Greening Your Burn

Table of Contents

Leave No Trace

Practicing a Leave No Trace Ethic is simple: leave the place you visit the same or better than you found it; leave no trace of your having been there, so that others – human and animal – can enjoy the land the rest of the year.

Tips and Hints

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
For each item that you’re bringing to the playa, think through how you’re going to dispose of it. Have your camp tear-down well planned and practiced. Plan to send trash off the playa with campmates as they leave the event.

2. Reduce Packaging
Bringing less in means having less to haul out. Leave unnecessary packaging at home. Food often comes in layers of plastic and cardboard, but also cast a critical eye toward the toys and camping gear you’re bringing. Unpacking them before arriving on the playa spares you the hassle of bringing back styrofoam packing and shrinkwrap. Choose aluminum cans over bottles, and reusable containers over either of those. Read more in our Trash and Recycling section.

3. Rethink Your Food Portions
Prepare food in sensible quantities your group can finish at a single sitting — leftovers quickly become a liability. Coordinate with your campmates as far as what you’re bringing to minimize waste. If you’ve found yourself with a giant pot of chili and not enough campmates, invite neighbors over to finish it off. It beats creating a wet, heavy bag of trash that has to be packed into someone’s trunk.

4. Don’t Rush Packing and Departure
Don’t stress to hurry home. Long-term exposure to the playa will fatigue your body and impair decision-making. Also, when under pressure, we are all likely to make rushed decisions, miss details and leave things behind. If half of your campmates will have left already by Sunday, the folks left behind are going to have a lot more work to do. If someone has to catch a plane, make sure to start packing up even earlier than you think you have to, so that you aren’t tempted to leave before fully clearing your site.

5. MOOP Sweeps
As you’re packing your camp, have campmates walk repeatedly around your site picking up anything and everything that’s not part of the playa. Doing this periodically, through the week, will make it easier.

6. Do Not Use the Playa as Your Toilet
It’s unacceptable, unsanitary, and just plain gross the morning after.

7. Take Your Bikes Home
Do not leave behind your old bikes behind for us. We still have to dispose of them if you don’t, and it’s an expensive and time-consuming effort.

8. Be Aware of Very Small Items
No Trace really does mean no trace. Be conscious of spare nails or smaller trash particles that may be dismissed as too small for trash including: hair, matches, cigarette butts, feathers, zip ties. Remember food waste such as peanut shells, orange peels and egg shells are also trash. While you’re walking around the playa, make an effort to pocket all trash, including cigarette butts, and then empty your pockets into a trash bag later. After you pick up your trash to carry home, do a last-minute check of your site for cigarette butts, gum wrappers, etc. because many of those will be hidden under tarps, tents and vehicles.

9. Do Not Pour Leftover Gas on the Playa
This is toxic! You wouldn’t do this in your backyard, so don’t do it in ours.

10. Minimize Fire Impacts
Deserts like Black Rock are susceptible to burn scars which last a long time and are not easily cleared. Avoid creating a burn scar by not burning directly on the ground. Use a raised fire pit, or use fire shields to protect playa surface. Keep in mind that most non-natural materials (rugs, polyester, plastic, treated wood) are toxic when burned.

11. Minimize Playa Scars
Never ditch or build trenches around your tent because they can start soil erosion and create lasting scars. Make an effort to restore holes dug for tent stakes and anchors.

12. Do Not Take Artifacts
Artifacts should be turned into the Lost and Found in Center Camp with an EXACT location of where it was discovered. Many historical and archeological sites are found throughout Bureau of Land Management areas. Federal law prohibits disturbing historical and archeological sites or removing any objects from them.

13. Respect Wildlife
Do not harass wildlife. Remember, Burning Man is not a place for dogs or other pets. If you bring a pet to the playa outside of the Burning Man event, make certain to remove their waste just as you would your own.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I have to take my trash all the way home? Not at all! There are several trash dumps and recycling facilities in the Reno area who will process your trash, cheaply and easily. Check their schedules and rates ahead of time, and put printed information in your car or truck before you leave home.

2. Where shouldn’t I leave my trash? It’s unfair to make someone else clean up after your party! Please do not dump your trash along the highways where locals or highway cleanup crews will have to deal with it. Do not leave trash at local businesses or road side rest stops – they have to pay for trash disposal and shouldn’t have to accommodate yours. This includes restaurant dumpsters, hotels, gas stations, or anywhere else that is private property. Do not leave your bags of trash on the playa either; the volunteers who stay to break down the city have more than enough to do already.

3. Why not just throw stuff into the Potties? If it wasn’t in your body, don’t put it in the potty. Items that aren’t human waste or single-ply toilet paper have a nasty tendency to clog up the machines that are used to clean the potties. When that happens, someone who’s actually working while we’re playing has to get in there and fish it out. Aside from being a lousy thing to make another person do, it means potties out of commission and not being cleaned for that much longer. And none of us want that!

4. Can I cook on a campfire? Campfires are not allowed at Burning Man, and that’s good because they erode the land. In fragile environments such as deserts, fire leaves scars for many years and depletes wood supplies. Modern backpacking stoves are economical and lightweight and provide fast, clean cooking. You can get camp stoves here.

5. Can I burn my trash? You can burn selected items at pre-approved burn platforms. These areas are indicated on your playa map. A lot of things that might seem safe to burn can actually be toxic – they release really nasty chemicals that might or might not be visible, but which will definitely do harm to you and others. Check the burn page in the environment for more detailed guidelines.

Resource Links
Want more ideas for your clean-up plan? Interested in the ethics and principles behind Leave No Trace? Check out these great links:


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