“As one of 13 000-plus burners,” I said to the very busy and handy AfrikaBurn online community forum, “how can I create a cleaner, more eco-friendly AfrikaBurn?” Here are ten eco tips, green hacks and good ideas from the community. How many can you tick off your list?
1. Towards Zero waste
Pool your resources, borrow before you buy, or if you must buy, buy in bulk from wholesale suppliers to save randelas and decrease packaging waste before you even leave the store. Before you leave the aisle, choose goods with paper packaging over plastic (unless you plan to reuse the plastic, but avoid what leads to recycling/dumping). MOOP star, Cara, suggests that before you leave for the burn, you “de-package EVERYTHING – you don’t want to be taking packaging to the desert and then home with you.”
2. Carbon correct
We drive huge, overloaded, heavy-duty vehicles to the event, burn millions or rands’ worth of natural materials and call ourselves enlightened. As if? Jezebel suggests you offset your individual and collective carbon footprint by planting (and rearing!) indigenous trees and plants in appropriate places (NOT Tankwa), pre- and post-burn. Not happening in your busy schedule? Assuage you green guilt by supporting an NGO that can do it for you (but make sure their track record is sound and their trees actually reach adulthood).
3. Bokashi not bin
“A big win I figured out last time is to take a Bokashi bin with so that all bio waste can be taken home and made into beautiful soil,” said the coolest Kiki. “We kept the bucket in the shade and tried to reduce the number of times we opened it.”
No Bokashi? No cry. Danielle says “decant fruit ‘n veg into buckets and Tupperware then use the containers for compost to take home.”
4. Burn not break
Just “leave your glass at home” is the decree from one fine Flooze. Why? Bottom line is that glass breaks and leaves nasty bits all over the desert for mice to slice their throats open on or people their toes etc. Cans can be crushed to take up less space and then recycled back at home base. Good quality plastic bottles can be reused indefinitely. You packed your flask, right?
5. One big bin? Rubbish.
Make it easy for campers to be the solution. Camp leads or clever mates can “separate trash into ‘compost’, ‘recycling’ and ‘landfill’,” says Danielle. “Bring clear bags for recycling and black bags for the landfill, and try to keep the landfill the emptiest (see point 1 “Towards Zero Waste”).
6. Grey water blues?
Dumping volumes of waste water onto the ground (even if it’s full of “non-toxic”, biodegradable substances) can negatively impact the natural system it comes into contact with. Grey water stations can be made cheaply and easily and “there are great designs online” according to Thermo. Do your research, though, because you want more “evapotron” than “evaporation station“ which is “yesterday’s technology” says Burning Man. “The problem with PVC (laid out on the ground)” Thermo continues, “is that it doesn’t really work for a large camp; it just becomes a horrible mess. You really need something to aid evaporation.”
7. Decorate not conflagrate
Think about everything you wear or decorate your camp with. Can it drop off while you dance? Is there a sustainably-produced alternative? Little things can cause big trouble out in the Karoo. Glitter gets in wild animals’ eyes and bellies which can mean cysts and cancers. Feathers fly off and mess with the scenery. MOOP is not sexy. So avoid feathers and pre-order biodegradable glitter online or grab the edible type from a specialist bakery supplier – it works even better. Also, google conflagrate. It’ll win you a scrabble round sometime…
8. Jenny ain’t popular but sunlight is free
Got high tech toys to charge or run? The first step is admitting you’re a glamper. The second one is investing in solar panels (instead of loud, fuel-chugging generators) for lights, cameras, phones, decks, fridge and freezer. It’ll generate goodwill with your neighbours, too! And if they’re running a jenny, eish, maybe you’ll invite them to charge at your earth-friendly station, instead, and enjoy the relative peace with you…
9. Burn (more) consciously
Not talking about mantras while you light the braai, but hey, that’s cool, too, right? It’s just not going save the earth our lovely little Burners are going to inherit. This one is for everyone and especially for artists investing in gorgeous, temporal creations that go up in a flame of cathartic glory. Danielle advises you “burn alien wood such as Wattle and Port Jackson” rather than indigenous wood. Ideally you want to use sustainable wood stocks from certified suppliers who invest in re-wilding projects and don’t cull wildlife. Because eco-systems.
10. And for the grand finale, the Ranger #BurnHack of the day : dude er food in a bag.
“I prep my food in Cape Town and freeze it in strong zip locks that I reuse every year,“ says Thermo. “I heat them in the plastic bag, which allows me to reuse my cooking water every day. No washing up required, either.” Genius. We’re just going to assume he has a solar rig for his freezer. 😉
Got questions (or answers or opinions)? Excellent. Click on this link to engage in a bit of light-hearted but heartfelt “Each One Teach One”.
More eco tips from jezebel here and her other arty thoughts here; here’s also another bit of info here on how to manage waste & MOOP: Manage Your Camp Waste
(Image of The Buyerarchy of Needs © Sarah Lazarovic)
P.S. About that mantra…Try “P-P-P-P” = Preparation Prevents Problems, Peeps…