The San Francisco office strives to be a comfortable, safe, inspirational place where folks come together to do the many things necessary to bring Burning Man to Black Rock City, and beyond. The San Francisco Office is home to year-round support staff and volunteers, a place where artists work on projects, and a space to socialize and celebrate accomplishments. It is also the closest thing we have to a Burning Man museum, with its continually rejuvenated collection of artwork, artifacts, and photos from past events.
2007 – The Green Man, it all starts in the San Francisco office. The SF office once again played an important role in the grand experiment known as Burning Man. The SF office went through a ‘greening’ process that continues to this day and will be a part of operations from here forward. The office was again host to a plethora of community- and staff-oriented events in 2007, more than ever before. This seems to be a trend for the future as the energy of the Burning Man Headquarters is well-suited for meeting and socializing. There was the annual holiday Spark Club – a staff and volunteer recognition and appreciation event held in December; monthly rehearsals for the Fire Conclave in the parking lot; semi-monthly Green Working Group Meetings; and an open house and monthly meetings for Burners Without Borders. The list goes on to include the first-ever Art Lounge in February, which was a gathering of artists, scientists, environmentalists and Burning Man staff, where information sharing and making connections were the main goals. From the Art Lounge came the first incarnation of the ‘Greening your Burn’ document. In creating and distributing this document, the Burning Man community took a collaborative step towards our future.
In March, 85 Burning Man Regional Contacts flew in from all over the U.S. and the world to be part of the first-ever Regional Leadership Summit, a weekend full of meeting, collaborating, connecting, sharing and socializing. April brought staff and volunteers together for an amazing collaboration across several teams to produce the Open House, the annual event to recruit volunteers in the SF Bay Area. This year there was a whole new component, dubbed ‘The Green House’. These events ran concurrently, and as a result the house was packed on all levels including the warehouse and outside in the back parking area.
Throughout 2007, as in past years, several key staff meetings, orientations and trainings were also held at BMHQ for volunteers and staff, new and returning. Training sessions included an overview of several topics, including the new e-mail list management system, conflict resolution, difficult conversations, Burning Man Extranet 101, first aid/CPR training, and dealing with on-playa conflict.
Other fun happenings at BMHQ included an Art Framing Workshop, organized and run by a member of the Special Events team, as well as a Hooping Hump Day afternoon for office staffers to learn how to build their own hula-hoops, hosted by the Tech Department’s hula-hooping guru. The monthly cake celebrations for staff birthdays also came under new management and have become highly appreciated events, complete with the best little “pyrotechnic” birthday candles ever.
One of the many important event-related functions of the SF Office is ‘Transpo’, the transportation of items from San Francisco to Gerlach, Black Rock Station, and Black Rock City. In 2007 the transpo manager performed an analysis of costs and associated logistics, and this brought about new ideas. For years, transpo runs were made using an all-rental truck solution. The new plan included renting trucks for the first two runs to the desert and the purchase of a 48′ semi-trailer for the final run. As the team got closer to the final transpo run, it was apparent that the one 48′ trailer was not going to be enough. Fortunately, a few additional trailers had been purchased for the community bike program. With some quick thinking and on-the-fly logistical planning, a second trailer was able to be directed to BMHQ and the remaining items, including all the gate publications, maps, What Where When guides, stickers, etc., were loaded and the third transpo run left SF for the playa, within 24 hours after the originally scheduled departure.
It became important in 2007 to make the office more ‘green’, to honor the Green Man theme. The Burning Man properties, both in SF and in NV, are a perfect set of test cases for all the things that participants are bringing back to their homes and communities where they live year-round. In January 2007, composting was introduced at the office. Within the first month there was already a 27% savings in waste management costs. As organic waste was diverted to the ‘Green’ bins and went off to the composting facilities, the number of bags of trash going into our dumpster went down. We estimate that about 40% less trash is going to the landfill. 100% recycled copy and printer paper, compact fluorescent lighting and occupancy sensors in restrooms and conference rooms are a few examples of other upgrades we made in the office.
Facing 2008, the office is running very well, it is a much ‘greener’ office than years prior. It has been simpler and easier to make these changes than we originally anticipated. An Environmental Assessment report in early 2008 will give some further insight into some of the effects resulting from these and other changes. Moving forward it is the intention to get all Burning Man office procedures and policies documented, and to develop a comprehensive office manual to be used for training new hires, and accessible by all employees on the extranet.
In the end, the success of the San Francisco Office crew is measured a lot like that of a crew on a movie set. When things are operating well for all the staff, the volunteers, and artists, and they are all able to perform their jobs seamlessly and with little frustration, then the SF Office Crew has done its job well. Kudos to them!
Paul Schreer aka Blue
BMHQ Facilities Manager