The Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace: MOOP Mania

The MOOP Squad is an international litter-fighting phenom!

Well folks, this is it. Burning Man starts in two days, the Man burns in seven — and as we Playa Restoration crew members like to say, it’s just ten days to cleanup!

That’s right: While you’re preparing for the biggest, weirdest week of the year, we’re already itching to get out there and start picking up MOOP!

Why are we so excited to clean up our city? One simple reason:

When Burning Man cleans up after itself, Burning Man gets to happen again next year.

As I’ve mentioned before, our BLM permit depends on how we treat the Black Rock Desert. For 60,000 people, with camps, fires, sound systems and mutant vehicles, to vanish without a trace — well, that’s no small feat. This year, with the population of Black Rock City higher than ever, it’s even more crucial that we clean up our MOOP!

So, this final installation of The Burner’s Guide to Leaving No Trace will be a friendly reminder for you experts and a crash course for first-timers. Here’s how it all works.

MOOP: A definition

MOOP, noun – Matter Out Of Place; especially as it applies to Black Rock City and its Citizens. Can be anything: cigarette butts, bottle caps, glowsticks, fireworks, but is often disguised as debris, i.e., broken bits of wood, plastic, metal, glass and plants. Can also be a condition: burn scars, grey water, dunes, etc.

moop, verb – to pick up Matter Out Of Place.

Some of the most common MOOP includes:

How to Stop MOOP

1. Don’t let it hit the ground!
That starts with not bringing MOOPy things like feather boas and plants. It also means you cut lumber over a dropcloth that you can wrap up and dump in a safe receptacle; carry a portable ashtray to hold all your butts; bring vise grips to pull out your tent stakes; and put a pan under your leaky vehicle.

2. Pick up after your neighbor.
Here’s the thing: Whether or not you dropped it, when you see it, that MOOP is yours. Congratulations!

3. Do a line sweep.
The last thing you do before you leave the playa: Everyone from your camp lines up at arm’s length from each other, then walks slowly through your camp in a straight line, looking at the ground and picking up every tiny little carpet fiber. Line sweeps work! So once you’re done, do it again, this time going a little bit outside your camp.

MOOP, Hijinks and You

Get involved at Burning Man!


An Earth Guardians MOOP bag, made from repurposed pants and an old necktie!

The Earth Guardians have events all week long. They’ll teach you all about Leaving No Trace, help you make your own MOOP bag and more.

You are also invited to a MOOP Pub Crawl! Every year on Wednesday of the event, sometime around midday, the Playa Restoration team starts from 2:00 and Esplanade and makes their way across the city, MOOPing and, you know, stopping at every bar on the way. Find us on Esplanade, and bring a bucket or bag to carry all your treasure!

On Thursday of the Event, at 1 PM, Earth Guardians, BLM, and you (???) will be conducting an Oil Drip Survey — looking at the MOOP left by leaky cars. If you are looking to make a difference at Black Rock City this year, the Oil Drip Survey might be the volunteer project for you. Just show up a little before 1 PM at Earth Guardians in Center Camp @ 5:45 and Esplanade, and they’ll get you trained. You’ll be working in a team for the afternoon, chatting to other participants about their cars and looking at their leaks. We need help and we need you, so come on out and gift a few hours to exploring and documenting the MOOP left by leaky cars.

Last but certainly not least: Join us in just a few short weeks, right here on the Burning Blog, as we reveal the results of the world’s largest line sweep, making its way through the city block by block. Find out how your camp rates — go-go-green, pretty-good yellow, or oh-no-red — on the 2012 MOOP Map. Support the Playa Restoration team as they scrub the city clean, racing against time to gather all the MOOP before the BLM comes to inspect our site!

2011’s MOOP Map! Click for more info.

That’s in a few weeks. Between now and then: Go have fun, and don’t forget to moop madly.

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.

About the author: The Hun

The Hun

The Hun, also known as J.H. Fearless, has been blogging for Burning Man (and many other outlets) since 2005, which is also the year she joined the BRC DPW on a whim that turned out to be a ten-year commitment. Since then she's won some awards for blogging, built her own creative business, and produced some of the Burning Blog's most popular stories and series. She co-created a grant-funded art piece, "Refoliation," in 2007, and stood next to it watching the Man burn on Monday night during a full lunar eclipse. She considers that, in many ways, to have been the symbolic end of Burning Man that was. The Hun lives in Reno with DPW Shade King, Quiet Earp. You may address her as "The Hun" or "Hun". If you call her "Honey" she reserves the right to cut you.