Leaving No Trace the Playa Restoration Way: DIY MOOP Sweeps, MOOP Map and LNT Test

TLDR: MOOP (Matter Out of Place) Sweeps are your friend! Don’t put off the MOOP sweeps at your camp until after the event. By then it will already be buried. 

  1. MOOP sweep your area when you first arrive on playa.
  2. MOOP every morning for 15 minutes with 15 people (or if your camp is small, everyone). 
  3. Make a MOOP Map of your camp.
  4. Remove all stakes, spikes, lag bolts, etc..
  5. Remove all flags and art floofys.

If you’re an LNT Lead or simply Resto curious and interested in joining the Playa Restoration All-star Team, fill out our Resto Application Form!

MOOP Is Our Word for “Matter Out Of Place”

MOOP 1. (acronym / noun) 

An acronym for Matter Out Of Place, MOOP includes anything not native to the immediate environment, such as cigarette butts, trash, bottles, caps, screws, stakes, fireworks, glow sticks and broken debris (wood, plastic, metal, glass and plants). MOOP can also be a condition not natural to the environment, such as burn scars, fuel spills, grey/black water spills and dunes. 

MOOP 2. (acronum / verb) 

To pick up Matter Out Of Place. “Our camp MOOPed from one end to the other!” 

MOOP 3. (acronym / verb) 

To drop Matter Out Of Place. “She MOOPed her cell phone somewhere on playa and can’t find it.”

The Circle of MOOP

Playa Restoration MOOP dumpster (Photo by DA)

2022 was one of the MOOPiest years on record. Dust storms buried your MOOP under layers of dunes, and MOOP is easy to miss when you can’t see it. You did your best with what you could, but then you had to go home. The unaccounted-for MOOP was missed and remained buried… for a time.

With nothing left in Black Rock City, the winds eroded the dust away, slowly revealing Matter Out Of Place. Then it was up to the Resto All-stars to find it before the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Post-event Inspection. 

Excavating the Lost City of Black Rock… 

Scouring the playa for MOOP is like excavating the Lost City of Black Rock. Resto can read where you put your burn barrel and where you dropped your woodpile by the texture, color and density of bark and splinters. Resto can see where you had your epic dance floor with hundreds of people dancing their asses off while unknowingly MOOPing tiny bits of paper, blinky lights, cigarette butts and random lost items all night long. Resto can also read that you did your best MOOP sweep with what you had to work with at the time. 

We did our utmost to restore the playa after you all went home… but as you know,  it was tough. We passed the Bureau of Land Management inspection, but it was close — too close. 

And then Resto, too, left the Black Rock Desert, and let the playa do its thing. The rains came, compacting the playa dust down and causing MOOP that was previously buried to rise back to the surface. This is all a part of the playa’s natural healing process. 

MOOP found on playa by the Survey crew, pre-event 2023 (Photo by DA)

When You Return to the Playa in 2023

Step 1: When You Arrive

Soon, very soon, you will all return to the Black Rock Desert. It will be up to you, the citizens of Black Rock City, to close the circle of MOOP. Here’s how.

Everyone: the first thing to do when you arrive, before you put anything on the ground, is to scout your campsite and pick up any MOOP that has popped up. Specifically, look for tent stakes and lag bolts, the most prevalent MOOP item in Black Rock City in 2022, and the most dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians!

Here is a 30-second video tutorial by Resto alum Patches on how to quickly and easily pull out tent stakes:

Step 2: Throughout Burn Week

Moving Forward: MOOP sweeps are your friend! Don’t put off the MOOP sweeps until after the event. By then it will be already buried. Gather at least 15 people (or your entire small camp) and do a MOOP sweep every morning for 15 minutes.

MOOP the Streets! You are responsible for the streets in front of your camp. Collaborate with your neighbors across the street to tackle Leave No Trace for your shared roadway.

