AFTERBURN REPORT 2007
When the 2007 Green Man art theme was announced right after the 2006 burn, encouraging artists and participants to examine humanity’s relationship to nature, it was not necessarily intended as an order to the entire Burning Man community to take action on the environmental impacts of their burn experience and their daily lives … but it sure as heck became such, and powerfully, at that. The evolution of an art theme into a social mandate was not solely orchestrated by Larry Harvey, the Burning Man organization, or any one individual, but was a culmination of similar aspirations and motivations throughout our community.
The Greening the Burn effort, already well underway from the previous year, continued on ”full steam ahead” in 2007. Membership on the Greening Man discussion list continued to grow at an exponential rate, and the group held bi-monthly Green Working Group meetings to which all participants were invited. Due to the number of people, topics and projects, the group broke into working/discussion groups on 4 topics: Energy, Waste, Materials and Education. For a while some of these groups met separately or had topic-related discussions on separate email lists, but eventually much of the discussion returned to the main discussion list, where some very informative (and sometimes heated) dialogue took place.
Efforts continued after the 2007 event, with the ‘Greening’ of both the San Francisco and Los Angeles Decompression Street FaIRE events. The information was collected and a document was drafted that was ultimately distributed throughout the Burning Man Regional Network. This collaborative document was the first-ever guide to ‘greening’ regional events. It is a work in progress and will continue to change as we learn more and share knowledge across the Regional Network.
Shortly after the 2006 event, BM’s first Environmental Manager was hired to help orchestrate a plan and provide support for the original two staff members that had been pushing the Green Man effort so far. This Manager also provided ‘traffic control’ for the emerging wave of ‘green’-related projects and ideas. A volunteer coordinator helped identify volunteer needs and match Greening Man list members to meet those needs. Eventually, three more staff members would be added to join the ‘Green Team’ to help manage and support Green Man projects and the Green Man Pavilion.
In January, BMHQ shut down for a day to allow 25 members of the San Francisco office staff and some guests to go on our first-ever field trip: the group was invited to visit the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, California. The day included a tour of their facilities and the grounds, and an educational and highly informative dialogue with members of their staff on such topics as alternative energy, composting and permaculture. Several members of the Solar Living staff work with or attend other mass gatherings. The good news was that there was a lot of agreement between the staff members on the issues and proposed approaches we had begun to address as an event and an organization.
One of the realizations early in the development of the Greening Man group was the fact that Burning Man simply can’t be expected to singularly address every environmental problem or challenge that exists. What Burning Man does excel at, however, is developing community and providing a context where great minds and creative, passionate individuals can come together and achieve extraordinary feats. An example of such collaborative spirit was the first-ever Art Lounge event, held at Burning Man headquarters in late January. Artists, scientists and environmentalists were invited to come together to ask questions, collaborate, find answers, and show off their upcoming projects. The evening was a big success and as a result, the first ”Greening Your Burn” document was assembled and handed out. (Yes, we know the irony of handing out a paper document with environmental information. At least it was printed double-sided on recycled paper…) This document contained resources and tips and hints for the full life cycle of planning an art project, a theme camp or any trip to Burning Man, and it eventually became a very important resource for future events such as the Burning Man Regional Network Summit in March at BMHQ, as well as for the Burning Man website.
Our next big educational and collaborative opportunity started as an idea for an eco-summit and originally surfaced at the very first Open House/Green House meeting, held in April 2007. This event was a combination of the Burning Man Open House, an annual volunteer recruitment event, and an environmental and science fair. Many members of the community came together, with extra special help from the Earth Guardians and members of the Green Working Group, to create a showcase of alternative energies, including a solar-powered stage, an algae-based carbon sequestration project, a fashion show, playa planning tips, grey water treatment, environmental carnival games, alternative lighting displays, and much more. Despite a rainy and blustery morning, the sun finally came out and the Open House/Green House 2007 proved to be a very successful event. The team looks forward to hosting other such events in the future.
