Although Las Vegas’ brand is based upon living a life of glamorous excess, the city has recently taken steps to become more sustainable. In fact, the legendary Las Vegas Strip is rapidly becoming a model of green living.
Because the growing city is located in a desert that only gets 4 inches of rain annually, water conservation measures are becoming increasingly important. Southern Nevada’s water source, Lake Mead, hit its lowest levels in history in 2016, coming just feet away from triggering official “shortage” restrictions for Nevada and Arizona. With continued higher-than-normal temperatures predicted for the Southwest, the flow of the Colorado River, which supplies the lake, is forecast to further decline.
In addition to addressing an increasingly dire water situation, Las Vegas is realizing that it needs to better manage its waste disposal processes. Nearly 40 million people visit the city every year, and these guests create a sizable amount of trash. However, because land is relatively inexpensive, residents have mainly relied on landfills to dispose of their waste. In fact, Nevada’s rate of recycling hovers around a mere 20 percent—more than 10 percent less than the national average.
Driving this increased environmental awareness is the rise in popularity of the green movement. As more and more people demand environmental accountability from the businesses they patronize, large corporations such as MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Las Vegas Sands Corp. are responding by developing comprehensive environmental strategies.
The following are a few of the areas in which Las Vegas companies have implemented solutions:
Energy and Water Conservation
According to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the large hotels on the Strip, with their numerous pools and dancing fountains, as well as their millions of guests, still manage to consume only 3 to 4 percent of the water in southern Nevada. They are able to keep water use low by capturing, treating, and then reusing all of the water cycling through their facilities. Other water-saving measures include replacing all showerheads and toilets with water-saving devices.
To conserve energy, some hotels have installed solar shades in their guestrooms and updated the boilers for their swimming pools with more sophisticated heat-exchange units. The Bellagio even replaced the lightbulbs in all of its 2,568 rooms with LED bulbs.
The city authorities have joined in the fight to save water by outlawing front yards in all new homes, regulating residents’ watering days and times, and imposing harsh fines on businesses that exceed their allotments of water. As a result, the city has reduced its overall water use by one-third since 2000 while growing its population by 500,000.
For its efforts in developing the CityCenter Las Vegas, MGM has received six Gold certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This makes it the world’s biggest and greenest new construction project.
Las Vegas actually contains quite a few LEED-certified properties. One of these, the Palazzo, garnered acclaim as the “largest green building in the world” when it was awarded a Silver LEED Certificate in 2008. And Boyd Gaming, which owns several hotels on the Strip, recently earned the country’s first-ever LEED Silver certification for a laundry building.
Recycling and Waste Management
The biggest way these companies have been able to demonstrate their commitment to change has been through improving and updating their waste management systems. As a result, these businesses have made recycling available on all fronts and are composting food and plant waste while simultaneously donating reusable materials to local schools and organizations. Recently, the Venetian and the Palazzo, both owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp., won the Las Vegas Business Press’ Best Recycling Program award for their upstream sorting and incentive initiatives designed to increase the amount they divert from landfills.
Sustainable Supply Chain
Given that the average large Las Vegas Strip hotel spends about $1 billion annually on its needs, they must be vigilant about working with those vendors who are equally eco-conscious. This is especially true regarding the hotels’ restaurants. Both the Mirage and the Bellagio have started implementing environmental procedures regarding food sourcing, choosing only meats and seafood from sustainable farms and even growing some produce on rooftop gardens to minimize the carbon costs incurred by trucking and packaging food.
Outreach and Education
MGM Resorts’ has instituted a corporate environmental responsibility program called “Green Advantage,” which ensures that employees at all of the company’s resorts are aware of and work to eliminate the firm’s impact on the world around them. To help employees learn more about Green Advantage, MGM Resorts has installed interactive touch-screens at employee entrances.
The Bellagio offers its employees weekly tips and newsletters that advise them how to be greener. It also hosts internal sustainability fairs to show employees how to act sustainably in their own homes.