Then track the MOOP you find in your very own MOOP Map! Start identifying problematic areas that may need attention, and tracking your MOOP trends. How is the burn barrel area? Are wood chips scattered everywhere? Did late night munchies leave a mess in the kitchen? Clean it up. Mark it on your camp MOOP Map. Use colors to track MOOPiness based on how quickly you and your team can move through your sweep: red where progress is slow and difficult, and yellow when it’s moderate. 

How to MOOP Sweep Your Camp the Resto Way!

The MOOP sweep is the very foundation of Playa Restoration’s Leave No Trace success. The more participants you have, the quicker it will go; but don’t worry if it starts with just one or two of you. This simple formula will help you MOOP your area in just 15 minutes.

Concept: Think of your area as a grid and divide it into six-foot lanes. Put one MOOPer in each lane and walk the length of the camp. If you have fewer MOOPers, repeat as necessary. 

Reality: Line up your MOOPers and spread out ARMS WIDTH (average six feet). This is how Resto has covered Black Rock City for almost 25 years. This will be the very foundation of your Leave No Trace effort. It works, it’s easy, and it takes 15 minutes. 

Here’s a quick 30-second video showing you how to MOOP Sweep:

Playa Restoration All-Star Team MOOP Scribes coloring the MOOP Map (Photo by DA)

Step 3: Post-Event Final MOOP Sweep! 

The event is over. You’ve torn down your infrastructure, struck camp, and PULLED OUT ALL OF YOUR TENT STAKES. Now it’s time for… more MOOP sweeps! But since your camp has been MOOP sweeping ALL WEEK… most of your camp’s MOOP has already been picked up! Now you’re just going over it with a fine-toothed comb to see if you’ve missed anything. Use your DIY MOOP Map to guide you! If there are a lot of dunes, as there were in 2022, be sure to use a landscape rake to comb over your areas!

New for 2023: Remove all flags! Remove all camp Placement flags, Survey flags, and Art Placement floofys! There are more than 40,000 flags laying out Black Rock City; removing them helps Playa Restoration tremendously. Discuss timing with your neighbors — the last camp standing should pull Placement flags so they can tell where their boundaries lie.

Bonus: Easy DIY LNT MOOP Test Your Area! (5 min.)

You’ve done your final MOOP sweep but are wondering if the Playa Restoration All-Star Team is going to find anything, and if you would pass the BLM Post-Event Inspection. 

Here’s How You LNT MOOP Test Your Area:

  1. Hammer a stake into your test area.
  2. Tie a 38′ string to stake, pull taut.
  3. Line up MOOP team 6 feet apart along the string.
  4. Walk in a circle, pick up MOOP within radius.
  5. Keep results in a plastic bag for record.
  6. MOOP < 3.8 sq. in. = PASS.
  7. Pull stake, Leave No Trace.
Playa Restoration All-Star Team LNT MOOP Test (Photo by DA)

And that, my friends, is how we Leave No Trace the Playa Restoration way. These MOOP sweep techniques have been developed, honed and practiced successfully over decades on the playa. This is what we do. With respect to our environment, it is the principle of Leaving No Trace that allows us to build and burn wherever we go, whether on the Black Rock Desert or anywhere else in the world.

Leaving No Trace

The Burning Man 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.

Check out these Journal posts to learn more about leaving no trace in Black Rock City.

Cover image of Playa Restoration All-star Team MOOP Sweep, 2022 (Photo by Steve Tietze)


About the author: DA


DA, wings on fire, crash-landed smack dab in the middle of Burning Man 97, ticket in hand, and never left. Three burns later, DA was adopted by the Department of Public Works' Clean-Up Crew and was awestruck at the transformative power of Leaving No Trace. DA grew to be leader, transforming the Clean-Up Crew into the Playa Restoration All-Star Team, and creating the first Moop Map in 2006 as a way to visualize the community's Leave No Trace effort. As a poster artist, DA has illustrated the launch of the Burning Man Theme for 2006 Hope and Fear: The Future, 2007 Green Man, 2008 American Dream, 2013 Cargo Cult, and 2015 Carnival of Mirrors. DA loves the Black Rock Desert and believes that if we, the community, continue to Leave No Trace, then together we can keep building and burning the world over.

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