Leave No Trace

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The Leave No Trace Pictogram by James Wickham

Leave No Trace is one of the original 10 Principles of Burning Man. The Ten Principles were written by Larry Harvey in 2004 as a guide to the organisation of Burning Man, and later adopted as a model of thinking and behaviour for participants to follow at the event, and in their lives generally.


"Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them."

In 1998 Burning Man formally adopted the “Leave No Trace” principle, borrowing the phrase from the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service, which jointly popularised it in a widely circulated 1987 brochure.

The Leave No Trace Pictogram by James Wickham

As a Burning 'Principle' and its relation to other Burning Principles

Interactions between this principle and real world circumstances in the context of Burns

Activating Radical Inclusion

A Burn Principle is not intended as a description of 'what is', but rather a guide to taking active steps - and not just within the Burn community. Examples of activating Leave No Trace include:

  • 'Reduced price tickets programs. To encourage and diversify inclusion
  • 'Stranger welcome' programs. To encourage out of town,state,country visitors to attend Burns and engage with local community
  • 'Locals programs' To encourage locals where the burn occurs to join with the Burn community
  • 'Improve access and health care onsite'.
  • 'Ride share programs' To facilitate attendance
  • 'More Burner Events' To facilitate attendance

This principle in wider historic and philosophical contexts

The Ten Principles of Burning Man are in class known as 'Moral Systems' All attempts at creating a universal 'Moral System' have failed, and they have at times incorporated elements that we would reject, and have been championed and fought over at the expense of lives and nations.

Danny Usery makes the point that although sets of moral principles ideally should not contain inherent contradictions, in practice they often do. He suggests that in resolving those conflicts - which is necessary in order to follow those moral principles in 'real life', a person should apply a set of theory rules (or ethical principles) which will guide you in your application of those moral principles. He acknowledges the existence of multiple examples of ethical principles (such as Utilitarian or Kantian) and further acknowledges that the a person attempting to choose amongst these various ethical principles might seek further guidance, using some criteria to do so, and some ethical principles to understand which criteria to use, and so on ad infinitum.

The Burning Man Principles and Community provide no specific guidance on what 'ethical principles' should guide a Burners (or a Burn Organizer's) view towards and application of the Ten Principles. The 'purist' might hold that Burns should not charge money, and in fact should not be organized by anyone - but in fact organized by everyone. This viewpoint finds its nearest expression in the Rainbow Gathering movement. Others would hold that the Burn is an opportunity to showcase 'ideals', but the showcase has to exist in the 'real world' and comply with the economic and legal constraints of the real world as it stands now while we work to bring the 'real world' into line with our 'showcased world'. Some will hold that 'the pure is the enemy of the good', and others will say that 'If you want to do anything, do it now, without compromise or concession, because you have only one life. Gao Xingjian

Expressions and Artwork

On and off-playa installations have been created to express this principle. Perth graphic designer James Wickham created a set of pictographs in 2015 to illustrate the 10 Principles, and these have been widely praised and adopted.

See Also



Historically Leave No Trace refers to a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It originated in the United States during the 1960's and 70's It is built on seven principles:

  1. plan ahead and prepare,
  2. travel and camp on durable surfaces,
  3. dispose of waste properly,
  4. leave what you find,
  5. minimize campfire impacts,
  6. respect wildlife,
  7. be considerate of other visitors.

In 1998 Burning Man formally adopted the “Leave No Trace” principles, borrowing the phrase from the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service, which jointly popularized it in a widely circulated 1987 brochure.

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