Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas
Sustainability is a key ingredient of hospitality cultureNevada remains one of the shining achievements of development in the 20th century. Where once was only sand, some of America’s most colorful entrepreneurs created wealth and leisure, from Las Vegas to Reno, to Laughlin. The completion of Hoover Dam in 1935 created the world’s most powerful hydroelectric plant, paving the way for managed water consumption and clean energy throughout the Southwest. Just six years later, casinos began opening everywhere on the Las Vegas Strip, most equipped with golf courses, swimming pools and glowing neon signs. Today, sustainability is hardly the first thing that comes to mind when considering Nevada. Populations have soared, energy demands have skyrocketed and water sources such as Lake Mead have shrunk to record lows. Living green, however, is a necessary way of life. Forward-thinking corporations are vigilant in addressing 21st-century challenges as business and leisure travel continue to soar. Thus, The Silver State gets greener every year. “Hotels have taken it upon themselves to enact green initiatives because they are doing business in a natural state,” says Bethany Drysdale, director of Nevada Board of Tourism. “Nevada is a high desert and 85 percent of the land is public. The Nevada tourism industry recognizes the need to protect both land and water. Visitors want to support companies who care about the earth and its beauty.”
The Venetian Las Vegas, The Palazzo Las Vegas, and Sands Expo and Convention Center
LEEDing the WaySince 1998, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification has been the Holy Grail of corporate responsibility and environmental innovation. Many states, primarily along the Eastern seaboard, have dominated the annual U.S. Green Building Council rankings for LEED certification per capita. So it came as a surprise to many in 2010, at the height of the recession, when Nevada vaulted to the top of the list. As with most things business-related in Nevada, the impetus came from resort and hotel casinos. Last year, Nevada finished in sixth place, one slot ahead of California, with 30 new LEED certified buildings. Architect Jennifer Turchin, who has worked in Las Vegas for 12 years, sees many reasons for the increased focus on sustainability. “It was originally driven by the casinos and resort hotels who realized the potential for energy and water savings,” Turchin says. “Then the legislature pitched in with property tax abatement. But up until 2009, LEED was conceived primarily for office buildings. Once they expanded the concept to include casinos, it really took off.” One of the key meeting complexes in the city, The Venetian Las Vegas, The Palazzo Las Vegas and Sands Expo and Convention Center combine to form the largest LEED certified meetings and events venue in the world. There’s 2.3 million sq. ft. of meeting space, drawing such important meeting industry trade shows as IMEX America Oct. 18−20. During the building of The Palazzo, for example, materials were procured from within a 500-mile radius to reduce the environmental impact of transportation and 70 percent of construction waste was recycled. The three Sands properties have emerged as one of the largest recyclers in Las Vegas, recycling expected materials such food, cardboard, glass, plastic, paper and metal, in addition to important yet uncommonly recycled items such as batteries, electronic waste and cooking oil. Sands’ ECO360° Global Sustainability strategy allows planners to use a special concierge to ensure “the seamless integration of meeting planners’ environmental objectives throughout their event,” says Katarina Tesarova, vice president of global sustainability for Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort (Photo by Barbara Kraft)Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort, which are LEED Gold certified, have taken a novel approach to the challenge of golf in the desert by creating a wildlife sanctuary on its course. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary certified project required two years of development, adding wildflowers, bird feeders and wildlife signage. Now guests can see red-tail hawks and tricolor cranes while searching for their ball in the rough. With a combined 4,750 guest rooms and 260,000 sq. ft. of event space, Wynn and Encore feature energy-efficient products and green measures that reduce electrical consumption by more than 18 million kilowatt hours, which could power 1,623 homes per year. The resorts’ more than 5 acres of artificial turf saves 15 million gallons of water annually. Wynn Las Vegas partners with Clean the World to recycle used soap and shampoo products from guest rooms. Not only does the program promote recycling, but it also helps save lives as a global hygiene initiative. Caesar’s Entertainment has helped pioneer sustainability with its employee-driven CodeGreen program, which was implemented in 2007. Environmental stewardship is one of the four pillars of Caesars Code of Commitment. Caesars has reduced its energy consumption on a per-square-foot basis by 21.3 percent since 2007. Its 2020 goal is to reduce fossil fuel based consumption by 30 percent. “Our progress reflects many years of hard work around energy and carbon management,” says Eric Dominguez, vice president of facilities, engineering and sustainability.
Biscayne restaurant at Tropicana Las VegasTropicana Las Vegas is keeping pace with its green neighbors thanks to an onsite water purification system at its award-winning steakhouse, Biscayne. LED lighting is featured throughout the property, helping to reduce electrical energy by 80 percent; its energy management system helps reduce carbon intensity and expands the use of renewable energy. Palms Casino Resort is another adopter of green technology on The Strip. It purchases BeGreen renewable energy credits in an effort to be carbon neutral. Innovative meetings venues include The View, an upscale event space with a billiards table. There is no finer place in Vegas to enjoy a cocktail than Ghostbar, with stunning views of The Strip. South Point Hotel Casino & Spa is known as “The Best Kept Secret on the Las Vegas Boulevard,” and efforts extend to water, waste and energy. In addition to 2,079 guest rooms and an 80,000-square-foot pavilion, South Point features a 4,600-seat arena, which is regarded as one of the country’s finest equestrian centers, offering horse, bull and rodeo events.
