Every year a city is built in the Nevada Desert with 70,000 inhabitants. Known as Black Rock City, it is where Burning Man is held.  I have made it out there for the past 3 years with friends and family who follow a community ethos, creating a culture that promotes low impact living and self reliance. The inhabitants, or “Burners”, work to create an ideal city. In 2004 Larry Harvey (one of the co-founders) wrote the Ten Principles of Burning Man. Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy. Clean and Sustainable Technologies have become an important part of achieving the principals.


Traveling around Black Rock City or the Playa you can see solar arrays, self designed water systems, homemade swamp coolers, and other innovative technologies that help the inhabitants live in the middle of the desert comfortably. These innovations are inspired by the Ten Principles. On the playa I used California Sunlights Solar cooker to bake cookies for my camp.


These 10 principles guide burners. They work together. There are three that directly lead burners to overcome their pollution impact on the playa and the world. Radical Self-Reliance, Civic Responsibility and Leaving no trace.  Without them, a burner might as well light his tent on fire at the end of the event and only operate cars that runs on endangered ferrets. In 2007 one Burning Man founder Marian Goodell, one clean tech scientist David Shearer, and one clean tech entrepreneur Matt Cheney created Black Rock Solar. Black Rock Solar is independent of the Burning Man Organization but follows the same ethos in the Ten Principles. Installing solar throughout Nevada, helping underserved communities for a decade and, with Camp Ideate, offer carbon offsets for Burners who want to make their experience truly carbon neutral. This year they are going a step further.


Black Rock Solar is transitioning into Black Rock Labs, a clean tech accelerator to bring playa validated solutions to the rest of the world. On the Playa this year they put up a map of camps with innovative projects helping burners work towards the the Ten Principles though sustainability and clean tech.  In keeping with Civic Responsibility, the accelerator will enable burners around the world to bring their technology to those who need it most. Black Rock Labs is looking at technology that can benefit the world.


Now the accelerator is for Participants of Burning Man playa proven solutions, but I know Sacramento Companies could really contribute to the Burn. There are many solutions being built here that could help reduce Burning Man’s carbon footprint.  From California Sunlights solar cooker to Tenkiv’s Arch Nexus. Giant Mutant Vehicles could use Terzo Power’s hybrid system and Sierra Energy’s Fast Ox generator could power the whole city. Just going there could spark the innovation an entrepreneur needs create the next big clean tech solution.

Check out Black Rock Labs to learn more!

(Photo courteousy of David Shear from Black Rock Labs)

Thomas Hall


Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.


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