A guide to leave no trace

Minimizing Waste Generation and Environmental Impacts at Burning Man: A Guide to Leave No Trace


By embracing simple strategies and following the waste hierarchy, we can ensure that our experience at Burning Man leaves a positive mark on both our souls and the planet. Get ready to dive into a world where sustainability and creativity collide!

Embracing the Waste Hierarchy

The waste hierarchy is a framework that helps us prioritize our actions in minimizing waste. It consists of two main categories: waste prevention and waste management.

  1. Waste Prevention:

The first and most important step is to prevent waste generation altogether. 

A. Avoid
Consider the need for purchasing the item in the first place. Avoiding a purchase is the best solution to minimise your waste and impact. Can you/do you want to be without it? If not, can you choose a product with more sustainable packaging? Or, can you make a larger order with other members to minimise the emissions linked to the transport? Nordic Camp has an ‘Eco Smart shopping List’ where members can collaboratively purchase items together which are sent to one member in San Francisco, minimising transport emissions and overseas (air) deliveries.

B. Make Do or Borrow/Rent

Before purchasing new items, evaluate if you can make do with what you already have or borrow/rent from friends, neighbours, or community rental programs. This reduces the demand for new products and avoids unnecessary waste.

C. Reuse

Embrace the concept of reusing items in multiple ways to extend their lifespan. Consider the following options:

Waste Management:

Despite our best efforts, some waste may still be generated. In such cases, it is crucial to manage it responsibly, adhering to the following principles:

a. Recycle: Separate recyclable materials, such as plastic bottles, aluminium cans, and paper products, from general waste. Use designated recycling bins and systems set up at the camp by our MOOP team, and ask a fellow burner if you are unsure of the end-destination. At Nordic Camp, each member is responsible to manage their own waste and recycling, and we also have the following bin system that will be used for the common areas:

Please note! Glossy cardboard, and tape on cardboard is not acceptable as it releases toxic fumes when burnt. Tape and glossy cardboard needs to go into general waste.

As recovery facilities, trucks and landfills have fires starting due to batteries not being separated, it is crucial to separate the batteries from the rest of the recyclables and landfill. 

b. Recover: Look for opportunities to recover materials that can be repurposed or transformed into new products. For example, plastic bottles can be used for art installations or repurposed into useful items.

c. Treat: In cases where waste requires special treatment, such as hazardous materials or electronics, ensure they are disposed of at designated collection points. 

d. Dispose (Landfill): Landfill disposal should always be the last resort. If waste cannot be prevented, reused, recycled, or recovered, dispose of it responsibly in designated landfill containers.


Burning Man’s core values of radical self-reliance and leaving no trace make it an exceptional gathering. By incorporating the waste hierarchy principles of waste prevention and waste management, we can ensure that we are contributing to a sustainable and environmentally responsible event. Let’s make a conscious effort to minimize waste generation, reuse and repurpose items, and manage waste responsibly. Together, we can create a truly transformative experience while respecting the principles that Burning Man stands for.

Much love from Team Sustainability