Earth Guardians

Earth Guardians are an outreach and communications group whose mission is to educate and inspire Burning Man participants to Leave No Trace (LNT) at the event. We do this by refining LNT-specific multi-media messages for the Burning Man community and by sharing our appreciation of the natural beauty of the Black Rock playa. Due to our common background as those caring about the environment, most of us are also deeply interested in seeing Burning Man become greener.


Earth Guardians work year round to gather and disseminate information about LNT principles, practices, and technologies for the playa and the Burning Man event. Our knowledge and expertise continue to grow each year, and successful LNT practices prove to be a smarter way to camp and play. We focus on emerging issues that have the potential to impact the playa and our community, and we develop LNT practices to reduce impacts.

Leave No Trace Model Camp / [image of The Man] / Burning Man 2006 / Hope and FearWe also visit the Black Rock desert outside of the Burning Man event, both to introduce participants to the beauty of the area and to participate in restoration and education activities. Our volunteer teams include groups focused on integrating LNT into theme camps and art projects; restoration of sensitive areas around the playa; outdoor education; and monitors for hot springs and burn platforms. We also have communication specialists who work on LNT messages that go out to the larger Burning Man community via email, web, PSA, and video (LNTV).

LNT “Train the Trainer” Annual Backpacking Trip

We moved this year’s backpacking trip up north to the Cassidy Mine Site. This location allowed us to explore an area near the playa and drive in supplies and shade for the participants. The trip started with a Leave No Trace video and breakfast and ended with snacks and beverages at the Gerlach Community Center. Highlights of the trip included hiking through the historic mining area; sharing an awesome dinner and campfire; hearing each other’s stories; viewing the playa from up high; and drinking frothy beverages in the shady porch of the Community Center.

A few Earth Guardians explore the desert near the Cassidy Mine site.  The playa lies in the distant background.Our annual backpacking trip has been a great opportunity to meet participants from different volunteer groups and theme camps, and to share with them how Leave No Trace principles apply to our event. As we incorporate our newest Earth Guardian (2-year-old Jai) into the training, our goal is to make the trip more and more comfortable, thereby inspiring others to participate. We are also open to ideas for other ways to share evolving LNT techniques. Email us at

LNT Outreach

Earth Guardians use outreach tools such as the Survival Guide, Jack Rabbit Speaks (JRS) emails, and the Burning Man website. During the event, we highlight LNT model camps and art, demonstrate LNT technologies, and provide information about LNT practices in our Black Rock Interpretive walk. All three outreach efforts were expanded this year, requiring face–to-face meetings with 20+ camps and artists. The LNT tour included five art projects and ten camps this year. Water Works took an in-depth look at grey water treatment systems and stirred a lot of interest. All of these projects were developed to be inclusive, to inspire others, and to create good information for sharing with all of Black Rock City.

New Pre-Playa Outreach Efforts

BLM Black Rock Rendezvous
One of many projects that Earth Guardians completed this year was development of a teacher’s suitcase for LNT workshops. It came in handy immediately when Earth Guardians were asked to present a Leave No Trace workshop at this year’s Black Rock Rendezvous on May 6, 2006. The workshop was cohosted by BLM and the Friends of Black Rock/High Rock and attended by a wide range of groups who use the Black Rock desert, including Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Desert Survivors, and offroad enthusiasts. The workshop, led by Earth Guardian LNT Masters, included a video screening and hands-on classes with the attendees.
Leave No Trace Model Plan
Since 80% of leaving no trace is directly related to good planning, this year Earth Guardians transformed the traditional theme camp “Clean Up Plan” to a “Leave No Trace Plan”. The plan was developed to help theme camps leave no trace after the event and includes detailed information on applying LNT practices, gathering needed resources, and planning for cleanup.
Earth Guardian Website
A screen capture of the revampted Earth Guardians home page.
This year we revamped and expanded the Earth Guardian website as a place to test environmental content for the Burning Man site as well as content specific to Earth Guardian campers and volunteers. The updated pages share information about Earth Guardians and our volunteer teams; year-round activities and playa events; LNT practices; background on the national LNT program; and a considerable amount of information on green burners. Burning Man has a strong environmental backbone, and the story of how the event has become greener over the years should be of interest to many participants.

