How To Zero-Waste: Camping + Festivals + Burning Man

My boyfriend and I recently decided that 2018 is the year for our first ever Burning Man! We've been thinking about it for a while; I've attended many festivals over the past five years and want to get into the workshop culture, and my partner is a sculpture and large scale installation artist / architect, so a visit to Black Rock City is strictly business! ;)

There were two reasons why I was hesitant to go to Burning Man in the past. I can go anywhere in the world for 10 days! Choosing to dry up in the desert of Nevada was less appealing then a backpacking trip across Europe or a visit to my girlfriend in Australia, but this year we feel called to that desert, so our global travels will have to wait.

The second reason I resist is because from my limited knowledge I feel like Burning Man doesn't truly encourage all of the practices it preaches. 

I recently attended my first camp meeting (we're called The Living Room and it is going to be magic!) and learned the 10 principles of the event.  

I loved them all; these principles should easily be applied to society in the "default" world, right? So I did some digging. With such amazing culture, for example "Leave No Trace", which consists of a crew literally scraping the desert for "moop" (matter out of place) and scoring camps on a points system based on the trash they leave, I knew this was something I had to experience at least once.

I volunteered myself to help take on the task of reducing our camp's trash and environmental footprint. I began my google research to see what other ideas I could gather, and shockingly was disappointed by the Burning Man organization itself, who instead of providing information on how to reduce waste overall, they really just tell you to leave as much of your trash at home before reaching the Playa.

What message is this sending? I understand that these principles were created for Black Rock City but isn't the goal to transcend some of this experience back into our reality? Since I'm still a virgin, I guess I can't really judge yet, and maybe I'm being hypercritical, but it feels like a missed opportunity. 

So alas, I've decided to create my own zero-waste festival/camping guide to not only reduce waste on site, but to reduce overall preparation waste and help these festivals to have a positive environmental footprint instead of just increasing the demand for plastic lights and tutus! So here it goes:

PREP is key!


Depending on your camping duration and kitchen / cooler setup some goods may need to be eaten early in the trip! Below I've suggested the most sustainable options.


  • Apples

  • Carrots

  • Oranges

  • Bananas (eat first)

  • Berries (keep in cooler)

  • Tomatoes

  • Onions + garlic if you cook

  • Avocados - hard ones to last!

  • Lemons / Limes

  • Your favorite veggies if you have a stove top!

Meals + Snacks (Check Bulk Section First + BYO Containers)

  • Dried fruit + nuts (DIY trail mix!)

  • Granola

  • Grains

  • Peanut butter ( + jelly)

  • Loose tea

  • Popcorn kernels (pop at home if you don't have stovetop)

  • Fresh bakery bread is the ZW option but Ezekiel bread is my next favorite.

  • Dried beans or canned

    • Dried beans require soaking and cooking so they will use more of your limited water supply - up to you. Benefits? They are lower waste and better for you!


  • Water, this is a tough one with no -waste! My advice is, either get the biggest jugs of plastic you can find, (no single use water bottles ever again!!) or invest in a large stainless steel water jug and fill up before you hit the road. I'm researching other options this festival season.

  • Fill up a mini keg at your local brewery for zero-waste booze! You can also do this with Kombucha!

  • If you must bring wine, be careful with the glass when discarding, same with large bottles of hard liquor, or kombucha.

  • *TIPS: No single use anything! No water or soda bottles, etc. There is no need!

Then, DIY:

Before heading to Amazon or even the super market, see if you can make yourself before you hit the road to limit your trash and consumption!

Food / Kitchen

  • Home-made trail mix, LOTS!

  • No bake energy balls + bars

  • Nut-milk

  • Popcorn (pop at home if you don't have a camping stovetop and store in jars or reusable baggies)

  • Reusable plates, cups, bowls, utensils, clothe napkins and straws!

Cleaning Supplies

  • Rags (old t-shirts) + towels

  • Compostable trash bags for compost and recycling

  • Bulk liquid soap, unpackaged bar, or cleaning spray (research online, DIY or buy a sustainable brand you love).

  • Laundry bag for dirty laundry


  • Reusable cotton rounds (instead of single use balls or wipes)

  • DIY bug spray!

    • Repel bugs and smell better than everyone else by making your own repellent with essential oils (citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, geranium, lavender, mint. Shop my two favorite brands, Young Living and Doterra). Google for specific recipes!

    • Blend in a recycled dropper jar and you're ready to go.

  • Shampoos, conditioners, coco oil, etc.

    • Buy in bulk and use reusable travel containers to load up for your trip.

  • Toothpaste

    • One old jar, bulk baking soda, coconut oil, and peppermint essential oil. I promise you will never go back!

  • Bioglitz if you must shimmer!

    • Biodegradable, compostable, no gmo, renewably sourced, and no animal testing - not sure even this is Playa approved though!

  • Sunscreen

    • I haven't tackled this yet! I know there are DIY recipes out there but I just buy the biggest, organic sunscreen I can find and make it last. Open to suggestions!

bonus: Meal + Snack Ideas 

avocado toast, PB + J, granola + fruit (w/ nut milk), veggies with rice + beans, apple/banana + PB, popcorn, veggie chili, guacamole

Okay I know that's a lot of info! I didn't even dive into clothes and accessories but my answer for that is BUY USED, BUY LESS, and do research! Find out where your products are made, what they are made of, and request minimal packing when ordering online. Companies are getting the message!

If you have any tips or suggestions I missed please comment below. Also make sure to catch me on social media (IG) for more frequent updates :). See you on the playa!

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