Useful Info‎ > ‎


posted Jul 23, 2008, 10:07 AM by Srinivas Kollipara   [ updated Aug 10, 2011, 11:43 AM ]

LEAVE NO TRACE Planning Tips for Theme Camps

(Courtesy of the Burning Man Earth Guardians)

Black Rock City is like no other. It arises for one week, and then only its utter disappearance permits it to reappear the following year—so we all need to Leave No Trace!  But how do we do that? Here is a summary of the practices that the Earth Guardians have compiled to help you plan your camp so that it Leaves No Trace. Experience is showing that LNT is really a way to camp smarter, not harder, on the playa. And a clean, well organized City makes for good times. (see more tips for artists)

  1. LNT Planning
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Rethink Each Year
  4. Be an LNT Member of our Community, Respect Others
  5. Burn Responsibly and
  6. Clean up and Restore the Playa
  • Pick a LNT MOOP Czar . You can start by identifying an LNT leader within your camp. This person will work Leave No Trace into your planning and preparing, help set up the camp so that it doesn’t blow away, help to plan your camp’s cleanup and break-down ahead of time, handle the question of stinky trash, gray water disposal, what to burn and what not to burn and generally keep people feeling good about how well they are treating the playa. In many small, practical ways, these efforts will make your camp easier and more pleasant to live in.
  • Prepare a LNT Plan, not a Clean-up Plan : If you plan and ahead and prepare to LNT, you’ll have less to haul up to the playa, have a happier playa life and have less to clean-up at the end of the week. To learn more about developing a LNT plan for your camp, check out our sample LNT plan.
  •  Camp Structures and Shelters. Stake your tents and structures so they will stay secure in the heavy wind, rain, and dust storms that are sudden and usual on the playa. Consider using materials that can be reused or repurposed at home or at next year's event. You’ll have less cost and less disposal headaches at the end of the event. You’ll also save money when preparing for next year.
  • Plan to avoid digging holes in the playa . Small postholes (6 inches or less in diameter) used for structural support are the sole exception. When digging such a hole it is best to use an auger or a posthole digger, NOT a shovel. Refill the hole by carefully tamping the soil back into place. Repeat this process every few inches while dampening the soil. Larger holes, like ones used in the past to sound-insulate generators or for pools, easily erode within a year’s time, even when carefully backfilled. They leave a visible mark and create a serious safety hazard.
  • No Live Plants Live plants die on the playa.  Ask anyone that has brought them. They always make a mess.  It's very difficult to bring in plants, trees, or palm fronds without creating a M.O.O.P. (Mater Out of Place) disaster.  All previous uses of live plants in signifcant quantites has cost the clean up crew days and days of work post event. Plastic plants work just as well and look better with a quick watering.


