Here’s the list of what we did this year..

Word’s come back that folks don’t feel like there’s anyplace to list all the things that happened regarding the Green Man theme this year, so here’s a partial list–please email environment at burning man dot com with omissions, and we’ll add em in!

Pre-Event Staff Operations/Education:

Staff field trip to Solar Living Institute
Our first ever field trip, we took 25 staff to learn about solar power, permaculture, composting, etc.

Brown bag lunch lecture series
A total of five conversations held at the office, on a variety of environmental topics. The goal was to raise overall awareness while giving staff a common language for understanding some of the issues we’d be dealing with. The last of them, a debate between Jim Mason and Dr. David Shearer over carbon offsets, was attended by 40+ people.

Recycle Your Life Day
Two week long in-office swaps of clothing, furniture etc. Kept items out of the landfill, and sent a lot of material to Goodwill.

Pre-Event Participant Education:

Green Working Group
Established open forum for any participant to suggest changes, initiate projects, meeting every other week at the office. Produced dozens of ideas, large and small, that were acted on/implemented.

Green House
Wonderful event in conjunction with Open House/Volunteer Day. Sparked a lot of energy—almost like people looked around and said “wow, I had no idea there were so many people like me!” Dozens of displays, educational tools, workshops, fashion show, music–you name it, we had it going on.

Environmental Section of
Built extensive Environmental Section of the web site, chock full of great information.

Ranked as #3 overall most viewed page on Burning Man website. More than 70 posts covering a wide range of topics.

Green BRC Stickers
An inexpensive hack on the familiar black BRC ovals of years past, we gave out more that 5,000—amazing to see them proliferate.

Revised questionnaires
Theme Camp, Art, and DMV questionnaires revised to capture alt energy/environmental planning information.

Event-based education

Green Guide
We created a separate “Green Map and Guide,” an 11×17 two sided map and index of events, installations, and educational happenings.

Green Man Speaks
A week-long series of conversations inspired by the Green Man theme, held at Otter Oasis.

Large Scale Art Camp Networking
We worked with LSSACs to connect them to vendors for access to biodiesel generators, and to network their power grids–reducing cost, reducing pollution, building awareness, and fostering community.

Earth Rise Film Fest
A first-time participant organized a film festival at Entheon Village. Over 200 films were to be screened throughout the event, included DiCaprio’s “11th Hour.”

Built and installed four three sided kiosks to display civic information throughout the city, with a focus on the theme. They were built outside the ranger outposts, and in the 4:30/7:30 plaza. Lit by solar power, they provided 24-hour info and maps, as well as event listings and MOOP maps (another first).

Event Operations

Energy Use Analysis
Working with Jeff Cole at California Environmental Associates, we conducted our first-ever analysis of energy produced to energy used, and found we often times had three or four times more capacity than needed, which allowed us to better scale our generation and attendant fuel use/pollution.

Environmental Assessment
Working with a team of volunteers, Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty (with California’s Flex Your Power office) is conducting a comprehensive baseline assessment of BM’s environmental efforts. They are analyzing purchasing, materials, processes, and transportation—pretty much every aspect of the event. Report due in January—will be unmatched look at how we’ve done, and where we can improve.

Cooling Man
For the first time, we calculated the entire carbon footprint of the event. To our knowledge, we are the only event in the world that has done this. Our total impact, adjusted upwards for increased participants, was 34,000 tons. Contributions and actions by participants offset 851 tons of that—almost quadruple what last year’s number.

Wood Recycling
BWB/DPW collected a total of 56 units of lumber, up from 42 last year. This increase is especially noteworthy considering that ½ the lumber from 2006 was from the Belgian Waffle.

Aluminum, Glass, Etc Recycling
OFFSITE: Albertson’s in Reno gifted seven drive through drop off recycling centers, and hang tags with maps to the locations, which were distributed via Recycle Camp and Playa Info. Some totals: Aluminum and tin – 600 lbs; Plastics — 48 watermelon bins full; Glass:14 bins; Cardboard — 35 pallets (much of which was taken from burners as they were shopping to go to BRC). The proceeds are being donated to the Gerlach school to cover maintenance on their solar array.

ONSITE: During the event, the commissary and the café both collected and sorted recycling. This was a big success—at times too much of one. The recycling at the café piled up and needed to be removed to the depot for staging, which didn’t happen as quickly or often as needed.

First ever attempt to segregate and process compost from the event. Resulted in four dumpsters of compost (two from commissary, one from café, one from participants).
Unique partnership with the City of San Francisco provided 65 theme camps with green composting bins, which generated an entire 30 yard dumpster of compost. The SF Dept. of the Environment has called this “some of the best educational outreach money we’ve ever spent.”

Biodiesel Shuttle Bus
Participant sponsored/operated shuttle ran from Reno Airport to playa, with a stop at Whole Foods. Worked well, most buses sold out, though not all seats were full.

Event Infrastructure

Lowered Power Use
By using all LED or compact fluorescent lighting, we were able to increase the size of the man base by a factor of ten, and still cut the power load by 50%.

The crew here was green before green was cool, and still are. They composted and recycled (see elsewhere) and produced express lanes for those who brought their own cups.

Composted and recycled (see elsewhere) and switched entirely to corn based utensils for to-go meals, without additional cost.

Gate/Plant Policy
On the fly, we devised a strategy that would keep plants out of the city…and out of the trash. Gate aggregated plants coming into the city, and every morning Joy would pick them up and bring them to the office in Gerlach, where they could be picked up of the porch by locals.

We stipulated in our RFP that we wanted to run all biodiesel in our generators, and were thus able to convert 87% of our load to renewable energy—and change the way vendors approach biodiesel use. Approximately 11,000 gallons of locally produced fuel were expected to be used. Additionally, over 50 camps were able to go biodiesel because we opened the door.

Solar Array
Built and operated at 30kW solar array and educational center, to power the man base and Green Man Pavilions, running the man base on 100% renewable energy.

Yellow Bikes program
We had the largest per capita community bike program of any city in the world; some 700 bikes were in use. Next year with more time ( we only had a month’s notice) we’ll have all 1200 bikes built, and their baskets ( with instructions, and lights!) installed.

Green Man Pavilion
We had 30+ installations covering a variety of environmental issues/solutions, ranging from home DIY crafty kitsch to mind-blowing innovation. Truly some world-class installations, and an incredible opportunity for us to expand the very nature of what we mean when we say “participant.”

Post Event:
Black Rock Solar
In October, volunteers and staff will begin building 120kW of solar power to be donated to the town of Gerlach, and 60kW to the town of Lovelock. Over the next 20 years, these projects will net $2.5+million in free energy for those communities.

Not too shabby, eh?

About the author: Tom Price

Tom Price

Tom Price is the former Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for Burning Man during the Green Man theme, and was in the Gulf Coast for six months during the genesis of Burners Without Borders. He's been attending Burning Man since 1997, and he's proud to say that his decade plus streak of breaking down from sun stroke on the playa on day three remains intact.