Coyote Nose: Astro-not!

Was reading an article about Burning Man the other day where the writer remarks on how serious the participants can be about Black Rock City’s principle of “Leave No Trace”. He mentions a happening at a bar where someone flicks a cigarette butt down and the instant scolding he gets from his campmates. The writer also mentions how impressed he is with this because the playa was already protected with AstroTurf. Participants were so concerned with leaving no trace that they would never let it hit the ground even if it had a protective barrier on it.

Upon reading this it occurred to me that people can think that putting down yards of AstroTurf in their camp will safeguard it from MOOP.

This year’s public service announcement:

AstroTurf is MOOP!!

AstroTurf is some of the worst and most difficult to get rid of MOOP ever, and more and more camps are using it.

AstroTurf shreds and sheds worse than a dried up Christmas tree, and when you finally pull it up after an event’s worth of trampling and occasional soakings, there’s a billion little green plastic grass blades embedded into the hard pan playa. And this can stretch for a block’s worth sometimes.

The Playa Restoration crew dubbed this spot "AstroTurf camp."
The Playa Restoration crew dubbed this spot “AstroTurf camp.”

For understandable reasons, AstroTurf is exponentially growing in popularity. It gives your camp a lush and dust-free floor, and I’m betting that many believe that it doubles as a MOOP catcher. Turns out that it’s a MOOP nightmare!

We all need to get the word out far and wide that AstroTurf is right up there with boa feathers, wood chips, and pistachio nut shells as “Worst MOOP Ever”.

Leave no trace – leave no couch – leave no AstroTurf!!
Never let it hit your pack job.


Coyote Nose

About the author: Tony “Coyote” Perez-Banuet

Tony “Coyote” Perez-Banuet

Tony “Coyote” Perez-Banuet has been coming to the desert to build and strike Black Rock City since 1996. A professional musician for over twenty years, Burning Man culture was an easy shift for him. He co-founded the Department of Public Works of BRC in 1998 and has been the City Superintendent ever since. Known as the “Bard of the Desert”, telling stories around the campfire is among the things he does best. He has been blogging under the moniker of “Coyote Nose” for many years, and he is Burning Man’s first Storytelling Fellow.

24 Comments on “Coyote Nose: Astro-not!

  • greg says:

    what if a tarp is laid out under the astroturf? it would allow the turf to be pulled up without leaving a layer in the playa …

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  • TattooGoddess says:

    they seriously just left it like that? Did they not mop sweep before they left? Is so…. Fuck them.

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  • The Hun says:

    Greg, tarps could work but they also disintegrate in rain and mud if they are old or cheap. For flooring, the best thing we’ve found is billboard vinyl.

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  • Jeffz says:

    Damn! that is crazy, who would ever think astroturf was okay on playa? just the top would shred and fly off. SMH.

    I picked up so many feathers this year, please post something if you think that lifting the feather ban was better or worse for the feather population.

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  • The Hun says:

    Personally, I didn’t see the feathers being any worse this year, so I think lifting the ban is okay…as long as people don’t bring back boas. But I don’t have the last word on it. I’ll be asking the crew shortly.

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  • TattooGoddess says:

    We had a great time with canvas tarps. We spilled things on them and it didn’t seem to leak to the playa. Hell I puked all over one (was just vodka and water) and it soaked it all up (couldn’t make it to the portas or a can. I ended up having alcohol posioning. Oh hey hi there rampart!). Sonya I would recommend those. No shedding was to be found after we packed the camp up.

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  • bluekskyes says:

    Please, Don’t make blanket statements about “AstroTurf” So, I politely beg to differ about your article -entirely misleading… All AstroTurf is NOT the same. I have been bringing turf to set up at our camp for the past 3 burns, and it hasn’t flaked, shed, deteriorated, or left a fiber of itself anywhere on the playa… Now, to be sure this isn’t the cheap stuff on rolls found at home depot or WalMart. It’s the kind of turf used on football fields, and golf courses and, yes, is certainly more expensive to acquire, but I assure you in doesn’t fall apart and leave a trace… Many a weary traveler has enjoyed this large plot of “Grass” lounging, sleeping, and the comfort of an imagined “Lawn” at our camp! And I (and I would extend that many others) would appreciate not having an article that throws the “baby out with the bath water” -That Astroturff should be banned…

    Thanks for the consideration and keep “Green”

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  • Yager says:

    we use canvas painters drop cloths.

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  • MadMaxine says:

    If you put a tarp under it and bind the edges with tape, astroturf is OK. Don’t use duct tape– it’ll start coming off the first afternoon as the heat melts the adhesive. Use gaffer’s tape instead– it’s more expensive, but you’ll only have to do it once. Also a great source of tarps to put under (or use instead) is vinyl billboards. You can get them for nothing, and can have all sorts of fun altering the advertisements on them.

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  • Oak says:

    Year after year I would find this crap all around our camp. One of the first things we did this year was pull the astroturf out of our camp supplies trailer and moved it into the junk pile. Never again! We started using these plastic squares that clip together and even worked in the mud!

