Conscious Style for Burning Man

By Alden Wicker

There are so many aspects of Burning Man that are sustainable. True, the average Burner’s carbon footprint is pretty high – all that travel and art cars puttering around aimlessly in the Playa uses a lot of oil. (I did the math, and even a Texan flying for Thanksgiving produces less carbon in a week. Oof. On the upside, offsetting your Burn costs just $7.62!)

But if there is one eco thing BM is famous for, it’s the Leave No Trace element.

This ethos, unfortunately, doesn’t always extend off the Playa. For example, last year at the end of the Burn somebody gifted me a bunch of blinky light necklaces. Last night I went through my bin ‘o Burner stuff, and found them – rubber LED lights wrapped in plastic, made who knows where by who knows who. They’re going to be immensely useful for not getting run over at night! But I can’t recycle that plastic film they came in.

Sometimes I imagine 20,000 people (a gross estimation of the proportion of the 70,000 Burner who operate this way) all over the U.S. and world buying outfits made in China, unwrapping them from plastic, and throwing all the packaging away in their hometown, before traveling to the Playa and being outrageously aware of their own waste. No MOOP on the Playa – we just left it everywhere else!

One thing I’m doing about this is I’m putting myself in charge of shopping for our RV this year. I’ve come up with a grocery list of healthy items suitable for desert living, and just like last year, I’m bringing reusable produce bags and plotting the list so as to produce as little waste as possible. I also made the tiny little decision to do our non-edible supply shopping at Target instead of Walmart.

I’m also being very aware of my outfit shopping. And here we come to the purpose of my post. My radical self-expression involves staying true to my sustainable values, even when dressing up for Burning Man. I’m really not into things made in China, and definitely not in Bangladesh. So I spent a considerable amount time this year poking around, looking for low-impact accessories and clothing. Here are things I look for:

  • Made of upcycled or vintage materials
  • Handmade in the U.S.
  • Made by fairly paid artisans (instead of derivative or appropriative of other cultures. I’m looking at you, eagle feather headdresses and “tribal” print items made in Bangladesh.)
  • Made of natural and organic materials
  • Made of or with non-toxic processes (like vegetable tanning)
  • Made in a way that reduces or eliminates waste byproduct

A few notes before we get into it:

  • Thrift store shopping is an excellent way to reduce the impact of your outfit shopping. Try that first! But I always want to support cool designers, too.
  • I am not vegan, though I support the lifestyle, and neither is everything in this post. Some things are.
  • This is a list of things that inspired me. Burning Man is inclusive of all styles, and I don’t think this list could ever properly represent the breadth designers and makers out there being sustainable, ethical, and creative. It’s just a starting point and proof you can make several entire outfits from low-impact items.
  • Burning Man is against commercialization, so in this post, I have clearly marked the four items which are affiliate links, that is, they pay me a percentage of the sale price if you buy them. This links are automatically generated when I put them in, depending on the retailer. I didn’t put anything in that I don’t love, but if that bothers you, you can avoid those products, or find them with Google without clicking through from this site.

That being said, I am incredibly inspired by all the wonderful things out there that can be put together to express yourself in the desert. I hope you’re inspired, too.

Necessities

Even if you go naked at Burning Man, you’ll still need these things to survive: a vessel for carrying your stuff, shoes, and a water bottle.

 

Beatrice Holiday upcycles bike tires and parts into amazing jewelry and accessories. Right now she's making me a version of this hip pack with more pockets.

Beatrice Holiday upcycles bike tires and parts into amazing, made-to-order jewelry and accessories. Right now she’s making me a version of this fringe hip pack with more pockets.

 

Hiptipico works directly with Guatemalan artisans for authentic and ethical accessories.

Hiptipico works directly with Guatemalan artisans for authentic and ethical accessories. (Affiliate)

 

I can personally attest that this ultra-insulated water bottle will keep your water cold four hours upon hours.

I can personally attest that this ultra-insulated water bottle will keep your water cold four hours upon hours.

 

Fortress of Inca

Fortress of Inca boots are made ethically and sustainably in Peru, and are incredibly comfortable.

The Bare Minimum

Just enough clothing to be decent(ish), but nothing more.

 

An organic cotton bra made in the U.S.A.

An organic cotton bra made in the U.S.A.

 

I love these organic cotton panties from PACT. They're flattering and comfy!

