We Are Everywhere! Burners have been saying this for a number of years now, participating in the diaspora of the Burning Man culture as it extends to the far reaches of the globe. We, as leaders of this community, strive to do all we can to lead by example and lead with intention, particularly in the environmental realm.

Burning Man Year Round

Tips from Working with the BLMBlack Rock City, LLC came back to a new office after the 2011 event, downtown mid-Market Street. In the Spring we received some new friends to live on the roof, Honey Bees!!! The bees are part of an urban bee keeping community that is the brainchild of Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in San Francisco. They are placing hives on rooftops all over the city. We have learned a lot about bees and how they thrive here in the urban environment. Knowing the importance of bees for pollination and the news of recent mass die-offs, we are pleased to participate in a project aimed at increasing the bee population. It is fun and rewarding to share our roof with such a vital member of our eco system. Bzzzzzz

This year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) produced a public document called the 2012-2016 Burning Man Environmental Assessment (EA). You can read the EA on the BLM Website. The EA outlines what needs to be done to protect the playa and surrounding communities. Based on the suggestions of the EA, this year the BLM conducted an Oil Drip Survey to measure the number of vehicles leaking oil. A similar Oil Drip Survey had been conducted from 2002-2004 but it needed to be updated. To complete this task, the BLM worked with the Earth Guardians and about 20 Black Rock City participants who volunteered to look for and test oil drip diameters under cars. The good news is that less than 4% of the cars checked were leaking. The bad news is that the older the vehicle, the more likely it was to leak. Although not such a big surprise, RVs were WAY more likely to leak than smaller vehicles, and their leaks were not just from the engine: RVs were sometimes found to be leaking grey or black water from the holding tanks. We will use this information to create more educational messaging to Black Rock citizens.

This year BLM asked for our help on environmental education. They want us to help participants learn about and remediate oil drips, black water spills and burn barrels too close to the playa surface. The Earth Guardians say it’s easy to remediate these issues using the following items: cardboard, a five gallon bucket, some bricks, and a shovel. To protect oil drips: you weight some cardboard (with your wheels) and keep it in place under the engine of your vehicle. To stop blackwater spills, you use your shovel to remove the existing spill, then throw it in a five gallon bucket. To stop burn barrels from damaging the playa surface, you lift the barrel up on the playa with a couple of bricks. Simple, but we need to spread the word!

Solar On & Off the Playa

Reno Star Cosmic Thistle: Black Rock Solar installed a 2 kW solar array to power the sculpture’s computer and lights, both on the playa and at the Reno location. The Cosmic Thistle is a 46′ steel flower designed by Mark Szulgit and was made from repurposed salvaged steel provided by the City of Reno. After Burning Man, the Cosmic Thistle was permanently installed at the intersection of Virginia and McCarran Streets.Black Rock Solar (BRS) has been providing solar to Northern Nevada since 2007. Launched during the Green man theme, this non-profit solar construction company has taken the principles of “gifting” and “leave no trace” and run with them by providing over two megawatts of solar power to schools and tribal nations in NV. On playa, BRS camps at the Everywhere Pavilion, where all of the extended Burning Man outreach groups (Burners without Borders, The Regionals Network, Black Rock Solar and Black Rock Arts Foundation) gather and host events. In 2012, BRS provided a number of solar powered treats on the playa:

  • Solar Sunflowers: “The first and last ever electronic instrument and light show,” was designed by Dinaz Kardooni and partially funded by BRS. “Sun Flower Power: Tha Photosynthesizer” was an interactive, solar-powered sculpture that was displayed on the Esplanade at Burning Man 2012.
  • SunPods: In 2012, the Everywhere Pavilion again featured a SunPod, a stand-alone, factory-built solar array designed and fabricated in the Bay Area. With the help of Black Rock Solar, this array helped to provide power to the Everywhere Pavilion, and also had available outlets to charge devices.
  • Circle Of Regional Effigies: 34 effigies represented, designed and built by participants from 34 different Burning Man Regional Communities and installed in a circle around The Man. A solar array provided by the Sno Koan Solar Camp generated the power for the C.O.R.E Project.
  • Participants: RVs, buses and mutant vehicles are burning bio-fuels and using solar systems to power sound systems. Artists and Theme Camps are using solar arrays and other alternative energy sources to provide power for their creations. In 2012, Black Rock Solar guided a VIP Solar tour, touring the incredible innovations, theme camps and art on playa.

What exactly is in our Waste Stream?