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  • Jack says:

    Tarps have the same problem. We had a standard blue tarp lining the floor of our hexayurt. At the end of the week the tarp had done the same thing at the threshold to our yurt. I ended up having to scrape it up. Live and learn!

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  • Bernie Beauchamp says:

    Most burners do not know the difference between high quality astro turf or the cheap stuff. When it is imbedded in the playa it looks like it has grown there for good reason: it has set roots and released itself from the fabric it was woven in. To remove it from the playa requires several Special Forces team members to scrape the top layer of playa and dispose of it. The playa surface is not very forgiving, however, and often it will peel up 1 or 2 inches deep leaving a much deeper crater than the turf is imbedded. The whole process is extremely tedious and time consuming, causing extreme waste of playa and a lot of heavy lifting for crew members.
    Follow the Hun’s advice and find used billboard vinyl. It rolls and folds easily, cleans up nice and can be used multiple times with no trauma to the playa.

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  • Bob C says:

    If only the atmosphere could be cleaned up as easily from all of the pollutants and greenhouse gasses emitted from this event. Leave no trace my ass.

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  • Shauna says:

    The rain storm didn’t help much either. After cleaning up at the end of the week I realized the dry/wet/dry that the ground had went through also clung onto bits and pieces of everyone’s tarps. Oy what a nightmare. I sat there for 20 minutes picking out every little piece I could get. Any good ideas for MOOP-free ground cover?

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  • egalitarian says:

    Oh Bob C
    What is really on your mind?

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  • Solomon6 says:

    Our camp uses a significant amount of turf. We also have perfect moop score most years and certainly the past 3. The trick is to quickly singe the edges with a propane torch, then gaff tape them for good measure. Better quality stuff helps. While this might seem like a pain in the ass, it really works and you only have to do it once if you do it right. The turf will serve you for years and will also serve to absorb dust and snag other pesky fibrous moopies. And, of course ABM (Always be Mooping) policy always in effect. It also allows you to use a vacuum cleaner on it. :-)

    I am glad for this PSA here, Coyote, to stimulate this discussion. Astroturf can be OK – but is OFTEN not and really requires our special attention.

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  • Himmo says:

    I think it adds a nice bit of color to the playa. Haters gonna hate.

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  • Sarge says:


    Canvas tarps generally don’t shed. Plastic ones dry/flake/shed under duress depending on their quality.

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  • Jenny says:

    For the past few years I’ve used a heavy-duty mesh tarp as my ground cover. The mesh is wonderful as it lets the playa fall through so stays mostly playa-free. Our ground cover spreads out as a front porch and with the rain there was no standing water nor mud issues, unlike our neighbors using normal tarps. I highly recommend it. I do have to be a little more thorough when mooping as I put some holes in it for my stakes, and those have shed fibers (I need 3″ grommets), but I’m down there with the tweezers already. The rest of the tarp hasn’t ever shed anything.

    With the rains it did get attached to the surface of the playa so it came up with a little more effort but didn’t tear or leave anything behind beyond a nice grid pattern; it did take some playa with it though.

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  • Boyscout says:

    I think it’s the cheap blue tarps that you find that are the problem. Not meant to be walked upon I bet. I’ve got a dome from, and got the floor covering and it’s lasted multiple Playa trips and is perfectly fine. Made from the same stuff as the outer covering (see description of material, it worked amazingly this year during the rains because it’s custom cut circular, and is a foot or so larger than the doom diameter so it goes up the inside of the dome a bit so water goes under it. Add some non-moopy odds & ends carpeting, and you’ve got a comfy shelter!

    We also use some canvas tarp/drop cloth in my camps shade structure, and it works pretty great and is nice and tough.

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  • Wally Glenn says:

    AstroTurf is not good, but not for the reasons Tony “Coyote” Perez mentions. It’s easy to get the AstroTurf to not shed green particles. You buy pieces in good condition and seal the edges. That stops it from shedding the turf.

    But it doesn’t stop it from mooping.

    The problem with AstroTurf is that the backing starts breaking down after repeated use. I spent time cleaning my turf every year and one year I picked it up and the backing stayed in clumps.

    Another carpet item that does not work well are cheap plastic RV carpets. These seem great at first, but they tend to break down into little plastic slivers when exposed to UV and playa.

    Since that time I have switched to something that works very well for me.

    For the rest of you, I suggest heavy duty tarps and be prepared to replace them yearly.

    Canvas painters tarps work very well, can be rinsed in a commercial washing machine. They fold flat for easy storage.

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  • Mike Johnson says:

    I’m guessing burlap would be bad news too, right?

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  • CTP says:

    I’m guessing that most burners buy the craptastic stuff at home depot, and it’s a moop nightmare like Coyote says. The last couple years of my old theme camp we put down high quality heavy tarps, and then commercial carpet squares that I had been given – the kind they do office buildings with. For transport they all stacked into one stack, if any got puked on just those squares could be disposed of and a spare moved into its place, and they didn’t shed or moop – we won the Leave No Trace Camp Of The Day award quite a few times so we were always keeping a close eye on anything that might moop, and those squares never did. Just another idea for the mix.

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