Gift Back to Theme Camps: Leave No Trace

Participant MOOPing, 1998 (photo by Chad Slattery)
Participant MOOPing, 1998 (photo by Chad Slattery)

MOOP, in Burning Man speak, is Matter Out Of Place.  Trash such as paper plates, beer cans, bottles, cigarette butts, grocery bags, etc. often hit the ground and become MOOP.  Basically anything at ALL that isn’t native to the playa is MOOP, doesn’t belong there, and needs to be picked up off the ground by you and me.

All are welcome at Burning Man, and in Black Rock City (our playa home), we LEAVE NO TRACE.  Each and every one of us is responsible for the impact that we leave on the Black Rock Desert. At Burning Man, there are no public trash receptacles. You take your trash with you, and you take it off the playa with you. Radical self-reliance.  This has always been at the very core of our culture.

Of the tens of thousands of citizens in Black Rock City, perhaps the folks hardest hit by MOOP fallout are the Theme Camps, those hardworking people who create those special places for you to rest, heal, eat, imbibe, dance, and party.  As you can imagine, their already-difficult job is made much harder when you, citizens of Black Rock, visit their camps and leave behind your MOOP for someone else to clean up.  So, don’t do that.

“But,” you may ask, “how do I do that (especially while I’m busy having a good time)?”  Well, I’ll tell you.


2007 MOOP Map
2007 MOOP Map

A MOOP Bucket is any mid-sized handy receptacle that you can carry around with you and into which you can stuff your personal MOOP.  The best MOOP buckets are made from cutting a can-sized hole into an empty plastic gallon jug and tying a strap around the handle, but any receptacle (like a backpack lined with a plastic bag) will do.

As you roam the playa, deposit crushed empty cans, plates, and butts in your MOOP bucket! Also, pick up random MOOP that you come across on your adventures.  Ideally, everybody in your crew should carry one, but at the very least have one person designated to carry the MOOP Bucket for the day.

So, show some love back to those hard working Theme Campers and do your part to Leave No Trace by carrying a MOOP Bucket and picking up after yourself.

It’s only through our common commitment to Leave No Trace that we are able to make Burning Man happen.  It’s a core principle of our community, and we thank you for being part of it.

Playa Restoration Manager
Department of Public Works
Black Rock City, Nevada USA

About the author: DA


DA, wings on fire, crash-landed smack dab in the middle of Burning Man 97, ticket in hand, and never left. Three burns later, DA was adopted by the Department of Public Works' Clean-Up Crew and was awestruck at the transformative power of Leaving No Trace. DA grew to be leader, transforming the Clean-Up Crew into the Playa Restoration All-Star Team, and creating the first Moop Map in 2006 as a way to visualize the community's Leave No Trace effort. As a poster artist, DA has illustrated the launch of the Burning Man Theme for 2006 Hope and Fear: The Future, 2007 Green Man, 2008 American Dream, 2013 Cargo Cult, and 2015 Carnival of Mirrors. DA loves the Black Rock Desert and believes that if we, the community, continue to Leave No Trace, then together we can keep building and burning the world over.

13 Comments on “Gift Back to Theme Camps: Leave No Trace

  • suzanne says:

    We were devasted to see our camp area was yellow! Not only did we leave no trace, we spent time picking up MOOP on the playa often, even putting cigarette butts in our bike baskets. We left our camp spotless but unfortunately, our neighbor had some problems throughout the burn to put it nicely. It’s kind of a bummer when you work so hard to be conscientious, and still fall prey to those who don’t. Ah well…it seems long ago …

    Soozi aka Camp Withering Tights

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  • mike a says:

    i have not yet been to bm- one of the main reasons is the thought of the fuel that must be consumed to get me to somewhere where there is no food and water naturally occuring to spend a week and then thinking that somehow i would be leaving ‘no trace’

    in my opinion the ‘leave no trace’ idea for BM is a laugh- i believe it is possible to pick up your trash and poop- but the exhaust that comes out of your car, bus, or airplane to bring you from home to nevada- which is probably far from home- is alot and leaves a trace- both in the air and on the ground where the resource was extracted.

    BM may be a great experience, but let’s not fool ourselves to thinking that picking up our trash is really leaving no trace.

    let’s consider a RT drive from NYC- about 5500 miles round trip- at 30 mpg would be about 180 gallons of gas, about 1300 pounds of liquid fuel, when combusted would lead to about 4000 pounds, or 2 tons of CO2 in the air.

    tha is not ‘no trace’ is any sense of the phrase.

    if someone wants to help em understadn i would appreciate your help.


    mike adams

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  • Mr. Understanding says:

    Jeez, Mike — what’s to understand? Leaving no trace where you spend your vacation, isn’t the same as being in transit to a vacation. Were we to consider the LNT policy in effect for all of our vacations (or lives), we would essentially have to sit at home, wondering idly about what productive and creative people endeavor to do with their time and lives, instead of just positing a ludicrously supposed hypocrisy.

    In effect, LNT is about trying to do the best we can in and for the environment where a sacred experience happens for those of us brave enough to attend. Most of life is about doing the best we can. I encourage everyone to strive for that, and hope that one day you’ll visit Black Rock City and see why people go.

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  • queen of MOOP says:

    Loving the suggestion to carry a MOOP bucket. I am making mine now and will proudly volunteer every conscious (or unconscious) moment as the Queen O’ MOOP. Join me. I won’t experience one ounce of competition if everyone helps

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  • Gerflash says:

    Been carrying a MOOP bag for a couple years now. (No more MOOP-filled pockets!) But to the news: Just bought a MOOP picker-upper (at Harbor Freight Tools – only cost a couple bucks) – y’know, one of those squeeze handles with the yard-long extension and movable grabber at the end that can grab dropped tools, screws, etc.? I’ll be carrying it on the playa – unless it’s more hassle than just bending to pick up the MOOP. We’ll see….

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