  • Bring the Right Stuff, Leave The Rest Behind.Everything you bring, you have to take home. Shop smart and pack even smarter to leave behind what you don’t need. You’ll need that extra space when you come home; camping gear tends to expand when covered in playa dust. Plan ahead to have a clean and well organized camp. -Reduce and reuse!
  • Plan simple, low-dishwashing meals . Avoid bringing tons of food, and don’t bring food that spoils. Experience says you won’t want to do a lot of cooking; you probably will never get around to it. Eat finger foods (wraps, sandwiches) that do not need individual plates.
  • Bring reusable cups, mugs, utensils, and dinnerware. Disposable cups tend to blow all over the playa. Ask visitors to your camp to BYOM (bring your own mug). If you use paper plates, save yourself a headache by scraping off the food, then stack ‘em, let them dry and take ‘em home. BYOM! The Center Café, and many fashionable bars, welcome personal cups, so you can carry one around the City, easily attached with a carabineer or shower hook.
  • Repackage and prepare food in advance . Stock up on sturdy plastic containers and dispose of the cellophane, plastic wrap, excess cardboard and other cruddy packaging. Bring water in big reusable plastic containers and have a personal canteen. f you bring dozens of small plastic bottles, you must take every one of them home with you! Avoid bringing glass bottles. There are many good beers in cans! Check out this web site to find some good beer for this year! Decant your beverage of choice into a flask. Remember that every little shard of accidentally broken glass must be picked up by hand, by someone. Nasty!
  • Plan to separate and sort trash in your kitchen . Bring containers and sturdy signs for separating food waste, recyclables, burnables (paper and wood), and nonburnable trash. Using mesh bags to dry food waste will reduce the smell and amount of trash you generate. Take aluminum cans to Recycle Camp. Use tubs or sinks to wash dishes and collect grey water. Seal the small amount of trash you have left in big plastic bags or in five-gallon buckets with tight lids. Bring tethers, anchors, containers, and covers, to keep light stuff from blowing away. For more tips on keep food waste and kitchen MOOP (matter out of place) to a minimum, check out this web site.
  • If it doesn’t come out of your body it doesn’t go into the Potty. Always use a potty for your body waste - not the playa. Only toilet paper, single ply, and human waste, can go in the potties. Everything must be pumped through narrow pipes before being trucked to the treatment plant.
  • How will you dispose of your grey water? Black Rock City citizens have come up with a variety of other methods to collect, treat and dispose of grey water. The simplest method is to collect and just haul the grey water home. If you’re in a smaller camp, with minimal dish and body-washing water, you might choose to screen and filter your water, disinfect, then disperse it on your street (helps keep dust down). An evaporation pond is another alternative – it keeps solid waste and liquid waste (like soap and fats) off the playa. This web site gives instructions for making a simple evaporation pond. If you want to construct an evaporation pond, remember to keep it shallow (4 inches or less), use black plastic, and be prepared to siphon what doesn’t evaporate.
  • Reduce Reuse & Recycle Water- Simplify. Some camps have also developed technologies to reuse their water.Other camps contract with Johnny on the Spot to remove and dispose of their grey water. And don’t forget to conserve and recycle water where you can. Minimize shower use the last couple days of the event to reduce amount of grey water that you’ll need to collect and haul home.
  • Beware of the Hungry Wind : Bring tethers, anchors, containers, and covers, to keep light stuff from blowing away. When leaving Black Rock City , secure your load, especially your trash. Don’t let your trash fly off your vehicle, and do not dump it on the side of the road or at a rest stop on the way home! Use an approved dumping facility or take or home with you. Plan ahead before you even pack for the playa so you leave with a minimal amount of trash. Starting home, take a rest stop early; at the entrance gate, at a wide pullout, or maybe at the Empire store. Check your load. It is most likely to fail early in the trip. Learn more here.


  • Don’t bring cheap trinkets for gifts or barter . Try giving a smile, a helping hand or a joke. Thousands of ‘gifts’ end up as trash. And feather boas, or ANYTHING that sheds, is a no-no: the trash fence tells us so. You are the best gift.
  • Promote LNT Neighbors . Be proud of your neighborhood, work together with your neighbors to keep your part of the city clean.  Every year some camps get overwhelmed and need help. The seventh and final principle of LNT practice is “be considerate of others,” which in our city includes helping neighbors to leave no trace. We all enjoy the generosity and gifts of our theme camps, artists, and fellow citizens. So look around and pitch in to help keep things clean: offer a tool, an extra hand, a gesture of thanks.
  • Be Prepared. Carry a MOOP bag and water as you walk around your part of the city and out on the playa. Small bits of trash are just as important as large piece as they are easily buried in the dust and mud, only to reemerge in the spring. Our community works together to improve our life on the playa, rather than rely upon rules and regulations enforced by outsiders to keep us in line. Talk to others and help them to better understand how to leave no trace.
  • Don’t Burn on the Unprotected Playa . Burning Man is all about burning; we've become the experts at LNT Burning. Burning directly on the alkaline playa BAKES the surface into a dark, hard brick-like material.
  • Use community burn barrels or a burn platform. Burn only untreated wood or paper and nothing oversized that will spill ash or burning debris onto the playa. Be sure the wood you place in the burn platform is well contained. Don’t overload the burn platforms. Have tools on hand to break down and cut up larger pieces. If a platform is already full, be prepared to wait until there's space to add your wood or try the next platform.
  • Don't burn anything that is toxic. You (or your children) will regret it later! Burning synthetics is a serious health risk. Do not burn PVC (nasty dioxins), carpets, plastic, furniture (couches, futons, etc.) or anything treated, dyed or painted. And please discourage anyone with a glass bottle from throwing it into a fire. Glass doesn't burn. It shatters!
  • Leave No Trace . Plan your burning to include removal of ash and unburned residues after they have cooled. A magnet helps to find metal. Then bag up the rest to haul home. Be sure you clean up anything you burned on the public burn platforms. They’re not dumping stations!
  • Be a Toxic Avenger . Keep an eye on the platforms. Let others know that only wood and paper can be burned here and nothing oversized. Tell them we do this to protect the playa and our lungs. And if you see someone being careless, explain why they need to stop. Email for more information.