I love these organic cotton panties from PACT. They’re flattering and comfy! (Affiliate)

 

Starry space bathing suit

Digitally printed with a real image from NASA’s Hubble Telescope! Brooklyn’s Shadowplay sources and produce almost everything locally, and designs every garment to use up almost every inch of fabric and leaving next to nothing for the landfill.

 

Handknit in Peru from Pima cotton. Designed as to not create any waste.

Handknit in Peru from Pima cotton. Knitting leftover cotton ensures no waste goes to the landfill.

Vitamin A swimwear makes eco-friendly, quality, and flattering bathing suits in every style and color.

Vitamin A swimwear makes eco-friendly, quality, and flattering bathing suits in every style and color.

Layer Up

For when you need protection from the sun during the day, and the cold at night.

 

These are so fun, and made from reclaimed materials.

These pants at ASOS are so fun, and made from reclaimed materials. (Affiliate)

 

MATTER Prints pants are made by Asian artisans and come in unisex styles.

MATTER Prints pants are made by Asian artisans and come in unisex styles.

 

This winter cape is made from the hide of a free-range Icelandic sheep, tanned in Europe with a special low-impact process. It's handmade to order in Brooklyn.

This winter cape is made from the hide of a free-range Icelandic sheep, tanned in Europe with a special low-impact process. It’s handmade to order in Brooklyn.

 

A sheepwool jacket andknit by Peruvian artisans.

A sheepwool jacket andknit by Peruvian artisans.

This LemLem poncho is fairly made in Ethiopia.

This LemLem poncho is fairly made in Ethiopia.

Made from recycled military parachute fabric.

Deborah Lindquist skirt made from recycled military parachute fabric.

You should order this organic cotton jersey cape immediately, because she's already a bit past the official deadline for ordering for BM!

You should order this organic cotton jersey cape immediately, because it’s made to order and the designer is already a bit past the official deadline for ordering for BM!

Accessorize

The final touches that will make you stand out!

Vegan and organic lipstick - check out the rest of the crazy colors!

Vegan and organic lipstick – check out the rest of the crazy colors!

I know, feather MOOP! But damn, is this vest by Kelly Horrigan (made from upcycled leather) amazing. Go check out all her other jewelry pieces, too.

I know, feather MOOP! But damn, is this vest by Kelly Horrigan (made from upcycled leather) amazing. Go check out all her other jewelry pieces, too.

 

Titiania Inglis paired up with a local ceramic designer for this gorgeous arm piece.

Titiania Inglis paired up with a local ceramic designer for this gorgeous arm piece.

 

South American, vegetable-tanned leather is hand cut and assembled in Brooklyn.

South American, vegetable-tanned leather is hand cut and assembled in Brooklyn.

 

I encourage you to check out all of Beatrice Holiday's upcycled body art!

I encourage you to check out all of Beatrice Holiday’s upcycled body art!

 

A more affordable body harness is made in Portland, Oregon.

A more affordable body harness is made in Portland, Oregon.

 

If you're going to get mala beads, as Burners like to do...

If you’re going to get mala beads, as Burners like to do, get them from Tibetan artisans who are paid fairly.

 

Badass gloves made from recycled leather.

Badass fingerless gloves made from recycled leather.

Not

Not “Indian-inspired” but designed by an Indian designer, and made in India by India artisans.

A beautiful vintage necklace.

A beautiful vintage necklace from Urban Outfitter’s Urban Renewal line. (Affiliate)

A vintage huipal collar from the village of Patzun. Handmade with 100% authentic Mayan embroidery. This item is woven on a traditional backstrap loom by a female artisan and has also been worn by a Mayan woman in Guatemala.

A vintage huipal collar from the village of Patzun. Handmade with 100% authentic Mayan embroidery. This item is woven on a traditional backstrap loom by a female artisan and has also been worn by a Mayan woman in Guatemala.

 

 

About the Author

Alden is the founder and editor-in-chief of EcoCult, covering all things sustainable in NYC and beyond, including fashion, beauty, food, and events. She’s been published in Refinery29, EcoSalon, xoJane, Well+Good, Huffington Post Green, Narratively, LearnVest, Societé Perrier, and Greatist. She also runs a blog about electronic music with her boyfriend called Under the Sound, and is a co-founder of the Ethical Writers Coalition. Check her out on Twitter at @AldenWicker and Instagram @EcoCult

 

 

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