Tip #12 Nuts about…nuts

Nuts. They’re great food, good nutrition, all that stuff. But, swear to Gaia it’s like those shells were engineered to blend into the ground. Please: be careful with your nut shells, They are in the top 3 of MOOP found on the Playa. What’s #1 and #2? Stay tuned. – Blue

Shade frames 101; or, why PVC should be PNG


just say ixnay on the evcpay

Probably the single largest investment you’ll make, in terms of mass if not dollars as well, will be your shade structure. Many of us ( myself included ) have fallen into the trap of using PVC piping in the past. “It’s light,” you think, “and cheap, and easy to work with.”

I know, it seems like that, but it’s not. I mean, it is, but there are hidden costs to consider. Here’s what Greenpeace has to say about PVC, which is short for polyvinylchloride:

“PVC creates environmental problems throughout its life cycle. PVC releases a cocktail of toxic chemicals that will somehow, at some stage in the process and in some form or another, end up back in the environment. The only way to end this is to phase out its use and switch to alternatives.

During the production of PVC, dioxins are created and released. Dioxins are one of the most toxic chemicals known. They have been linked to immune system problems and cancer. Dioxins are also a potent hormone disrupter.

PVC contains additives. Phthalates are added to PVC to make it more flexible. 95% of all phthalates produced are made specifically for use in PVC. Some phthalates have been found to have hormone-disrupting effects.

When its useful life is over, PVC creates further environmental and health problems. When burned in incinerators and accidental fires, dioxins are created and toxic gasses can be released. Putting PVC into landfill is no answer, as over time, it releases additives, which can threaten groundwater supplies.

Recycling PVC is difficult, results in more toxic emissions and just recycles the same problems.”

Plus, in a heavy wind, your structure will taco. Any even if it works this year, it will degrade over time in the sun–and that’s when the real mess starts. In short, PVC should be PNG’d.

So, what should you use to build your shade structure with? Consider steel, or wood.

Steel is strong, not as expensive as aluinum that has similar strength and is very recyclable. Metal poles (often referred to as conduit) -are about 1-1.5″ in diameter, and come in very handy lengths. They join together at the corners with the differently shaped fittings that you would expect to create a simple a-frame; bungee heavy tarps or reused
Billboard material over the tops, then use other fabrics (like that silvery woven stuff) for
sidewalls, angling them down to the ground.

The other option is wood ( ‘what about bamboo?’ you might ask. several people have reported that bamboo doesn’t hold up well in the very dry environment. what’s your experience?) On the plus side, it’s renewable, reuseable, and is easily cut to size. On the down side, it’s heavy, bulky, and will warp over time. Whenever building with wood USE SCREWS. They hold well, are easy to use, and most importantly, are easily removed. As mentioned earlier, plan your structure for easy recycling once you’re finished with it, so the lumber can find another permanent home off the playa.

Whichever you choose, it will be better than PVC, and with a little planning can be used for many years to come. Want to see proof? Visit Camp Sunscreen. Their rebar, rattan, and wood pole structure will be making its 11th visit to the playa this year if I’m not mistaken.

In pictures: Don’t dry for me, dry for Tina..


…and Jill, and Bob, and everyone else in your camp.

After posting about how many people reduce their solid waste by evaporating the water out of it, someone posted this to the Greeningman list, about how their camp of 40 people managed all that goopy glook: they dried it.

These kids have got it going on–they’ve got signage, they’ve got a system, they’ve even got a solar light on it so you don’t walk into the funk at night.

And check out the sweet Evapowheel(tm) for handling gray water!


Really neat little site, hopefully our traffic won’t break it. Enjoy.

Daddy, why is the playa dusty?

This is what happens when you spend too much time on the interwebs–you find sites like this one. Ever wondered why the playa creates dust? Now you know everything.

Hydrology of Playas and the Genesis of Dust

The relations among playa type, playa hydrology, and surface sediment characteristics are important factors that control the type and amount of dust emitted from playas. The production of evaporite minerals during evaporative loss of near-surface ground water results in both the creation and maintenance of several centimeters or more of loose sediment at wet playas.


Schematic cross-sections illustrating elements of (a) wet and (b) dry playas

Preview Burning Man 2007 on BM’s first ever YouTube feed

Andrew Johnstone, some of the hard working brains behind the Burning Man Earth project, made this very beautiful, evocative fly over of the Green Man Pavilion. Take a look:


Posting this video is in large part an experiment to see if YouTube will work with this blog. Since it clearly is, please consider this an invitation: make a short video about how to “green the burn,” however you interpret that ( reducing waste, smarter materials, construction, design–you name it!) , send it to environment (at) burningman.com, and we’ll post the best ones here. Thanks!

Rumor control: free charging station?

This email just in from a reader getting in touch via environment(at) burningman.com:


Somebody at [name of very cool company in Hopland] is spreading a rumour that the Project will provide a solar charging station on the playa this year. Is it true? If so, where can we get more information?

Thanks much,

Hey Trevor-

The answer is no. And yes. Isn’t the playa great?

The Burning Man Project ( or ORG ) isn’t providing solar power. That said, I do know of at least two places on the playa where there will be some kind or another of solar charging stations. One will be at the Green Man Pavilion ( quite small, think iPods and camera batteries ) and the other somewhere on the open playa. No more details at this time ( if you know more, let me know ) but as always: radical self reliance. Would be a shame to see people lining up to recharge because they hadn’t planned ahead. Thanks for writing, hope that helps!

-Tom Price

Environmental Manager

Burning Man 2007

Tip #11 EZ gray water evaporation plan

See how this works? You email environment ( at ) burningman.com with your ideas, they get posted, happiness and clean green camps ensue. Ain’t the interwebs grand?

 Gray Water Evaporation by Towel
I have found that having space for two bath towels to dry is enough to evaporate the gray water of one person.  I washed (me and dishes) in the morning and again at night, and after drying off, used 2 bath towels to sop-up the water.  I then hung the towels to dry, being sure they were not wet enough to drip.  The morning towels were usually dry by noon and the night towels well before morning.

Any given towel used for drying should probably be used no more than three or four times before being packed to take home (dry).  I’m guessing the “gray” in our gray water probably exists only in very small quantities, and these towels should not be shaken, or whatever substances constituting the so-called “gray” ends up on the playa anyway, even if virtually invisible.

Skippy from Hushville
Roswell, NM

Going Nowhere

Maybe you’ve heard of Nowhere?

You might think I’m referring to the vast expanse of nothingness that occurs between the urban environments of our lives. In a way I am, but this time I’m referring to the European Regional Burn that happens in Spain. Appropriately named as it does in fact take place in the middle of nowhere.