Treehugger Contest Winner: Hexayurt!

(or, how to add two whole days to your BM experience)

Background for the below info: In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of Earth’s human will be living in urban areas. — from United Nations Population Fund report: State of the World

The construction industry currently consumes 40% of all materials and energy worldwide and is responsible for 30% of all global warming.
Wow. We knew that having a contest with Treehugger and CurrentTV to find the best open source solution to environmental issues would be interesting. But we had no idea we’d get something so….perfect.

Introducing Hexayurt. Designed by burners, for burners. Perfect for the playa, for disaster relief, for long term housing in the backcountry. It’s cheap–less than $200. It’s easy–you can build one within 15 minutes. It works–see the video to see for yourself.


Here’s the big picture, from “More than a billion people do not really have good housing. It not that they do not want a good place to live but they often simply cannot find one they can afford. They do not have access to modern building materials, and local materials are often really unsuited for building. Europeans used to thatch their roofs and now we mostly use tiles and shingles because we prefer the results. We are probably not alone in this preference.”

Here’s more, and why this idea should appeal to you:

Why is this a good idea?

Millions and millions of people do not have proper housing. Designing like you give a damn can help.

Oh, you meant why for the Playa?

That’s simple. Hexayurts really enhance the Burning Man experience. You get two or even three hours a day more sleep. You have a cool place to hide out mid-afternoon. You have a warm place to party at 4AM.

In short, it rocks.

That boiling early morning? You sleep right through it. At 9AM a tent is an uninhabitable solar cooker, a hexayurt is blissfully cool and dark. Sometime around 11AM, maybe you wake up, mist the hexayurt down to cool it off and doze for another fifteen minutes, then get up fresh and ready for another wonderful day. On the Playa this is life-changing because it means that at the end of the week, you’re still fresh and sharp and ready to have fun. Your gear is dust free, and you feel great.

This is like extending your Burn by two days every year.

And you did it yourself, without lugging an RV with air conditioning to the Playa. You built your own shelter with your own two hands. It’s creative and very participatory. By building a hexayurt you’re joining a community of engineers and creators who are helping to transform the planet.

Hexayurts aren’t just for the playa, they’re for the world.

Bay Area Biostation Burning The Midnight Oil

Just passing along some tips, folks. Here’s one from a bay area biofuel station. They’ll be open late the weekend before Burning Man:


THat's do our Part for the Raddest
community gathering on the Planet...BioFUEL OASis will
be open until MIDNIGHT the days leading up to
departures for Black Rock City.   Plan Ahead to come
during our extended hours AND we are open for
appointments day and night if you  have over 50
gallons to fill.  Here are our special expanded
Burning Man hours for 2007:

Thursday August 23rd: OPEN UNTiL MidNiGHT!!!
Friday August 24th: OPEN UNTiL MidNIGHT!!!
Saturday August 25th: OPEN UNTiL MidNIGHT!!!

MORE THAN 50 GALLON FILL-UPs..Please call for an
 ...Taking appointments 10 a.m-4 p.m August
20th-August 29th!..
OR drop in from 8 p.m-Midnight Thursday the 23rd,
Friday the 24th, Saturday the 25th for big fill-ups.

Lots of Love,
The Biodevas

Bioshuttle seats selling out–get em while you can!


From the Biodiesel Shuttle Bus folks:

We are officially taking reservations for the BIOBUS. Currently, there are:


TUES 08-28:Seats Available (Choose Tuesday-it’s wide open!)
WED 08-29: Seats Available


SUN 09-02: Seats Available
MON 09-03: Seats Available (Filling up fast!!!)
TUES 09-04: Seats Available (Tuesday is a great day for (space) Travel)

Write to reserve your spot(s). Include your name, email address, phone #, and amount of donation ($55-$65 per leg). These seats will sell out, so book as early as you can…And spread the word!!!