On-Playa LNT Outreach

Leave No Trace Theme Camp Tour
Now in its fifth year on the playa, our theme camp tour showcases LNT and smart camping. Model camps feature working examples of LNT practices, including grey water systems and trash management. Registered theme camps are eligible to apply. Participating camps subscribe to all LNT principles, submit a copy of their Leave No Trace/Cleanup Plan, and display their camp LNT practices to participants during the event. Potential model camps were contacted before the event, and invitations to the Burning Man community were posted on the Theme Camp Announce, the JRS, and the Earth Guardian list and website.
A map of LNT model camps at Burning Man.
The self-guided tours allowed participants to visit camps of interest. Model camps displayed designating signs and were featured in a large map at the Earth Guardian Pavilion, where we compiled documentation on each camp. The ten camps included on this year’s Tour were Astral Headwash, Borrachos y Bicycletas, Camp Katrina, Earth Guardians, Evolutionary Center, Iron Rose, Nose Fish, 7 Sins Lounge, and Whisky Tango Fox Trot. These ranged in size from a camp of 14 to a village of 125 people. Two community service organizations, Earth Guardians and Recycle Camp, were also included.This year, Earth Guardians created a web-based Adobe Flash presentation of the LNT model camps and art. The medium proved useful for showcasing both while giving LNT camps an opportunity to share their accomplishments and know-how with the Burning Man community. Leave No Trace principles were implemented and demonstrated through grey water and trash management, good neighbor, reuse, and education initiatives.Model camps took on increased educational and environmental leadership in 2006. Three camps were featured in the Earth Guardian Pavilion for their efforts to educate the Burning Man community about LNT and related environmental issues. Seven camps were acknowledged for their efforts around recycling, reuse, and sustainable practices. Several were designated as green camps, acknowledging their role in promoting reuse, recycling, and use of renewable energy at Burning Man.
Water Works
Windmill fans and other metallic equipment mesh together into an artistic flow of shapes.
Burning Man 2006 was targeted as our time to raise awareness for this multi-year project and gather data on what people are currently doing. Our goal for 2007 is to sort the data and share our results, in order to raise the LNT awareness of the entire Black Rock City. Two key factors limited our success with the project in 2006: transportation (our one golf cart was largely unavailable for Water Works camp visits) and lack of visibility.We are in the process of organizing the information we’ve gathered on grey water systems for posting to both the Earth Guardian website and the new environmental section of the Burning Man site, and we’ll continue to post updates and links to the EG site on the JRS.We are planning to submit a request for a second golf cart for next year to meet our transportation needs.
Camp of the Day Contest
This contest recognizes the best examples of Leave No Trace. Any registered theme camp can apply, before or after the event. All camps included on (or nominated for) the LNT theme camp tour were automatically entered in the Camp of the Day contest. LNT experts visited camps throughout the event to view them in action and also evaluated camps based on their documentation of practices and post-event cleanup reports.We had many outstanding camps with simple and ingenious features this year. Each winning camp earned two tickets to Burning Man and special recognition in the Earth Guardian web pages. The 2006 Camp of the Day winners were Camp Zu, Kava Island, Nose Fish, the HMS Dessert Queen, and Borrachos y Bicicletas.
Leave No Trace Art Tour
For several years Earth Guardians has publicized Leave No Trace tips for artists. This year we created the Leave No Trace Art Tour as a sister to our popular theme camp tour. We recruited five art installations to include as examples of LNT art, meaning art with minimal impact backed by sound cleanup commitments.
A sunflower made of copper petals surrounding a solar cell.
Each of the installations used earth-friendly, recycled, and renewable materials: one was created entirely out of recycled materials; two were solar-based; and another pledged to offset greenhouse gas emissions with carbon credits “purchased” by participants. The Earth Guardian Pavilion displayed a poster and map for the new self-guided tour, which included BurninatorII by Bill Codding, Field of Sunflower Robots by Stefano Corazza, Omagination by Peter Mathews, ScrapEden Recycled Art Garden BRC by Black Rock Arts Foundation, and Starry Bamboo Mandala by Gerard Minakawa.
LNT/Greening the Burn Interpretive Walk
We expanded this year’s interpretive walk in the Earth Guardian Pavilion to include 13 new posters. The posters provide local history, including that of long-term LNT practices in the area, and together show the positive environmental benefits of Burning Man over the years. We also displayed a roomful of new posters for current and planned efforts including Greening the Burn, Cooling Man, Water Works, and LNTV.Currently, participants have to enter the EG Pavilion in order to notice the interpretive walk. This year we tried to distinguish its structure from that of the pavilion, in order to promote the walk and in anticipation of future changes to the pavilion. We are also considering ways to expand our reach by taking our interpretive program onto the playa and by combining forces with other projects such as the “green maze”. These initiatives would require additional resources and alternative power.
Nature Walks and the EcoAction Project:
Earth Guardians hike along the Black Rock Desert near the edge of the playa.Since 2000, Earth Guardians have sponsored a series of field trips, with naturalists as guides, to springs surrounding the playa. Restoration activities give participants the opportunity to learn about the Black Rock Desert and to experience the remarkable diversity of communities living on this sterile-looking, alkaline lakebed.For 2007, we are seeking to expand the nature walk program with more trips by expert leaders and a wider variety of activities. Andy Baker has led our nature walks for six years; he is interested in forming an EcoAction group that would work with BLM and other conservation groups in Nevada to identify new Black Rock sites for restoration. We are considering pre-event trips to the site for prep work, a pre-event seminar in the week before the event, and several work trips from Black Rock City during the event to complete the project.

