Designing Personal Sustainability into Organizational Culture: The Case of Burning Man

  • Morgan C. Benton
  • Nicole M. Radziwill


Efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations has been ongoing for over a century, starting with the “scientific management” approach of Frederick Taylor and the “functions and principles” approach of Henri Fayol that gained popularity in the first two decades of the 1900s. More recently, the notion of sustainability—that is, the efficient use of energy and resources at both the personal and organizational levels—has been recognized as a contributor to developing competitive advantage. Personal sustainability contributes to organizational sustainability by raising awareness about sustainability at the organizational level, promoting engagement among members of an organization, and ensuring that individuals have the energy and resources to contribute to the overall mission of the organization. For this interplay to occur though, sustainability must be part of the organization’s core values. In this case study, we examine the culture of the annual Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada and explore how personal sustainability impacts the success of the event, while helping to create a strong cultural identity among participants known as “Burners.”


Quality Sustainability Culture Design Burning Man 

Further Reading

  1. Black Rock City Census – Each year, the Census team (in which the authors participate at a small level) collects data about the demographics of Burning Man participants, their intentions, and their behavior on and off-playa. This 104-page document provides the best glimpse into the composition and culture of the event.
  2. From Radical to Routine: Burning Man and the Transformation of a Countercultural Movement – This 85-page Master’s Thesis examines the nature of Burning Man from the perspective of cultural sustainability, covering community, experience, and event.
  3. Sustainability at Burning Man: The Next Chapter – In response to a petition posted on requesting that the Burning Man Organization accelerate its efforts to become more environmentally sustainable, an assessment was conducted. The summary of the document is at and the Environmental Assessment is available from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morgan C. Benton
    • 1
  • Nicole M. Radziwill
    • 1
  1. 1.James Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

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