Water bottles ain’t hip

Well here we were just saying the same thing the other day, and what do we find in this morning’s New York Times but a story saying exactly that: in terms of cool, water bottles are no longer hot.


ON a recent family vacation in Cape Cod, Jenny Pollack, 40, a novelist and public relations associate from Brooklyn, did something she knew she would come to regret. She did it on the spur of the moment. She did it because she felt desperate.



BOTTLED WHAT? To avoid the public guilt, you could always do what the Boy Scouts did in the 1940s.

Besides, the giant illuminated Dasani vending machine was just standing there, like a beacon.

So, with her reusable plastic Nalgene bottles dry and her son Charlie working up a thirst in an indoor playground, she broke down and bought a bottle of water. To most people it would be a simple act of self-refreshment, but to Ms. Pollack it was also a minor offense against the planet — think of all the oil used to package, transport and refrigerate that water.

“Something about it felt like a betrayal,” said Ms. Pollack, who otherwise does not consider herself an ardent environmentalist. She said she decided to stop buying water after hearing friends talk about the impact of America’s bottled water habit. And now she is doing what she can to spread the word.

“I’ve pretty much said to every single one of my friends, ‘Can I tell you my spiel about bottled water?’ ”

How unlikely, that at the peak of a sweltering summer, people on playgrounds, in parks, and on beaches are suddenly wondering if an ice-cold bottle of fresh water might be a bad thing.

In the last few months, bottled water — generally considered a benign, even beneficial, product — has been increasingly portrayed as an environmental villain by city leaders, activist groups and the media. The argument centers not on water, but oil. It takes 1.5 million barrels a year just to make the plastic water bottles Americans use, according to the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, plus countless barrels to transport it from as far as Fiji and refrigerate it.

–read the rest here–

Trash it

More thoughts from Molly Golightly:

A trash can with a lid is the number one way to prevent moop. Tying a trash bag to your shade structure, RV or art car is like making a flag filled with garbage. The wind is going to find that bag — and pretty soon paper towels, wet wipes, hair balls and other hard-to-catch nasties will go flying. Having a trash setup will come in handy with the inevitable food explosions and toiletry meltdowns.

You don’t need an enormous trash can; smaller bags will keep the stink down and make it easier to hand off trash to campmates. It’s easily tucked out of the way to prevent it from becoming a public trash can. A locking plastic storage bin works well too. You can use the empty can to pack stuff in and out of Black Rock City. I’ve found old-school metal ones (think Oscar The Grouch, only smaller) work best in windy conditions. Be sure the lid is locked and there is enough weight in the can to keep it from flying — keep your mallet or other heavy things you won’t use throughout the week in the bottom, under the bag, to keep things grounded.

We interupt this blogcast…

To bring you the following news: your faithful correspondent is wheels up for Gerlach in two hours, so to everyone who’s been writing in with suggestions/tips/questions: thanks for all your ideas and comments, and please be patient as I get adjusted to playa time. Expect video feeds from the dust soon!

biofuel basics

Curious about biofuels? The newly pumped up environment section has a great primer, here’s a sample:

A Spectrum of Biofuels


Organic materials such as dung and agricultural waste can easily be treated in biogas plants to produce energy (biogas) and fertilizer (slurry).  Biogas is generated if organic materials are allowed to rot in closed, airless tanks at suitable temperatures (20-40°C).  This is ideal for Equatorial areas.  The process is called “anaerobic digestion”.  Bacteria convert the organic matter into combustible biogas (methane, carbon dioxide) and fertilizer (ammonia).


Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.  It can be used as a fuel, mainly as an alternative to gasoline, and is widely used in cars in Brazil.  Because it is cheap, easy to manufacture and process, and can be made from very common materials, such as corn, it is steadily becoming a highly respected and researched alternative to gasoline throughout much of the world.


