Accounts from a Vegas Virgin

I had never been to Las Vegas before my first business trip. I expected bright lights and never ending rooms filled with slots and poker tables. I expected giant hotels and over the top, well everything. I did not expect to be so taken with the recycling habits of the casinos, hotels and convention centers. Who knew that the Sin City was actually a “Sin-staintable” city.

I spent the majority of my five days inside the Las Vegas Convention Center for work with Crane USA. Our booth was right next to the wine station- lucky us I know. I noticed they had two waste bins, one with a recycling logo facing outward. I walked over to recycle our left over flyers and asked the woman serving wine which one I should put recycling in. She smiled and said, “either”. I was confused. “Either? But doesn’t this convention center recycle?”

The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge. Huge might be an understatement. It literally has millions of square feet of entertaining and meeting space and takes hours to walk the whole building. I would have been shocked and frustrated if this enormous building had not even attempted recycling. The server at the wine booth explained to me that all Las Vegas hotels, casinos and the Las Vegas Convention Center have single stream waste and recycling. Visitors throw their trash or recycling in any bin and it is be sorted later. I had never heard of this before.

When we went out to dinner that night I took notice of the waste bins. Sure enough I found signs that said “Green Code” and “Items will be sorted for recycling and trash”. I was thrilled. Who would have guessed that a city like Las Vegas so known for careless nights and no responsibility, because you know, “what happens here stays here”, would actually take eco-responsibility. Then I thought about it a little more, a three-hour plane ride back to Chicago gives you plenty of time to think.

Does this system really work long-term? Does it actually promote carelessness because people didn’t have to pay attention to recycling or garbage? Is Las Vegas really trying to be sustainable or is this just an easy way out so they don’t have to waste slot space with another bin for waste? Upon arrival back in Chicago I decided to further investigate the recycling and sustainability in Las Vegas.

I decided to look into the places where I was able to go while in Vegas. If I missed your favorite hotel/casino look into it and get back to me:

Of course I had to go check-out Caesar’s Palace, Flamingo and Paris (all part of Caesar’s Entertainment), it was there that I noticed all trash bins were marked with a sign saying “Green Code: All Trash is Recycled”. The Caesar’s Palace Conference Center is LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certified. The building itself and how it operates are both dedicated to conserving energy and water- this from a building with enormous and glamorous ballrooms and meeting spaces. Golf resorts owned by the entertainment company managed to save 200 million gallons of water through infrastructure designs focused on conservation. They truly are forward thinking if they can save water in the middle of the DESERT! That’s awesome!

Two of my favorite hotel and casinos were The Venetian and The Palazzo. They are also doing great things for sustainability. The Venetian Resort, along with the Sands, are Gold LEED certified. In 2008 the Palazzo earned Silver LEED certification making these three connected buildings the largest LEED structure in the world- the whole world! The Sands Corporation, which includes all three of these hotel casinos, saves enough energy each year to power more than 6,500 American homes. They also use the largest solar thermal system in the U.S. This solar thermal system, heats water for their pools, spas and all domestic uses within the buildings. Ahh I feel more relaxed already.

View of  New York New York from The Excalibur. Yes that is a roller coaster. 

Last but certainly not least, I explored a few hotels within the MGM Resorts International, which includes the famous Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor and New York New York. These hotels introduced the very first electric car charging stations on the strips. They improved their recycling initiatives after 2007 and in five short years they were able to improve their recycling percentage to 45%. The Mandalay Bay Convention Center is the fifth largest convention center in the country and they manage to recycle 75% of all waste from their events. Another fun fact to know and tell, The Excalibur recycles a full ton of glass and two tons of cardboard each day! The building might look medieval but their sustainability practices are certainly modern.

I spent most of my time in the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is a part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise Program. The main goal of this group is to divert recyclable materials away from the landfill. Currently, the LVCC averages 65% of materials recycled after all shows. And of course when you visit the Sin-City you must use the Monorail. It gets you everywhere you need to be with zero-emissions, what a way to be part of the solution.

The great news about all these venues is that they have made great process in such a short amount of time and they continue to improve. Everyone from the bartender I spoke to, to waste management professionals speak proudly of their sustainability efforts. In Las Vegas I expected to be inspired and awed by decorations, food and of course the people, but I did not expect to find inspiration for sustainability. The next time you head to a new city, or one that you’ve been to several times, take a look around. If Las Vegas, a city of such splendor and awe, can be impressive in sustainability, what’s stopping the rest of us?

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