It’s often said around BMHQ that it takes three years for any large project or idea at Burning Man to really stabilize. This was certainly the case with the creation of the Environment section of this website. Creating this area is a large and on-going task. Related content and tips were scattered throughout the website, and ideas and suggestions were abundant, but actual content writers were not. Combined with an editorial review process, html coding, image preparation and the large number of other very important projects going on simultaneously, progress on this section has been slow. Some preliminary elements of the section were released in late March 2007, with the official Environmental Statement from the Board, the new 6 R’s statement, the 2006 MOOP Map, and a new Environmental Blog. The blog enabled us to get some green messages, tips, hints and behind-the-scenes stories out while we were still working on the larger section content behind the scenes. More pages were added to the section throughout the spring and summer, with resource pages for fuels, burning, composting, energy, grey water, and the list goes on and on…and other tips for ‘greening’ art installations, Mutant Vehicles and camps. We will continue to update and add content and features to this section over time.
During the 2007 event, Black Rock City had the largest per capita community bike program of any city in the world, via the ”Yellow Bike” project. The Black Label Bike club worked with an anonymous donor to put hundreds of brand new community-share bikes on the streets of Black Rock City. In spite of a few problems (we couldn’t get them all built in time, or install the baskets and instructions before the event began) the bikes still worked out great, providing community bikes free for the borrowing for those who wished to use them. This being Burning Man, the bikes were painted bright green with the words ”Yellow Bike” stenciled on them in red. While this nod to the ”yellow bike” programs elsewhere in the world was indeed wry, some participants found it confusing, given that there was little time to communicate to participants about the program prior to the event. Nonetheless, the program was a success in offering an alternative community transport other than art cars. Next year, the intent is to provide a total of 1200 bikes and to increase the efforts at participant communication and management of the bikes in Black Rock City.
Combining the vision of the ‘green’ movement, the generosity of a first-time burner and the hard work and efforts of a whole team of experts and volunteers, a 30kilowatt solar array was built to provide power for both the Green Man Pavilions, as well as the mountain the Man stood on, and of course the Man itself. The project was called ”Black Rock Solar”, and their motto: ”Making power from the sun!”
This project extended far beyond the playa, too. In yet another giant demonstration of the values of gifting and community, the Black Rock Solar project took the 30kW of panels, added 60kW more, and, using volunteer labor, installed them after Burning Man 2007 in an empty lot near the high school in Gerlach. An additional 60kW was installed to support the Pershing County General Hospital in Lovelock, Nevada — all free of charge to these communities. Together, these combined 180kW solar systems will provide those two communities with somewhere around nearly $750,000 in free solar energy over the next twenty years. At the Gerlach High School alone, the system will save $20,000 per year in energy costs. Over time, the Black Rock Solar project may end up being one of the more lasting physical expressions of our temporary community, a clean, ‘green’, kind symbol of the Ten Principles at work.
Other ‘greening’ accomplishments:
- Introduced composting at Burning Man Headquarters.
- All copy and printer paper switched to 100% post-consumer recycled paper in both San Francisco and Nevada offices.
- Installed compact fluorescent lighting upgrades throughout the office. - Installed occupancy sensors in the restrooms and conference rooms.
- Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Restore becomes an official written 6 R’s Statement on the Environment section of the website.
- ‘Greened’ Theme Camp, Art Installation, and DMV application questionnaires.
- Hosted two ‘Recycle Your Life’ days — clothing, costume and stuff swap at BMHQ, combined with donation drive for Goodwill.
- BMHQ hosted the Brown Bag Lunch lecture series. A total of five conversations held at the office, on a variety of environmental topics. The goal was to raise overall awareness while giving staff a common language for understanding some of the issues we’d be dealing with. The last talk in the series was a debate over carbon offsets, and was attended by 40+ people.
- The 2007 Request for Proposal to the generator vendors included a first ever requirement to run 100% Biodiesel in BM infrastructure generators.
- Established the very first baseline Energy Use Analysis for BRC infrastructure.
- First-ever complete Environmental Assessment of the event’s environmental efforts, analyzing purchasing, materials, processes, and transportation — nearly every aspect of the event.
- Together with the Coolingman project, we calculated the entire carbon footprint of the event. Our total impact, adjusted upwards for increased participants, was 34,000 tons. Financial contributions and other actions by participants offset 851 tons of that impact—almost quadruple last year’s contributions.