Outreach with Other Groups

Dinosaurs on the Playa
For several years we have worked in partnership with BLM to explore different themes in outreach to the residents of Black Rock City. Themes for past exhibits range from Wilderness Areas and the National Wilderness Preservation System, to Black Rock’s National Historic Trails. (The trails form the backbone of many Wilderness areas in the surrounding Black Rock Desert NCA.)
A man seated on a stool handles fossils while a woman kneeling nearby looks on.
This year’s exhibit focused on the Antiquities Act and the role that public lands and BLM play in protecting and interpreting fossil remains. The “camp” was patterned after a 1940s archeological dig. BLM staff and volunteers dressed as archeologists held a daily dinosaur hour for children, and the camp included a replica of a local find: the scull of a mammoth. In a large tent at the back of the camp, interpretive panels incorporating material from the New Mexico Natural History Museum were used to teach participants about prehistoric bones.
National LNT Traveling Trainers
A small group of participants stand in conversation beneath a shade structure.The National LNT organization sent Traveling Trainers for Team West, North Moench and Ella Goodbrod, to Burning Man. They participated in community talks at Center Camp Café, presented a LNT class on Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids (PEAK), and volunteered on Earth Guardian teams including the toxic avenger burn patrol, nature walk/restoration teams, and a few trash fence patrols. Photos and reflections from their visit are posted to their online journals.

Other Activities and Operations at Burning Man

Burn Platform Patrols:
Again this year, we had volunteers patrol the burn platforms on Sunday. Armed with five golf carts and extra radios, we did our best to prevent participants from burning banned items or overloading the platforms. Again, this task was much bigger than 5 golf carts, 1 pickup, 1 chainsaw, and 10–15 people could manage. We needed double or triple the volunteers to handle the number of burn platforms, especially into the evening.
Three participants approach a burn platform fire at dusk.
Earth Guardians would like to expand and promote alternatives to burning and to reconsider the need for burn platforms. We understand that this is Burning Man; that there are positive benefits from letting go of your own things in flames; and that not all participants are prepared to take everything home from the event. However, the use of burn platforms allows for burn scars (from overloading), release of noxious fumes and smoke, risk of participant burns, and a clear departure from our “pack it in, pack it out” philosophy.What alternatives can we support and promote? The most obvious is reuse, repurposing, and recycling of wood. What could be greener than reducing waste and greenhouse gases at the same time? All of the Earth Guardian volunteers were instructed to work with Burners Without Borders (Camp Katrina) on their lumber recycling project this year. It was a great experience to finally see wood recycling on the playa.Camp Katrina’s efforts would benefit from assistance at the platforms, and Earth Guardians are willing to help. However, we first need more volunteers to help with patrolling the burn platforms on Sunday. (Our camp of 25–30 is split that day between hot spring patrols and camp teardown.) In order to handle the various patrols and also assist recycling efforts such as Camp Katrina, we need more volunteers from other departments to help cover our shifts. Assistance from rangers and early coordination on joint volunteer efforts would also help us meet our objectives.
Three presenters on a raised stage speak before an audience of a few dozen burners beneath a shade structure.
LNT Speakers and Classes
Earth Guardians had a full schedule of talks and classes at both the Earth Guardian Pavilion and at the Center Camp Café. Topics ranged from Black Rock Geology and Environmental Art to Yoga and Creating a ReUse Consciousness. We conducted onsite nature walks, ecological restorations, and classes on dinosaurs and LNT for kids.
Hot Spring Patrols
The hot spring patrols were busy again in 2006, operating around the clock from the day the gates opened through Sunday after the burn. We noticed cleaner hot springs (thank you other user groups!) and great cooperation from the gate and perimeter teams. We plan to be better prepared next year with a few more drivers, more shade, and more water for our volunteers.

