#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar, & battery news & analysis site in the world. Support our work today!

no image

Published on August 26th, 2015 | by James Ayre


Burning Man Has A Big Carbon Footprint (Unsurprisingly)

August 26th, 2015 by  

Surely, I’m not the only one who thinks people flying from all over the world to hang out in the desert and burn things while getting drunk and telling themselves how “green” and “radical” they are is ridiculous, am I?

Granted, people partying en masse, and burning lots of fossil fuels while doing so, is nothing new — but then people partying during Super Bowl Sunday, or the Fourth of July, don’t make a point of loudly proclaiming how “green” they are, do they? Or how much they care about the “environment” or animal rights?

Therein lies the rub for me — listening to people who talk endlessly about the issues of climate change, carbon emissions, pollution, etc, but never actually change the way they personally live.

At the very least, it seems like those who claim to care about such things would chose to simply put together a similar, smaller-scale event in their own immediate area/region — rather then jetting halfway across the world or country to go to a better known one (that you can later name drop or post selfies from).

On that note… with an estimated 70,000 people heading to Black Rock City this year, I figured it might be worth posting some information on the carbon footprint involved.

Via Grist:

So, just how much carbon does Burning Man burn? Hard to know exactly, but last year LA Weekly unearthed a 2007 website called Cooling Man, where concerned Burners calculated the carbon footprint of the event. According to Cooling Man:

“Burning Man 2006 generated an estimated 27,000 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This figure includes emissions from participant and staff travel to and from Black Rock City, as well as on-Playa power generation, art cars, fire art and, of course, burning the man. Dividing ~27,000 tons by ~40,000 people yields an estimated ~0.7 tons per Burning Man participant.”

LA Weekly reported that 0.7 tons is actually double the weekly national average per person. And if we assume that the yield per Burner hasn’t changed enormously since 2006 (although it probably has now that Mark Zuckerberg and his buddies get helicoptered in) and update the numbers to reflect the 2015 crowd estimates, this year’s event will spew a minimum of 49,000 tons of greenhouse gases. How much is that? About the same that the nation of Swaziland (population 1.2 million) produces in a week. I mean, it’s not the Olympics or a presidential race or anything, but it does seems like a lot just to get naked in the desert and talk about your chakras.


As noted in that coverage, as well, these are often people getting naked in the desert while talking about how much they care about the environment. Here’s a taste of the attitude I’m talking about straight from the event’s website:

Leaving No Trace is arguably Burning Man’s most important principle. If we don’t uphold that one, no more Black Rock City. But Leaving No Trace is not just about the playa; it’s our ethic about the whole planet. Burners are environmentalists. It’s just our nature.

That’s the whole issue with the climate change “movement” to date, though, isn’t it? For most people, the rhetoric is one thing, and actions are another.

Going by actions alone, I can’t actually tell the difference between those of my acquaintances that are “believers” or “deniers.” The only thing that seems to vary most of the time is the rhetoric. Do “environmentalists” really need to jet across the world/country just to burn things in the desert?

Image Credit: Aaron Logan, via Wikipedia 


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica member, supporter, or ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.

Sign up for our free daily newsletter to never miss a story.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTech Talk Episode

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

Back to Top ↑