- 80+% of infrastructure generators were operated on locally produced biodiesel from Minden, NV
- Collaborative relationships developed between large-scale sound art theme camps to share and more efficiently use generators.
- More theme camps were able to use biodiesel in their generators due to a Burning Man-leveraged relationship with a new generator vendor.
- A Burn Clean Project co-founder spearheaded a project that offered carpool-style transportation in a biodiesel bus from Reno airport to BRC and back again at the end of the event.
- Recycle Camp became the first Burning Man infrastructure camp to remove itself from the Center Camp power grid. They powered the entire camp on a mobile solar array brought by volunteers.
- Along with Recycle Camp, BM department camps including the DPW, Rangers, Greeters, Playa Info, Media Mecca and the Café participated in a tremendous effort to collect and separate their recyclables. Volunteers from Recycle Camp helped in the effort after the event to take materials to Reno for recycling. All proceeds were donated to the Gerlach Schools.
- The Man Base Pavilion used exclusively LED & Compact Fluorescent lighting technologies for the third consecutive year, greatly reducing energy consumption. The energy load was reduced by about 50%, while the size of the Man Base Pavilion and the art and exhibits area was the largest ever.
- The Green Man Pavilion showcased over 30 displays on alternative energy and environmental issues.
- The staff commissary continued to use plates, cups and bowls made from compostable sugar cane and cornstarch-based utensils for to-go meals.
- The Center Camp Café created an express lane for participants who brought their own reusable cups.
- Both the Center Camp Café and staff commissary participated in the first ever on-playa composting project, along with about 50 participating theme camps, approximately 45 yards of organic waste was diverted to a composting facility in Carson Valley.
- The Earth Guardians Leave No Trace Model Camp Tour was expanded this year, with more ‘Green Model’ Camps than ever before. The Earth Guardians also helped to create a separate ”Green Map and Guide”, an 11X17 two-sided map and index of events, installations, and educational happenings.
- Earth Guardians expanded eco-restoration projects, including restoration work at Coyote Springs, with BLM and non-profit partners Friends of Black Rock, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, and the Nevada Outdoor School.
- Earth Guardians also expanded the existing Nature Walks program and led more trips to area Hot Springs and other natural areas around the playa.
- Green Man information ”CIVIKS” kiosks placed in the plazas displayed the Green Map, The MOOP Map from 2006, greening activities schedules and information.
- Green BRC Stickers, a ‘green’ homage to the familiar black BRC ovals of years past. We gave out more than 5,000, beginning early in the season here in San Francisco, and also through the mail. It was amazing to see them proliferate throughout the year.
- Greening the Burn Stickers, designed through collaboration on the Greening Man list and drawn by a dedicated Earth Guardian. These first appeared at the 2006 event. We handed out another 5000 in 2007 and they were well received again.
- ”Green Man Speaks” Symposium conducted at Otter Camp — a series of two lectures daily for four days on a variety of theme-related and environmental topics.
- A ‘green’ film festival hosted at Entheon Village, Amphibia and Earth Guardian camps with over 200 films shown.
- Extensive media coverage surrounding the Green Man theme and ‘greening’ efforts throughout the year.
- Initial experimentation using wiki technology as a collaboration tool for the Greening Man group
- Major grocery chain in Nevada set up drive-through centers for recycling for participants to drop off post-event; glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, bikes, batteries and scrap metals, donating proceeds to the Gerlach school to assist with the long-term maintenance of their newly-donated solar array.
- Second successful post-event lumber and building materials reclamation project, with over 56 units of lumber diverted from the burn platforms and donated to Habitat for Humanity in Reno, NV. This was an increase from the 42 units in 2006.
The 2007 Burning Man event and the Green Man theme have come and gone. It’s now time to move forward. The desires and efforts to inform, educate and inspire participants, the Burning Man organization, and the worldwide burner community, as well as those made to reduce the impact of our collective actions on this planet, began long before this years’ art theme, and it is our collective desire that these efforts continue long after. We will always Green the Man.
Carmen Mauk, Heather Gallagher (CameraGirl), Paul Schreer (Blue) and Tom Price (Thumper)