Sin City is Turning Green

Written by Auriane Koster, Ph. D., Sustainability Manager

As a follow-up to last week’s blog about “The Happiest Place On Earth,” today’s blog will focus on the happiest place on Earth for adults: Las Vegas! Close your eyes for a moment and picture Las Vegas; even if you have never been there you have most likely seen it on TV or at least heard stories. Are you envisioning Vegas as a serene environment with solar panels, a bounty of parks, and hippies dancing in a circle around a fire? Heck no! Vegas is known for its opulence, lights, noise, and waste!

However, did you know that Las Vegas is actually considered a pillar for sustainability? Just do a search for “sustainable hotels” on expedia.com, and you’ll see 18 well-known casinos pop up. The strip holds one of the densest concentrations of LEED certified buildings in the world. In 2005, when Nevada state legislature passed the green building tax abatement program, the state went from 14 LEED projects to 97 by 2007. To date, Nevada has 407 LEED certified buildings, 213 of them in Vegas.

Casinos on the strip are focusing on a multi-faceted approach to incorporating sustainability. Caesars, for example, has installed sink and showerhead aerators, 1.28 gallons low-flush toilettes, and a washing machine tunnel that is saving them 30 gallons of water per room. The Palazzo is using near-surface spring water, usually pumped to the sewer by other hotels, to irrigate their landscaping, saving them about five million gallons of water per year.

Las Vegas is also a leader in renewable-energy implementation. In 2016, “the City of Las Vegas' government became the first in the country to be entirely powered by renewable energy.” In search of providers of cleaner energy options, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts paid $103 million to leave NV Energy. MGM has chosen to go 100% solar.

Hard to believe?! It was for me, as well, until I saw their efforts with my own eyes! Have you ever seen a recycling bin in the casinos? Well, there is no need for one. During a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the casinos a few years ago, I saw, and smelled, exactly what happens with all the waste. This casino had a massive in-house warehouse facility where all the trash was being hand sorted into multiple piles including paper, aluminum, cardboard, plastic, and compost. All the compost gets sent to a local pig farm. All the cooking oil was also being collected and turned into biofuel.

And the hotels are not shy to tell you about their sustainability initiatives. The ARIA’s vision is to bring a new level of environmental consciousness to the strip, which includes energy-efficient appliances, low-wattage lights, and non-toxic cleaning products. The Monte Carlo, which was awarded 4 out of 5 keys in the Green Key Eco-Rating program, focuses on five sustainability areas: energy and water conservation, recycling and waste management, green building, sustainable supply chain, and education and outreach. MGM Resorts is “inspiring our world” through their Green Advantage program. New York New York received the 2011 Business Leadership Recycling Award from the American Forest and Paper Association. The Tropicana is looking to reduce their carbon footprint by focusing on reducing, reusing, and recycling.

The next time you are in Las Vegas try and pay a little more attention to their sustainability initiatives. Can you tell they are using LED lights? Do you see the solar panels out your window? Are they educating you about their initiatives?