Contrary to expectations, I actually made it to Burning Man this year. You can check out some of the damage here. Despite so many good intentions and the hard work of many burners, Green Man was no Las Vegas, but it wasn't so green. Then again, what is? For me, the least green aspect was losing my shirt--not literally, but figuratively, in advance of the event, by shopping at Target and about four other big-box stores for a tent, cooler, LED lights for the bike, and so many other overpackaged, phthalate-ridden camping products. (I felt less crazy after a new artist friend admitted that she, too, nearly cries in such emporia. Oh, the humanity.) I didn't realize that the last time I used my own tent was for post-high school graduation bacchanalia on the beach. Because I decided to go at the last minute, I didn't have the luxury of collecting these things slowly and sustainably from friends, craigslist, or resale shops.
My petroleum-based "powdered" wig had to be new too. Or maybe the least green aspect was supplying gasoline to the theme camp's generators. Oh wait, that five gallons was nothing compared to the gasoline filling up the rental car. While I hate air conditioning in real life, some of my happiest Black Rock moments were of resting inside of other people's freon-cooled RVs and trucks for several hours during withering mid-day desert heat.
But I congratulate myself, as any self-righteous San Franciscan should, for spending $25 on a bucket of biodegradable, organic lavender handi-wipes, a hot item under the hotter sun. I brought a bottle of rosewater to spritz on dried-out compatriots too. The bottle claimed that people had prayed over it, and that it possessed special magnetic properties, but my failure to cover up the label made me feel as if I were advertising, a big burner no-no that may have demagnetized all that energy.
And despite the rush to shop at the last minute, the Alemany flea market the week before the burn was the best source of sustainable gifts. I bought a hat box worth of hand-embroidered, mid-century handkerchiefs, which my grandmother still requests at holidays, and passed them around to people. The least commercial, big tent aspect of the Burning Man experience was stopping at local shops and "Indian" taco stands on the way in and out of Black Rock, and sharing small talk with some Paiute people. Pyramid Lake is the bluest thing I've ever seen, especially after nearly a week of so much burning of the brain and fossil fuels.
P.S. See what I wrote for work on this subject here.