Butanol may be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine.  Because of its long hydrocarbon chains cause it to be fairly nonpolar, it is more similar to gasoline than ethanol.  Butanol has been demonstrated to work in some vehicles designed for use with gasoline without any modification.  It can be produced from biomass as well as fossil fuels.  Some call this biofuel biobutanol to reflect its origin, although it has the same chemical properties as butanol produced from petroleum.


Biodiesel (methyl esters) refers to a diesel-equivalent processed fuel derived from biological sources (such as vegetable oils) which can be used in unmodified diesel-engine vehicles.  It is thus distinguished from the straight vegetable oils (SVO) or waste vegetable oils (WVO) used as fuels in some diesel vehicles.  Biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic, and typically produces about 60% less net carbon dioxide emissions than petroleum-based diesel, as it is itself produced from atmospheric carbon dioxide via photosynthesis in plants.

Biofuels provide sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, harnessing one renewable source of power – today’s living plants.  Unlike petroleum fuels, which require millions of years before the conversion process is complete, the use of biomass can be planned for and replaced relatively quickly.  Biodiesel is one alternative fuel that is a safer and cleaner burning fuel.  The use of biodiesel and other alternative, biomass based fuels can help us remove ourselves from dependence on others and the political complications found in today’s global economy.

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) and Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)

Many vegetable oils have similar fuel properties to diesel fuel, except for higher viscosity and lower oxidative stability.  If these differences can be overcome, vegetable oil may substitute for #2 Diesel fuel, most significantly as engine fuel or home heating oil.  For engines designed to burn #2 diesel fuel, the viscosity of vegetable oil must be lowered to allow for proper atomization of the fuel, otherwise incomplete combustion and carbon build up will ultimately damage the engine.  Many enthusiasts refer to vegetable oil used as fuel as waste vegetable oil (WVO) if it is oil that was discarded from a restaurant or straight vegetable oil (SVO) to distinguish it from Biodiesel.

Want more?  Click here for the whole thing and nice job Mr. Blue, Alex, and PQ getting this info out there!

Water bottles: an idea whose time has gone


-image from chris jordan’s “running the numbers”, which will be on display at the green man pavilion at Burning Man 2007

Want reasons? Pull up a chair….

Actually, this topic is tough to write about. Tough because I’ve got so much material, so many great ideas, so many compelling reasons why individual serve water bottles are an obscene waste of resources. I’ve been drowning, if you will, in forwards and tips about this. Which is why I’ve put off posting till now, hoping I’d get it all organized. But if I wait any longer, I’ll get that much more behind.

So, instead, here’s some highlights from a Fast Company story about water bottles, which should provide more than enough motivation for you to leave the single serve at home. Instead–get a five gallon jug, and decant it into a cup. Easy. Peasy.

“American’s went through 50 billion plastic waterbottles last year, 167 per person. Our recycling rate for PET is only 23%, which means we pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles per year, more than $1billion worth of plastic.

In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the EPA doesnt require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way,if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bill would run $9,000.

Aquafina (Pepsico) has 13% of the national market. Coke’s Dasani is #2 at 11%. Both are simply purified municipal water, so 24% of the bottled water we drink is tap water, packaged by Pepsi and Coke.

One of the most popular bottled waters is Fiji water. To reach your local store, it’s bottled at a plant running 24/7 on imported diesel fuel, then shipped 7,000 miles by sea, then trucked, then air conditioned at your local store…so that you can drink water

Want more? Ok, here’s a little something from the New York Times

The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated that it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That could fuel 100,000 cars a year instead.

“More than 90 percent of the environmental impacts from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Oil for plastic, oil for shipping, oil for refrigeration — and in the end, most of the effort goes to landfills.

We could go on and on, but by now you’ve hopefully gotten the point, which likely you ( and we, and everyone else) already had: single serve water bottles are wasteful, indulgent, excessive, and just plain dumb. So don’t bring em to the playa. Instead, get a big jug, and decant from that. It’s easy, it’s cheaper, it uses less resources, and you can share. Point, Earth!