In July 2019, Burning Man Project published the 10-Year Environmental Sustainability Roadmap. Across our events, properties, and operations, by 2030 our goals are to: 

  • Handle Waste Ecologically 
  • Be Ecologically Regenerative 
  • Be Carbon Negative 

These goals are in line with what we all need to do to ensure that Earth is a viable ecosystem. We believe that the global Burning Man community has a pivotal role to play. Like the communal effort model of Black Rock City itself, achieving these goals will require collaboration between all of us — including all citizens of Black Rock City.

Reduce fossil fuel use and lessen environmental impact (invisible MOOP!)

In alignment with our 2030 “Be Carbon Negative” goal, we are asking participants to take a deeper and more thoughtful look at your fossil fuel emissions, both to improve the air quality for everyone living on playa, and reduce the impact our “Invisible MOOP” is having on the planet at large. Consider appointing a “Sustainability Lead” to your camp, and take any and all steps this year you can to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels. Share your ideas and successes with your neighbors. Burners have shown tremendous ingenuity with alternative energy sources for lighting their camps, eliminating generators and reducing vehicle emissions getting to and from the playa.

Here are some ways you can reduce your fuel consumption and environmental impact in Black Rock City:

Lighting — Incorporate energy-efficient light sources such as LEDs or EL wire instead of glow sticks (they are single-use and contain harmful chemicals). Use rechargeable batteries. Wherever possible, switch to solar-powered lights.

Power — Reduce the number of RVs in your camp to reduce power demand. If possible, use swamp coolers instead of air conditioners and insulate your shelter for efficient cooling. Work towards removing the use of petrol generators altogether, or use alternatives such as hybrid battery-generator systems, which are becoming more affordable and accessible. Often the first step towards transitioning to renewable energy is to measure how much energy your camp consumes; you can do this with an electrical load analysis. Begin by powering parts of your camp or interactivity with solar, wind, or humans! Transitioning to renewable energy is no small task, but you can find great resources on how to run your camp with solar power on Burning Man Hive, such as Solar Power 101, Solar Skill Sharpening and the Renewable Energy Community. Burners have employed numerous power alternatives using human, solar, wind, and biodiesel power. Seek to source non-fossil fuel-based fuels wherever possible. The Alternative Energy Zone has been generator-free on the playa for many years!

Waste Have a plan to handle your waste with receptacles with clear signage for easy sorting. Make sure you and your campmates are clear on which materials go in which bin – recycle, compost, or landfill are common. Consider donating food waste to a compost facility, farm, or composting it on your own — there may even be camps nearby who are gifting a compost collection effort (sign up for Ideate’s 2023 Playawide Compost Project here). Upcycle, recycle, and divert waste from the landfill at every opportunity as you plan and pack up for the playa. 

Transportation Vehicle emissions represent the majority of emissions related to Black Rock City, and are one of our greatest obstacles to the Be Carbon Negative goal in the 2030 Roadmap. Get your vehicle tuned up before heading to the playa — a well-maintained car produces lower emissions and has a much greater likelihood to make it to BRC (and back). Seek options for renewable and/or biofuels to power your car or RV. More options include carpooling, using the Burning Man rideshare page, taking Burner Express Bus, and utilizing the container program to store camp supplies, Mutant Vehicles, and Art in Gerlach, thus minimizing the transportation distance of playa-centric infrastructure and decor.  Use human power and enjoy the ride on a pedal-bike and always seek options to recycle, donate or re-use your bike!

Offset Emissions Whether you drive or fly into Black Rock City, Burning Man Project’s Sustainability team recommends offsetting your carbon impact and supporting organizations that employ legitimate carbon dioxide removal technologiesProject Vesta and Climeworks are two such organizations that have been vetted and are doing it right. 

Keep Track and Report on Your Emission Reduction Efforts — We want to track your progress and highlight your successes.  Please keep an eye out for opportunities to share efforts that worked for you after the Burn!

Sustainability Incentives 

We’ve put mechanisms in place to support Burners who make sustainability a priority. As part of the camp placement, mutant vehicle, and art installation application process, we are reviewing participant’s commitment to sustainability, such as minimizing power draw, managing waste, sharing resources, and implementing renewable technology. We’re allocating a subset of tickets to support work in important areas of environmental sustainability This is an important way to bolster our commitment to these initiatives and inspire the community to adopt them as priorities.

Off Fossil Fuels Program

Last year, you may have noticed more solar technology powering art and infrastructure around Black Rock City, including the Man!  This year, we will also be supporting the Temple build and operations to run completely on solar energy (come visit the Sacred Unicorn!).  You will continue to see expanded efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and emissions in Black Rock City as we continue to scale our solar program, implement hybrid battery generator technologies throughout our grid infrastructure, and increase our testing and usage of renewable-fuels.  

The Solar Program is yet another one of our new sustainability initiatives, and it starts with examining and understanding our energy usage. Everyone in Black Rock City can be involved by understanding your own energy needs and learning how to utilize renewable power to meet them. There are numerous tools available to help estimate your usage: the ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator, Native Energy, and Carbon Footprint to name a few. These tools will allow you to make educated decisions on the most efficient solutions for your camp.

Join the Green Theme Camp Community 

The Green Theme Camp Community (GTCC) is a group of Theme Camp Organizers, and subject matter experts creating a community for sustainability-minded participants working towards the sustainability roadmap goals. This group has six collaborative workgroups for Power, Waste, Water, Shelter, Transportation, and Food. Together, they are hosting the B.L.A.S.T. (Burner Leadership Achieving Sustainable Theme Camps) program. This is an accreditation program to help camps become more sustainable. Is your camp interested in applying for B.L.A.S.T.? Learn more with this interest form and check out the GTCC website, to find out how you can participate.