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How Burning Man Fest Leaves No Trace on Black Rock Desert: One Village’s Plan

August 28, 2009

From the previous post, How to Recreate the Burning Man experience at home, you’d think, if you haven’t been to Burning Man, that it’s just like a big wild party with trash strewn everywhere.

Well, you’d be thinking wrong. Burning Man is a Leave No Trace event. Every individual is responsible for every scrap of MOOP–Matter Out of Place–that they create or come across. Everyone is also required to spend two hours of more on the open playa picking up MOOP.

Every village at Burning Man is required to develop and maintain a Leave No Trace Plan as Burning Man is a Leave No Trace Event. A key element in a windswept wild environment like the Black Rock Desert is to stay on top of MOOP–Matter Out Of Place–at all times, and to make sure everyone knows, follows, and is committed to leaving no trace.

Here are two posts about how to LEAVE NO TRACE:

8.5.09 Green Your Burn, Leave No Trace: Top 10 Tips for Burning Man 2009
8.5.09 Green Your Burn, Protect the Playa: Some History, Some Basic Principles

plus an example of how a large village like Kidsville organizes itself to avoid the Tragedy of the Commons.

Leave No Trace Plan 2009, Burning Man

About Our Village

Village Name: Kidsville (KV)

History, background:  Kidsville is a collective of families who share a village of individual and theme camps all based around kids. It is a fun, energetic and safe space for families and friends to experience BM for a child’s eye view.

Population: Approx 600 burners

Nature and scale of our activities: Kidsville has 4 different quadrants with theme camps, a common dome for the KV community to utilize which includes a lost and found bin, a communal burn barrel,  grey water evaporation pools (for specific individual families), shared trampolines and numerous RV’s, tents, cars, trucks and vans. Many of our theme camps will have roadside frontage in order to invite and include passers by to check them out and participate. We have many flagpoles that will surround the perimeter of our village.

How we will organize for Leave No Trace

Our LNT leadership:

We the burners of Kidsville, hereby designate Madame Moop (Vaj) and the Yukoners (Skyneedle) as chief Leave No Trace Officer and assistant Earth Guardians of Kidsville, who will be given the task of keeping our village clean and delegate and enlist help when it is needed. They will also lead the planning of our final clean up and encourage us to reuse / recycle / reduce/restore.

They will be responsible for cleanup and trash management in their own camps and make sure that we are responsible for our camp, including activities and parties we host. They will see that the gray water does not impact the playa in our village. They will see that all camp members understand and agree with the policies and practices of Leave No Trace at Burning Man. We understand that Madame Moop and the Yukoners will make our stay in kidsville an unwelcome one should we choose to ignore the LNT rules for BM. We know they would rather spend their time enjoying the event and bragging about how clean our village is to others!

They will oversee daily tasks and will have a plan in place when we get ready to leave.

When it’s time to break down and sweep our camp for every last trace, they or a designated Captain will make sure EVERYTHING left goes with us. We understand that anything left behind at the village that is still usable will be left at the nearest thrift store for donation, as Madame Moop or the Yukoners are not in a position to mail found items back to people. They will also be gifting us with small bags of trash to take home that we did not come with.

The Yukoners will oversee our camp breakdown and cleanup and they will be staying until Tuesday morning after the event to do so.

Each family members commitment to Leave No Trace is as follows: (“we” represents every person in kidsville)

To minimize our impact on the playa, we will follow these rules:

Before the event

  • We pledge to Leave No Trace in and around our campsite, including our own and others’ waste and read the survival guide
  • We will complete our camp’s Leave No Trace Plan
  • We will plan the assembly and take down of our structures and decorations and tape the edges of our carpets
  • We will take the packaging off of just about everything and stock up on reusable containers
  • We will not bring cheap trinkets that will break easily, small feathers, or anything that might get left on the playa.
  • We will have assigned volunteers check our camp daily
  • We will clean as we go, realizing that any trash or MOOP (matter out of place) can blow away or be buried at any moment.
  • We will not send our small children to go play at the trampoline etc with a snack in tow, as some of it will inevitably end up on the ground.
  • We will keep our recyclables, burnable, and non-burnable clearly separated for easy disposal,
  • We will recycle our aluminum, either on-site or back home
  • We will have special clean-up crews for any high traffic activities we host (trampoline, dome, burn barrel, pot lucks) and take care of any trash left by guests, invited or otherwise.
  • We won’t light fires on bare ground or dig pits, leaving scars. If we must burn, we’ll use a public burn barrel or burn platform and
  • We will burn only clean untreated wood or paper (nothing synthetic) and follow the safety guidelines for fires and burn scar prevention.
  • We won’t dig holes more than 6 in. wide and 1 in. deep or trenches
  • We will keep all items tied or weighted down, and leave papers at home.
  • We will not dump any grey or black water on the playa
  • We will encourage members of our camp to carry a personal trash container and a cigarette butt container when they are inside and outside our village.