  • Clean As You Go and Grid Your Camp at the End!   Don’t wait until the end of the week to pick stuff up. Clean as you go. This will help you from getting overwhelmed by the mess and help keep MOOP from blowing out of reach.  Then, at the end of our event, pack-up and load everything (including all trash) into your vehicles, and do a line sweep for every last bit of MOOP. Give everyone a Ziploc bag, line them up along one edge of camp, look down and slowly walk to the other side. Make it fun! Cover your entire area looking for those last bits of MOOP: every twist tie, cigarette butt, food scrap, carpet fiber, match, nut shell, staple, scrap of plastic …everything. Start taking down your camp Sunday , not at the last minute when patience and energy are running low.
  • A Buried Tent Stake Doesn’t Disappear. Instead, its hazard is magnified. Even when pounded below the surface, a stake will slowly, inevitably, emerge from the playa. Then it might be found during the Bureau of Land Management's spring inspection, producing a black mark against permit renewal; or it might not be found until it tears a tire or gashes a foot – maybe during next year’s event, maybe to a windsurfer or another group that, like us, uses the playa. A pair of vise-grips will almost always remove a stuck stake. First clamp on the vise-grips and rotate the stake back and forth, to break the playa’s grip. Then continue rotating and also pull upwards. Ask neighbors for help. As a last resort, make the stake highly visible by fastening something to it. Someone else with heftier tools will be able to get it out. for more information, go to this web site.
  • Devote Two Hours to General Cleanup in Black Rock City ! Each participant is asked to contribute two hours to community cleanup before departure. This means streets, Center Camp, Center Café, all other public spaces, and open playa where stuff may have been left behind. Stop by the Earth Guardian camp during the week and on Sunday and Monday and we’ll direct you to the areas of the City that need the most attention.
  • Join the post-event DPW clean-up crews . Help us get all the MOOP out of here, so that we can all return again. The Bureau of Land Management, the agency that writes our Special Recreation use permit, must agree that we’ve left no trace, that our site is more than just clean in appearance. After the event, random circular plots of our city are inspected. This year, collected debris may not exceed an average of 1.0 square foot per acre, less than 23 parts per million! No pits, bumps, burn scars, or buried materials can be left behind. Burn scars and debris from past seasons have been known to resurface after rains, even from past events!
Got LNT? Free Tickets! Are you a theme camp that already knows how to create a camp that leaves no trace? Please let us know now! We’d like to include you in this year’s Earth Guardian LNT Tour of the City, featuring model camp practices and technologies like grey water systems, trash management, good neighbors, repurposed structures, and LNT camp showers and kitchens. And either in advance, or on the playa, you can nominate your camp for the Camp of the Day Award! Yes, you can win fame and fortune right here in Black Rock City! As one of our winners, your camp will receive two tickets to next year's Burning Man and recognition! If you'd like to be part of this year's LNT Tour of the City or be nominated for Camp of the Day, please contact