Cleanup and Restoration
The Rainbow Family has long prided itself on the cleanup done
after a gathering. This page is my attempt to cover the basic ways a
site can be made to disappear. The number one way to make it easy to
clean up a site is to not make a mess! As I tell people, cleanup
starts the day we arrive, and we are all cleanup crew, because we
should all disappear our own campsites, and haul our our own trash.
What You Can Do To Help
A lot of the cleanup at Rainbow Gatherings is done by the individual
people as they leave. The best cleanup is where there is no need for a
cleanup crew. On the individual level, there are many things one can
do starting with preparing the site for cleanup when you
arrive. When clearing a site for a tent, collect the pine cones,
sticks, etc... and use them later to restore the site. I try to make
sure there are no large plants ir or rocks to remove, cause this
Start with disappearing a fire, if there is one. I personally only
cook on a backpacking stove by my tent, and I usually eat at one of
kitchens anyway. First make sure the fire is good and out. Spread the
rocks throughout the local area, with the sotty sides down. Fill in
the hole with dirt and small rocks. Cover the dirt with pine needles,
sticks, moss, whatever is appropriate for that spot. You can make make
this easier by preserving the brush and topsoil when you make your
fire pit. Don't forget to preserve the soil for the several weeks you
may be at the gathering, you should pile it and/or cover it with a
tarp, otherwise it'll get compacted or wash away before you can use it
to restore the site.
Brush up flattened grass where the tent or tarp was. Brush up the
dirt, and spread needles, sticks, etc... to make the site look as
undisturbed as possible. Do the same to any trails that you've made
while in camp. Soil compactation is the number one impact of any
The recycling camp is where all the trash goes that is collected from
the site. What looks like a pile of unorganized trash, are sorted
piles. The piles are sorted
into burnables, glass, metal, plastic, etc. As little as possible is
taken to a landfill.
In some years, like at the North Carolina Rainbow Gathering, the
Forest Service took videos of the recycling piles, and have since used
this video in many court cases since, claiming it is the trash left
onsite. They forget to mention that the reason the recycling piles
were still there, was because they had arrestd the cleanup crew for
exceeding the 14 day camping rule. Obviously a manufactured
incident. We know that all good Rainbows never leave trash behind.
Look good at this picture too, cause this is where everything winds up
that anyone doesn't carry out. If you leave any trash behind, here is
where it winds up. Then after sorting through this mess to
produce nicely organized piles, it has to be driven to the recycling
center, or the landfill, both of which cost money, which is usually in
Trash And Recycling Rap
Take it with you! Rather than burden the "cleanup crew", all trash
(other than compost) should be taken offsite and recyled or disposed
of properly. You can reduce your trash by recycling, and being more
concious of the products you buy and bring to a gathering. A common
source of trash is food packaging. Buy in bulk. Reuse containers
rather than disposing of them.
brothers are helping carry out more than than what they brought
in. Note how the plastic, etc.. is already sorted.
Several miles of PVC water pipe is used to help supply clean water to
the gathering. The water comes from springs that are tapped, and the
water is distributed by gravity feed.
This is a good example of a camp's own recycling station. Any sorting
and recycling done by each camp and kitchen makes less work for the
folks that stay for cleanup. Cleaning up ones own camp to where there
is no more cleanup and restoration is the Rainbow ideal.
Other sites of General Interest
- Plunker's Article
- This is an article Plunker wrote for the 1999 All Ways
Free. Plunker has done many, many cleanups, and restorations as a
member the Wounded Earth Environmental Project (WEEP) and at Rainbow
- Treading Softly On the Earth:The
Rainbow Tribe's Impact on Forest Lands.
- This article is an indepth look at the cleanup side of the Rainbow
Gatherings done by a Taos, NM college student. It goes into detail
covering the process of cleanup, and the comments of the various
Forest Service's District Rangers years later.
- Mini Manual
- For another opinion on cleanup, here's what the unofficial Rainbow
document, has to say.
- Mini Manual
- For another opinion on recycling, here's what the unofficial Rainbow
document, has to say.
- Forest Service Reports
- This is a collection of official Forest Service documents, and
includes a section about the annual cleanup from their point of view.