During the event

After the event

  • We will put aside time and have designated volunteers for the final cleanup
  • We will take all trash in sealed containers to a landfill on the way home or our own homes.
  • We will happily accept the small bags of trash we are gifted  from our earth guardians to dispose of after the event even though it may not be our trash.
  • For every flag we have hanging, we will remove the pole and rebar it was hung on from the playa. There will be a designate to keep the poles/rebar and flags for future years. If for some reason a designate is not found, everyone who hangs a flag will be responsible to take the rebar/pole away from the desert with him or her. Holes from rebar will be filled with loose playa dust as best we can.
  • After cleaning our village, everyone in our village will devote at least one hour to the general city cleanup (e.g. trash fence, local port-o-potties, café, etc).
  • We will leave extra space in every vehicle on the way to the desert, knowing that repacking will inevitably take up more space and ensure that no items can detach during the ride home.
  • We will pack out everything, including any unevaporated gray water and scum
  • We won’t put trash in or around the port-o-potties
  • We will help out our neighbors and fellow citizens
  • We will remove the zoning string from our camp space.
  • We will encourage our guests to bring their own beverage containers.
  • We will help out our neighbors
  • We will adopt the space around our camp, making sure that it stays traceless
  • We will help careless or forgetful campers

We will be Good Neighbors

Here’s how we’ll do it…….

Design our camp in a way that is easy to keep clean:

Select materials and decorations for our camp that lessen waste and are recyclable or reusable:

Create a detailed plan for the breakdown/cleanup of our camp, accounting for every board, stake, and scrap, and pack necessary tools and supplies: Madam Moop and the Yukoners will have a written plan for breakdown and clean up and each family will find them to see how we can help with the village clean up. We will not wait to be asked! A map will be used to determine which family was staying where; this will be used to identify camps that were left with MOOP in their perimeter. If it is determined that a family was quite lacking in their cleanup of their campsite, they may be told they are not welcome to camp in kidsville the following year.

Plan for extra cleanup and trash generated by activities and parties at our camp: Each night there is a potluck, there will be a host family who will be responsible for cleaning up any “left overs” at the end of the night. Those who sign up will be reminded on their arrival to KV.

If my child has been playing at the trampoline, dome, ball pit or someone else’s camp, my child and myself will walk the perimeter of this area after they are finished playing each day or night to ensure no MOOP remains from them or anyone else!!

Those families who have evaporation pools will have a plan for proper disposal of their grey water, including containers to haul out what’s left:

Plan enough space and storage in our vehicles for trash hauling:

Our greeters will explain the ground rules to all village members and provide a copy of our LNT plan to everyone when they arrive.

Each family will bring the following items for village operations

  • Separate, sealed containers for recyclables, burnable, and non-burnable, Reusable dinnerware and utensils, including a portable cup for the café
  • Large bucket and painter’s mesh (or similar) for wet kitchen scraps.
  • Containers for Grey water disposal if they are having an evaporation pool
  • Containers for smokers’ butts
  • Tarps or other floor covering to ‘catch’ any items that drop

Each family will bring the following items for our camp’s breakdown and clean-up

  • Big whiskbroom
  • Flat blade shovel
  • Rake (depending on the surface texture)
  • Stiff long handled broom
  • Rope and string for tying loose stuff down.
  • Small spare bags for collecting trash as we wander.
  • Lots of industrial strength trash bags: more than we think we’ll need.
  • Reusable work gloves for each person in his or her family.
  • Long-handled sledgehammer for compacting 5-gallon buckets and driving stakes.
  • Vise grips for removing stakes and rebar.
  • Directions and hours of landfills and RV water dump stations will be provided to each family upon their arrival to kidsville.
  • Magnets to remove every last nails, staples, scrap of metal.
  • Vehicles and/or trailers to haul everything out

Packing Out

  • We will take away everything we brought with us plus a few things we didn’t know we’d have.
  • We will each perform at least 2 hours of community clean-up
  • We will give a helping hand to our neighbors.

Our goal for this burn is be given a green rating for our village clean up.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 29, 2009 9:46 am

    Sounds really interesting and responsible :)

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