Burning Man 2011: Rites of Passage. This became the theme for the entire year, not just the event. The changes and challenges associated with producing this type of event in the fragile desert environment are being met with well thought out plans and professional teams of dedicated Burners. The high standards we set for ourselves and the commitment to our Environmental Mission Statement remain unchanged as we move forward.

Burning Man Year Round

The new year at Burning Man HQ brought new talk of a possible move, nearly two years after our 2009 move, during which we had to downsize the offices and have a number of Staff work from home. The plan then was to continue looking for a downtown location that would be large enough to accommodate the entire Staff. In May of 2011 we made the move to our new Market Street location. Spread out over five floors in a sixteen story building at the corner of 6th Street, this is going to be a new adventure for sure. The new lease includes a Building Manager, Building Engineer and cleaning service; we were able to work with them to ensure compliance for waste management requirements and approval of products used for cleaning. The 100+ year old building has been updated with efficient fluorescent lighting and occupancy sensors in the restrooms. Though we continue to employ the many environmentally conscious practices we have learned over the years, we are always looking for ways to reduce our footprint through our year-round business operations. We are also exploring new ideas for bringing the Burning Man ethos to our new Mid-Market neighborhood.

On the Playa

Each year we see an increase in the number of buses, RVs and mutant vehicles using bio-fuels and the number of artists and camps using solar and other alternative sources to provide power for their creations. We are always looking for areas where we can employ more sustainable practices while building the infrastructure of Black Rock City. In 2011, Burning Man introduced a new featured art installation: the Circle Of Regional Effigies (CORE). There were 23 effigies, designed and built by participants from 23 of the Burning Man Regional Communities. They were brought to the Playa, installed in a circle around The Man, and powered by a solar array provided by the Sno Koan Solar Camp. All of the CORE pieces were burned simultaneously on Thursday night.

Management and oversight of our waste stream has been a priority over the last two years. In order to have any chance of controlling our waste production on playa, we first needed to know what exactly is in our waste stream. We have begun to document the actual results to compare our efforts from year to year. In 2011 we sent a total of 20 (30yd.) containers, approximately 600 cubic yards of MSW (Municiple Solid Waste) to the landfill. This is five fewer containers when compared with the 2010 event, a decrease of approximately 150 cubic yards. In addition, we sent one (10yd.) soil container filled with playa that needed to be removed during Playa Restoration to the landfill, and this was the same as 2010.


Our efforts to separate out organic materials from the waste stream is growing each year, not only in volume, but also in awareness. Burning Man Staff camps are getting on board and separating the food waste and other organics in their camp kitchens. During the 2011 event, we diverted three (30yd.) containers of organic materials from the landfill. Two of the three containers are filled at the Staff Commissary, where thousands of Staff and Volunteers eat three meals a day during the month of operation. Recycle Camp and other Staff infrastructure camp kitchens either bring their organic waste to the Commissary or arrange to have it picked up by the DPW Trash Crew if they are a larger camp. The third (30yd.) container is filled up with coffee grounds and used cups at the Center Camp Café. Our material is transported to the commercial composting facility north of Sparks, NV, where it is a key ingredient in the recipe for black gold, aka compost.


The Reno/Sparks Drive-Thru Recycling Project returned in 2011. The project has expanded to include a location in Wadsworth. This project is a gift to the Burning Man Community. Burners are encouraged to separate their recyclables, including aluminum, plastic, steel and other scrap metal, cardboard, bikes and more. For more information, please see their Report.

BRC Recycle Camp returned to Center Camp for their 15th year and collected more than 160,000 aluminum cans, 4,900 pounds of aluminum from participants. Aluminum cans are the only trace that participants are encouraged to leave during the event, as Black Rock City is a “pack it in, pack it out” city. With the proceeds from the nearly two and a half tons of aluminum, Recycle Camp was able to cover the transportation expenses and make a sizable donation of $1,515 to the students of The Gerlach K-12 School. To learn more about this Green Model Camp, Please see their Report.

The unofficial all-volunteer Staff Recycling crew collected an additional 2,520 pounds of aluminum and 2,780 pounds of plastic from Burning Man Staff and infrastructure camps, along with steel cans, scrap metal, glass bottles and cardboard.

The cardboard is used as a layering material in the compost containers to absorb moisture and add carbon to the mixture. Alternatively it is burned in a custom made incinerator and then the ashes are added to the compost. The aluminum and plastic are transported to Earth First Recycling, North of Reno. We have been working with Earth First for four years now and the relationship gets better each year. The glass, steel and other scrap metals are transported to separate recycling facilities in the Reno/Sparks area.

Wood Collection

The DPW Special projects Crew takes charge of setting up and monitoring our wood collection stations at the end of the event to accept usable wood from participants, diverting it from being burned in the public burn platforms or worse, on the Playa. We have been collecting wood from participants since 2007, The Green Man year. That first year, all the wood was donated to Habitat for Humanity. It was the largest single donation of wood to the local Habitat Chapter in their history. Unfortunately the logistics and expenses involved, due to the remote location of the event site, made it unviable to do every year. Since then we have been collecting the wood and storing it at the Burning Man Work Ranch, to be used throughout the coming year for projects at the Burning Man properties in Nevada and for the next Burning Man Event.


The DPW Collexadus crew was back in full force in 2011. This crew sets up operations at the exit roads and collects non-perishable food, beverages and all sorts of other items from participants on their way out of Black Rock City. Whatever it is, Burners bring too much of it, and the DPW is more than happy to take it off their hands. The collected loot is dusted off, organized and stored in Gerlach at the Black Rock Saloon. That’s right, this stuff helps sustain the DPW Playa Restoration Crew post-event and the year-round staff throughout the winter season. Sorry, bottled water is still not accepted because it doesn’t last long in the desert heat … no one likes drinking water that tastes like plastic.

Other Key Teams

There are many teams that contribute each year to the environmental efforts of the Burning Man Project, including the Earth Guardians and the Playa Restoration Team. For more information about these teams, please read their respective Afterburn Reports.

Keep Burning Green!

Submitted by,
Paul Schreer