for granted that you have to run a gas generator and run incandescent lights or the like to light your space. Learn more about alternative energy (coming soon) and lighting solutions. Consider running a bio-fuel generator, rather than a gas one. Share generator power with your neighbors!
And if you do just one thing with regard to lighting, please don't use glowsticks! They're one-time use, they don't last very long, they aren't recyclable, and they just add toxic materials to landfills. If you need to illuminate yourself on the playa, consider a battery- or solar-powered LED light string, EL wire, or reflective tape.
Grey Water, Composting and Recycling
Reducing your waste starts at home. Get rid of as much packaging as you possibly can before you leave for the playa. Whether that's food and product packaging, tags, labels, boxes, whatever. Get rid of it (recycling where possible, of course) at home, so it doesn't become waste you have to drag off the playa. Reduce reduce reduce.
Bring perishables sparingly, and use them at the beginning of your stay on the playa, so they don't go bad on you. Learn more about composting and better ways to handle your garbage on playa, including how to reduce the overall amount of stinky trash you generate — what you will learn will surprise you.
Finally, dumping grey water (any water that contains or is mixed with anything other than pure water) on the playa is not only bad for the environment, and bad form, but it's also illegal. Learn about techniques for easily managing and getting rid of your grey water.
Leave No Trace!
Contrary to popular belief, Leave No Trace is NOT something you do at the end of your stay on the playa. Not at all. In fact, it starts before you leave for the playa, because that's when you develop your plan, pick up supplies like magnet rakes, rakes, and other LNT supplies, and set your end-of-event line sweep plan and schedule. It's also when you carefully consider and reconsider any items you're bringing that could become MOOP.
Then it continues when you hit the playa, before you drive in your first rebar stake, because that's when you place objects such that they'll stay out of and/or resist the wind. It continues into your construction process, when you place tarps below construction projects to catch stray nails, wood chips, metal shavings and sawdust.
Leave No Trace takes place every moment of the event, when you never let it hit the ground, you MOOP as you go, and you even pick up other people's MOOP. And you always carry a MOOP bag with you, so that you can play your collective part of this community, helping to keep it the largest Leave No Trace event in the world.
Learn more about how to reduce MOOP. There you'll find helpful information that will surely change your thinking about how to structure your camp.
Got a Bright Idea?
Clearly we haven't covered everything here, and Burning Man participants are some of the most innovative and resourceful people on the planet. So, if you've got a great idea you'd like to see added to this list, please send it along to environment (at) burningman (dot) com, and we'll consider it for inclusion on this page.