MGM Resorts’ Green Initiatives
Aria Resort & Casino, Las VegasThe AAA Five Diamond and LEED Gold certified Aria Resort & Casino launched a $154 million expansion project in May that will increase meeting space to more than 500,000 sq. ft. The new 200,000 sq. ft. of technologically advanced event space will feature stunning indoor/open-air spaces and a glass-enclosed venue with dramatic views of new Las Vegas Arena and The Park. Aria’s new convention space will maintain MGM Resorts International’s commitment to build all new venues to LEED Gold standards or better, creating one of the most expansive high-end, environmentally friendly meeting facilities in the world. The new convention space replaces Cirque du Soleil’s production of Zarkana, which closed in April.
The Park and T-Mobile Arena, Las VegasAria and The Mirage Las Vegas feature compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled limousines. CNG limos operate 15 percent more efficiently, with approximately a 40 percent decrease in fuel costs over gasoline-powered vehicles. The Mirage, with 170,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, saves 400 kilowatts of electricity every hour as a result of installing Variable Frequency Drives on chillers in its central plant. Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Convention Center completed a $70 million expansion earlier this year, including a new 70,000-square-foot ballroom and 350,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. The convention center now boasts more than 2 million sq. ft., with more than 900,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space. The expansion was part of a multiyear $100 million redesign, including upgrades to Mandalay Bay’s 3,000 guest rooms and suites. Solidifying its status as largest convention center solar array in the world, Mandalay Bay added 8 acres of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) to up its total to more than 28 acres, which generates enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,300 homes annually. Mandalay Bay and Mandalay Bay Convention Center hold coveted Five Key ratings from Green Key Eco-Rating and Meetings Programs. The Park, which opened in April, is an immersive outdoor dining and entertainment district from MGM Resorts International that connects New York-New York, Monte Carlo and the new 20,000-seat LEED Gold certified T-Mobile Arena. What makes the green park so spectacular is that it puts sustainability front and center on The Strip. Inspired by the ecosystem of the Mojave Desert, The Park features innovative concepts for water conservation, energy efficiency, waste recycling, material selection and other green building strategies.
Viva Green Vegas
Neon Museum, Las VegasNowhere is the contrast between old and new Nevada conveyed better—or more charmingly—than Neon Museum in downtown Las Vegas. Seven vintage neon signs have been lovingly restored for a glimpse into Vegas’ storied past, surrounded by 200 other beautiful old signs brightly ground-lit by energy-efficient LED bulbs. The museum’s La Concha Visitors Center provides 600 sq. ft. of indoor space that complements the 3,500-square-foot North Gallery. The 2,500-square-foot Neon Boneyard features a unique visual backdrop for events and video/photo shoots. Caterers, photographers and special event planners are on call to assist. Another energy collision between old and new is happening at golf courses all around the state. Enter Topgolf, the hottest new entertainment concept on The Strip. The computer-simulated golf game is part of the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino complex. The balls and clubs are real but everything else, including distance and direction, are evaluated by microchip.
Topgolf, MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & CasinoWhat’s the application for team building? People can compete at any level. Cheering and taunting are encouraged. Drinks, DJs and even swimming pools are part of the experience. Topgolf has been wildly popular since its inception in the United Kingdom, and 54 percent of players are in that coveted 18-to-34 age group. With 108 separate hitting bays, Topgolf Vegas can handle groups up to 3,000.
The ghosts of Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky may no longer rattle around law-abiding Las Vegas, but they have inspired a fantastic venue for team building at the LEED Silver Mob Museum. “The Mob Museum’s historic building and three floors of interactive exhibits provide the perfect backdrop for any group meeting or special event,” says Sabine von Henning, director of sales for the museum. Blue Man Group at Luxor Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas customizes private performances that integrate products and audience participation. What could be more fun than putting the boss on the spot?
Mob Museum, Las Vegas
The Green LightThe greening of Nevada continues at a rapid clip. Turchin notes that two of the newest massive building projects, Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino off Sahara Avenue and the Chinese-themed Resorts World Las Vegas, are being designed to achieve LEED certification. As a triathlete, Turchin is excited by the green transportation changes taking place in Clark County. “We have green bike lanes downtown now, which we’ve never had before, and they are really working to build out the trail infrastructure,” Turchin says. “The plan is to have a 100-mile route of connected bike trails around the metro area, and they’re more than halfway done.” Impossible a generation ago, in 2014 Las Vegas was recognized as “bicycle-friendly” by the League of American Bicyclists. Companies and employees doing business in Nevada are impressed with the environmental efforts. As government, residents, enterprise and visitors continue to work together, Nevada’s green meetings future is brighter than a vintage neon sign.
Natalie Compagno is an avid traveler and has written for The Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel and more.