A poster promotes the principles: Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Restore.Ideas for 2007

Earth Guardians would like to further expand our role in promoting environmental stewardship, sustainability, and environmentalism in 2007. We will expand our partnerships internally on greening issues and externally on stewardship and restoration, continuing our partnerships with Friends of the Black Rock, BLM, Nevada Wilderness Project, and others to advance our reach.

The Greening Man

Earth Guardians are deeply interested in seeing Burning Man become greener. Our volunteers are involved in Greening the Man and promoting green practices (recycle, reuse, repurpose) to reduce waste as part of LNT practices. With this year’s theme, we expect many participants and artists to explore and express their ideas about our relationship to nature, how that relationship impacts us and how we, in turn, impact the natural world around us. Greening the event at the same time makes perfect sense.

What is green?
The word “green” implies different things to different people, but typically focuses around a commitment to operate with minimal use of non-renewable resources, including reduced waste (although the use of biodegradeable products allows many events to claim zero waste despite the use of trash cans); reduced energy use; and use of alternative energy sources. Increasing evidence of global warming in our world has focused media attention on CO2 emissions associated with burning of fossil fuels.
Outreach to Participants
Burning Man has a long history of helping participants, via LNT outreach, make educated decisions about what to bring and not bring to the playa in order to reduce waste, recycle, and repurpose. Projects such as Cooling Man help participants understand the impacts of specific activities on the playa. Other ideas we have for raising awareness include adding questions around energy planning and waste reduction to theme camp questionnaires; developing examples of green theme camp plans (like our sample LNT plans); and a holding a green summit in conjunction with the spring Open House.
Two costumed burners work the Earth Guardian information desk as two more play guitars behind them.
Earth Guardians are planning to expand our LNT Theme Camp Tour in 2007 to recognize green camps, for which we will provide sample plans. We will also participate in a green open house meeting in April 2007 and provide outreach material for participants who attend. On-playa, we plan to help with the Learning Man outreach efforts, possibly take part in a science fair, and provide information about green technologies to residents of Black Rock City.
Earth Guardian Greener Camp Practices
Historically, Earth Guardians camp has relied considerably on the Center Camp grid for energy needs including our interpretive walk (lighting), our stage (sound), and our nightly outreach efforts such as LNTV. For 2007, however, we are looking into ways of incorporating greener energy into our camp operations and volunteer village. We are also interested in designing a better structure for the Earth Guardian Pavilion. We will begin pilot testing designs this year so that a new, repurposable structure will be ready for Burning Man 2008.
Burning Man Website
During the event, we talk with participants to get direct feedback on our Leave No Trace messages. Again this year we saw an influx of younger participants and noticed that our community’s basic LNT ground rules were unknown to many newbies. In the past, we have recommended incorporating important messages from the Survival Guide into the larger Burning Man site, specifically in proximity to the most commonly-visited pages. This work is now being developed by the Burning Man Tech Team; Earth Guardians are planning to help with content reviews and page development as needed. We (collectively) also need to make sure that the basic newbie messages (such as “if it’s not coming out of my body, it doesn’t go into the potty”) continue to be delivered at the greeters station, over BMIR, and via engaging art and signage spanning the event).

Submitted by,
Karina O’Connor