Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the Burning Man regional event. By working with authorities to override a long-term population cap, Burning Flipside organizers have successfully rewritten the rules!
In order to increase the event’s capacity, State regulations required Flipside organizers to provide potable water, daily trash service, trash receptacles, cups, napkins, lighting and other services. But Flipside is a Leave No Trace event based on personal accountability; participants are expected to bring in everything they need and pack it out when they leave (sound familiar?).
The vast majority of large-scale events and festivals do provide trash cans, based on the assumption that attendees are not interested in picking up after themselves. Leave No Trace events like Burning Man and Burning Flipside have a different ethos. The latter trust that community members are not only perfectly capable of cleaning up after their own wild rumpuses, but that they feel satisfied and self-reliant as a result of doing so.
We come together, build something amazing, burn it to the ground and then pick up every last cinder. It’s an achievement we’re proud of, and it’s part of what defines us as a community rather than merely an event. We do it because we respect the land and the right of others to enjoy the land once we depart.
Incorporating trash services would change the very nature of what Flipside is about and Austin Artistic Reconstruction (AAR), the organization running Flipside, wasn’t willing to subvert the community’s values just to sell more tickets.
Faced with a choice of either going against our community’s values by providing trash cans, or limiting the population, AAR did what they had to do:
They changed the rules.
In early May, state and county officials approved an increase in Flipside’s population—no trash cans required—based on the event’s stellar Leave No Trace record and contributions to the community. In 2013, there were about 10% more tickets sold, and next year the attendance may increase again. It’s a major victory for Austin Artistic Reconstruction, and a feather in the cap of the Leave No Trace community.
How did Flipside prove its mettle?
- Site management starts before the event, when a crew arrives to prepare Apache Pastures. They mark poison ivy, clean up dead tree branches and ensure a safe(ish) experience for Flipizens.
- Every participant receives a Survival Guide that includes information about trash, MOOP and Leaving No Trace. No additional paper is handed out—instead, every participant is briefed on how things work, and given an opportunity to ask questions.
- During the event, Earth Guardians move throughout the grounds, picking up MOOP and talking to participants about protecting the area.
- Post-event, Flipizens return to the site and finish restoring it. Theirs is a grassy, wooded site, so the goal is to make sure Nature will be able to regenerate itself without pollution or permanent damage.
This year, more people than ever showed up to restore Apache Pastures—but they found that the community had left an impressively clean site. Flipside is walking the walk, and doing the best job it can to Leave No Trace.
Flipside, we salute you!
Not-so-small side note: The current Texas drought caused a 60-foot pecan tree to rot from the inside out, and then FALL onto a camp filled with Flipside organizers and participants. Miraculously (trust me, a miracle, I watched it happen) nobody was hurt, but some vehicles and personal property were absolutely and totally wrecked. The Flipside community will be hosting a fundraiser. Thank them for their hard work and commitment to their principles by chipping in a few dollars. Donate here!
Burning Man is a Leave No Trace Event.
There is no garbage collection service at Burning Man. We are the largest Leave No Trace event in the world. This means that every participant is responsible for making the greatest possible effort to leave the Black Rock Desert in the same condition (or better!) than it was in when you arrived. That includes picking up Matter Out Of Place, packing out all your own trash, not polluting the playa and avoiding burn scars and oil drips.
Leave No Trace is one of the Ten Principles guiding our community. Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.