2009* 2010* 2011 2012
10yd Containers of Playa (Soil) N/A N/A 1 1
Total Cubic Yards N/A N/A 10 10
30yd Containers of MSW (Landfill) 22 24 24 18
Total Cubic Yards 660 720 720 540
30yd Containers of Organics 3 3 3 3
Total Cubic Yards 90 90 90 90
30yd Containers of Recycling N/A 6 8 11
Total Cubic Yards N/A 180 240 330

Management and oversight of the waste stream is a priority in the operations of any large city or event. Black Rock City and Burning Man are no different. In 2012 we made great strides in our evolving operations. Roles for a new Recycling Manager and Recycling Crew were developed. Having outgrown the main recycling collection point at the Staff Commissary, a staff sorting station, aka the TSA (Transfer Station Agency), was designed and constructed out at the DPW Depot. The original DPW Trash Crew worked together with the new DPW Recycling Crew to manage the TSA. Staff and department camps brought all of their sorted waste to the TSA for proper disposal, or they sorted it there. We diverted 90 cubic yards of recyclables, the most ever during our time in Gerlach, pre and post event. The results – we diverted more recyclable materials from the landfill, than any year yet. We now have four years of actuals to compare

*These results do not include Gerlach.


In 2012 we sent a total of 18 (30yd.) containers, approximately 540 cubic yards of MSW (Municiple Solid Waste) to the landfill. This is six fewer containers when compared with the 2011 event, a decrease of approximately 180 cubic yards of landfill waste. Additionally, one (10yd.) soil container filled with playa was removed during Playa Restoration, and went to the landfill, which was the same as in 2011.


RecyclablesOur efforts to separate out organic materials from the waste stream is growing each year. During the 2012 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 Cafe. 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.

Starting in 2002, the Staff and infrastructure recycling project has grown each year. In 2011 the project outgrew the plan, and it was time for change. With the development of the TSA in 2012, along with a new Recycling Manager and crew, we took sorting our waste stream to the next level. In the process, we diverted more recyclables in 2012 than any other year.

This year also brought big changes in our operations while living and working in Gerlach for three months. For the first time ever we implemented a plan for full recycling collection, including aluminum, plastic, glass, steel and scrap metals, paper and cardboard. We collected 45 cubic yards of paper and cardboard alone.

BRC Recycle Camp is the one place that participants leave a trace – their aluminum cans that is, – otherwise, Black Rock City is a “pack it in, pack it out” city. Recycle Camp has been collecting cans in Center Camp for 16 years, and in 2012 they collected more than 170,000 aluminum cans – that’s more than 5,000 pounds of aluminum. With the proceeds from the over two and a half 2.5 tons of aluminum, Recycle Camp was able to cover the transportation expenses and make a sizable donation of $1,575 to the students of The Gerlach K-12 School. To learn more about this Green Model Camp, Please see their Report.

The aluminum and plastics are transported to Earth First Recycling, North of Reno. We have been working with Earth First for five 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 CollectionThe Reno/Sparks Drive-Thru Recycling Project returned in 2012 with a new name: EXTRA (Exodus Trash & Recycling Program). This vital project, overseen by Burners, expanded to Cedarville this year and will be expanding into Pyramid Lake next year. The EXTRA program collects trash 24 hours a day during Exodus week. Burners are encouraged to separate their recyclables; including aluminum, plastic, steel & other scrap metal, cardboard, bikes and more, but everything is accepted (except human waste-that goes to the RV Pump).

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, due to the remote location of the event site, the logistics and expenses involved 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 2013 Burning Man Event.


Highway RestorationThe DPW Collexadus crew was back in full force in 2013. 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.

Starting on Tuesday after the event ends, the Highway Restoration crew drives Highways 34 and 447, picking up trash that’s been left behind. Frequently during Exodus, a poorly attached trashbag will fall off a vehicle and then SPLAT! it leaves an ugly trail of plastic and paper 1/8 of a mile long. So to lighten the impact of the event on our neighbors in Gerlach and Pyramid Lake, a crew of about 10 volunteers drives around in NDOT hats and vest picking up garbage along the roadside for the week after event. This year, some of the Highway restoration crew spent Wednesday with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, helping the maintenance crew clean up around the Lake and the stores. On the last day of clean up, the whole Highway Restoration crew went North to Cedarville and celebrated a job well done with lunch and a swim. It’s incredibly important that folks remember to tie down their trash well—even though Highway Restoration has their backs.

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.


Black Rock Solar
Burners Without Borders
The Regional Network

Keep Burning Green!

Submitted by,
Paul Schreer and Rosalie Barnes