Can you see the impending doom in this photo?
The diver’s fine, of course. It’s that gorgeous city behind her that is endangered. Burning Man may have flourished for 25 years running, but it’s more ephemeral than it seems. At any point, Black Rock City could cease to exist. But thanks to you, me and 50,000 people just like us, it appears year after year. And by following the Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace, we can keep Burning Man alive and on fire for ever.
Burning Man, as you surely know, is a Leave No Trace event. That means it’s everyone’s responsibility to pick up every piece of MOOP — from couches to cigarette butts, lost pairs of pants to abandoned glow sticks. Even if it isn’t yours, if you see it, you pick it up — that’s the way this works.
It works well. We are pretty dang good at it.
Each year, the BLM inspects our site to determine whether we’ve cleaned up after ourselves adequately. And each year, thanks to YOUR efforts and the efforts of the Playa Restoration crew that spends weeks pulling up rebar stakes, we pass.
We must pass the annual BLM Debris Inspection for our permit. Too much debris will eventually mean the Bureau of Land Management won’t want us to hold Burning Man in this pristine desert. We also must make sure our neighbors (townships, small businesses, and local governments) are satisfied with our trash cleanup efforts on the roads leading up to and from our event. This is hard, gritty work. We are committed to it. We cannot have the event without it. And much of this work can be prevented by a few simple, mindful actions. And so we are asking you (and your campmates) to help us.
MOOP (and its bedfellows, highway trash and pollution) are unintentional side effects of our collective enthusiasm, and they’re something each and every one of us should take responsibility for. And so I present to you the Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace, a collaborative effort between me, you and those other 50,000.
The Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace
The Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace is a series of thoughtful actions you can take, from the moment you start packing your car to the moment you hose the last playa mud off its undercarriage. Over the next several months, we’ll dive into all these issues in depth. Here’s the overview to get you started:
- PRECYCLE – Buy less stuff in bulky packaging, or recycle and get rid of the packaging before you come to the playa. You’re gonna need the extra room on the back end! Read more about it.
- BRING LESS – Bring less stuff! Less is less! Save gas, save yourself a Tetris headache and save the playa from litter by leaving out that extra, non-sturdy shade structure and seven or eight pillows you don’t NEED need. Read more about it.
- DON’T LET IT HIT THE GROUND – Cigarette butts, wood chips, nails, screws, specifically. Also single-use water bottles (don’t bring ‘em!), feathers (don’t wear ’em!) and belly dance coins from your blinged-out hips (don’t shake ’em!).
- MANAGE YER TRASH – Icky, yet necessary. Do it. Water, too. Separate your cans from your hams and let that soapy water evaporate instead of pouring it on the ground. Read more about it.
- RECYCLE THOSE CANS – Cans = cash for local schools! Cart ’em to Recycle Camp and take a ride on the can crusher. Read more about it.
- PLAN TO MOOP YOUR CAMP – Don’t let anybody hit the road until you’ve conducted an all-camp line sweep. Make an exit plan that includes time to pick up any MOOP in your area, even if you don’t think it’s yours.
- DON’T LITTER THE HIGHWAY – Strap your stuff to your head if you have to! Better yet, make it all fit in your car! Read more about it.
- TRASH & RECYCLING STATIONS – You don’t need to carry all that mass over the mountains, just get it down the road a piece and drop it at one of several facilities that are just waiting for Burners. Check your Survival Guide for details. Read more about it.
As a community, our goal is to make less MOOP and get our trash to the right place! Yes! As long as each of us does our part, Burning Man will continue to take place in the beauty of the Black Rock Desert.
It comes down to you, and me, and those other 50,000. So print out the Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace and show it to your campmates, and prepare to be the best citizen of Black Rock City that you can be, whether you’re coming for your first year or your 15th.
I’ll be stopping by every few weeks to give you the dirty details of how to manage your detritus with style, grace and aplomb. For now, start by reading the 10 Principles, the Leave No Trace page, and the Enviroblog. For a more in-depth look at Burning Man’s LNT attitude, here’s an article we love from WorldSweeper: The Cleanup of Black Rock City: It’s All About the MOOP.
Now I’m off to enjoy the wild beauty of Nevada in the springtime. See you in a few weeks!
Next issue: PRECYCLING!