Vanishing Black Rock City

Here’s a peek into the world of Playa Restoration and the people who are passionate about preserving the Black Rock Desert and minimizing the impact of Burning Man as much as humanly possible. I visited Resto, I stood in the dumpster of MOOP left behind by Burning Man and talked trash with the crew.

“The main thing is to make this place as close to original as we can, and we know that’s impossible, but we can get really close.”  -Starchild

Playa Restoration is what makes Burning Man possible, and the Playa Restoration All-Stars are the force that wrap-up Burning Man’s environmental restoration effort.

When I first came to Burning Man I was like… “I’m a veteran camper. I got this leave no trace thing down… no problem…” Unbeknownst to me I was dating the Special Forces Manager for Playa Restoration. “Wait, like a woodchip is a trace? Oh and a sunflower seed is a trace, that lil scrap of paper that came out in my cooler water and those pieces of eggshell and clod of hair are a trace?” I quickly learned that Burning Man takes leaving no trace to a whole new level.

 I went out and talked to the Resto Crew on the last day of resto, while they did “line sweeps” and “killed cones.” You know what they told me? They told me it’s you, the people of Burning Man, who make the whole leave no trace effort possible by being accountable for what you bring and cleaning up after yourselves. Also, we can all still do better.

You make Burning Man possible by helping ensure Black Rock City vanishes to dust. It seems an achievement that is unparalleled— 70,000 people leaving less than a dumpster in trash and a city vanishing. So, congratulations… you did it. Still, we can all do better.

It’s the little things that add up. A wood chip isn’t a huge deal, but multiply even the smallest thing by 70,000 people and it makes an impact.

How do you practice leave-no-trace? Is there anything you could do better?

What Burning Man left behind.
Special Forces rolling through the city streets “Killin Cones” and dissapearing “Hot Spots.”
Line sweeps walk the streets of Black Rock City.
the line sweeps walk at arm lengths apart across the seven square miles of Black Rock City.
For eight hours or more a single song plays on repeat to encourage ‘meltdowns.’ This backfired when “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas’ was embraced by crew members. Those intending to cause meltdowns had meltdowns. The irony. The justice.
Playa Restoration Special Forces.
Playa Restoration All-Star Crew.

About the author: Shalaco


Follow along with me on my adventures as Black Rock City returns to dust. I run around with a camera and talk to people. Check out my Burning Man Vlogs here.

21 Comments on “Vanishing Black Rock City

  • Margot Bach (Ranger Fraulein Hasi) says:

    Thank you, Playa Resto team…you rock and we’re grateful for everything you do on our behalf

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  • Debbie says:

    Thank you Resto team for all your hard work and dedication! We truly appreciate you!

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  • Susan says:

    It’s time to replace these drunks, druggies and criminals with a professional events crew to do the job in less than half the time and more efficiently.

    The ‘free labor model’ of doing business is cute, and it’s funny that you get all these parolees off of their friends’ sofas for part of the year… But it’s really time to give them a cookie and let these slackers move on with their lives so they can get back to helping the struggling indigenous people of wherever.

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  • Yes says:

    Thank you! so glad the trash count is down from previous years it appears (1 dumpster?). curious, what was the item most frequently found, if any 1 type fits that?

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  • It’s the little things that add up

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  • Ramona Shwatski says:

    It’s absolutely insane how white his group of people is. Do they actively discourage people of color to join? The region (the entire West coast) is a diverse place. Why are they actively discouraging POCs from working? It’s absolutely disgusting. Fing Nazis.

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  • Project says:

    If you think you can do a better job in the dust and wind and spend weeks or your precious time camped out on the Playa I guess we will hold you to it and see you on the crew next year,put your boots on the ground out there and do some volunteer work like so many of the other volunteers that make Burning man happen.

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  • Jb says:

    Thankyou for all the hard work truly unimaginable!! Watching moments where everyone is stoked and enjoying what music and friends they got is priceless..I hope to be able to join you in the future!!! Huge Mahalos (thanks)

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  • Kris D says:

    I was at the site one late 2015 fall and was amazed that evidence of a temporary community of ~70k disappeared with little trace it was ever there.
    An avid hiker and backcountry photographer, finding discarded items borne by wind and tangled in desert plants is common. These items, most often aluminum mylar balloons, plastic grocery bags, plastic wrappers, lightweight paper and expired/inactive mining claim posts are more common than playa moop.
    And in years when winds have been known to send dome tents, sleeping bags, and ground covers reeling across the playa into adjacent counties, things found beyond the boundaries of BRC include nuts, bolts, spent ammo, pull tabs, bottle caps, car and ATV parts, rusty gas and oil cans, mufflers, oil filters, decaying plastics and miscellaneous garbage. These are especially abundant near hot springs where campers settle in for extended stays.
    Kudos to the clean up teams for making BRC cleaner than its surroundings.

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  • Mooniek Crijns says:

    Next year I will be there again! And I would like to help you with cleaning the playa during the event. Where can I find you?

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  • Gary Jones says:

    Watching moments where everyone is stoked and enjoying what music and friends they got is priceless..I hope to be able to join you in the future!!!

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  • douglas r martin says:

    I would love to be a part of restoration in 2019. I find the Playa Home and like to help clean up. Next year I hope will be my ninth year to the Playa. I have volunteered in various capacities, ESD fire/logistics five years, Greeters three years, man watches hot springs watches and the last two years a Temple Guardian.

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