Hotels in Vegas are generating a greener future

When you think of Vegas, saving precious resources isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

Drinking to the point of passing out. Oh yeah. Partying until the wee hours. Naturally. Pigging out at the buffets. Of course. Wagering next month’s rent at the blackjack tables. Uh, really you should try to avoid doing this.

Still you get the idea. Sin City is all about excess. Protecting the planet…well…that’s not usually tops in the visitors’ guides.

If you’re a traveler who’s looking for an eco-friendly stay, Vegas may not be on your radar. But it should be.

It will probably surprise you to learn how eco-minded many of this city’s resorts are. And we’re not just talking about cards in the rooms that ask you to re-hang your towels or pass on having your sheets changed.

Some Vegas hotels have become true eco-leaders. Many are pursuing or have received LEED certification, which is the internationally accepted benchmark for identifying green buildings based on design, construction and operations. And these resorts are eagerly doing other things like installing solar panels, creating programs to save water and reduce solid waste, growing herb gardens and much more. Not just about saving money (although that’s surely a consideration too), they genuinely aspire to look after our one and only Earth.

So if you’re eco-conscious and want to ease your conscience by sleeping in a place that takes sustainability seriously, here’s a list of some environmentally friendly hotels in Vegas.

The Palazzo, autumn's atrium diplay and The Venetian

Clockwise from left: The Palazzo, the Fall into ECO360° atrium display and The Venetian

Las Vegas Sands Corp. 

A stay at a luxury hotel sometimes feels like a guilty pleasure. Thanks to Las Vegas Sands Corp., visiting The Venetian and The Palazzo can be just about the pleasure – without any of the guilt.

These two grand Italian-themed hotels that sit near the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, along with the Sands Expo Center, have been blazing a trail for environmental stewardship in the hospitality industry for several years now. This is due to the Sands ECO360° Global Sustainability Strategy, which was introduced in 2010.

More than a fancy-sounding name, it’s something of a road map with objectives in four key areas: green buildings, environmentally responsible operations, green meetings and engagement with the community.

The bottom line is this trio of properties has become one of the largest recyclers in Las Vegas – achieving an average recycling rate of 57 percent. A dock remodel at The Venetian not long ago and the implementation of more upstream sorting practices deserve much of the credit.

The list of environmentally friendly initiatives at The Venetian and The Palazzo goes well beyond this. Energy-efficient lighting can be found in all of the suites. More than 3,000 sensors have been installed in suites at The Palazzo to adjust the temperature automatically according to guest occupancy. There is also a water reclamation system in place that processes 5 million gallons of nuisance water each year for use in horticulture, external cleaning and fountains.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. properties also launched a composting program in 2012. And in the garages you’ll find preferred parking for alternative fuel vehicles as well as electric charging stations.

As you’d expect, Las Vegas Sands Corp. has reaped what it’s sowed in recognition and awards. In 2010, The Venetian and the Sands Expo Center received LEED Gold certification for their existing buildings, and in 2008 The Palazzo received Silver certification for new construction. This year, Las Vegas Sands Corp. was named one of the world’s most environmentally friendly companies in Newsweek’s annual Green Rankings. They hold the No. 18 spot on the U.S. 500 list and the No. 28 position on the Global 500 list.

Plus, the horticulture team at The Venetian and The Palazzo scored big by acquiring a 2014 Diamond Award from the Plantscape Institute of America for their 2013 Fall into ECO360° installation. Although removed just days ago, The Palazzo’s Waterfall Atrium and Gardens had featured an encore presentation of this award-winning display for autumn, complete with the 1934 Hudson car (symbolizing both properties’ alternative transportation programs) and approximately 5,000 drought resistant plants.

MGM Resorts International's Green Advantage program, Bellagio's herb garden and Mandalay Bay's solar installation

Clockwise from top: An inspirational Green Advantage presentation, Mandalay Bay's solar panel installation and Bellagio's rooftop herb garden

MGM Resorts International

When it comes to being environmentally friendly, MGM Resorts International properties are no slouches.

Like Las Vegas Sands Corp., they have a strategic plan for eco-responsibility in effect called Green Advantage. Designed to reduce the consumption of limited resources and lower the carbon footprint of all resort, restaurant, retail and convention operations, it’s focused on five core areas: energy and water conservation, recycling and waste management, outreach and education, green building and sustainable supply chains.

Although much is being done at all MGM Resorts International properties, for now we’ll concentrate on two recent standouts.

Last month Mandalay Bay completed the installation of the world’s largest rooftop solar array on the convention center. It looks like something from a sci-fi movie. The first of its kind on the Strip, more than 20,000 panels cover approximately 20 acres and can produce enough electricity to power about 1,000 homes annually. At peak production, it will provide nearly 20 percent of Mandalay Bay’s total power demand.

And then there’s Bellagio, where eco-friendly efforts stretch high and low.

Although the resort’s signature fountains seem like something that must be a drain on water resources, engineers have actually designed the manmade lake – along with “O” and all of the property’s irrigation – to utilize non-drinkable water from underground wells. And more recently, they’ve created underwater LED lighting for the lake that uses 75 percent less energy.

Remodeling efforts at Bellagio, such as the Spa Tower room renovation in 2012, drew upon green building practices and materials like organic carpet and fast-growing eucalyptus (considered a renewable hardwood) in the furniture.

At Bellagio, trash is sorted behind the scenes, diverting thousands of tons of recyclables from landfills each year. In the casino, 19,000 incandescent light bulbs were replaced with LED bulbs on 2,200 slot machines. And the Horticulture Department, which is responsible for the breathtaking Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, composts 100 percent of the plant and landscaping waste.

Last but not least, Bellagio’s roof is home to an herb garden. It received an award for Best Fresh Idea at the 2012 Corporate Sustainability Green Team Summit. 

Vdara, Crystals and Aria

Clockwise from left: Vdara, The Shops at Crystals and Aria

CityCenter

Yes, we know. Most of the buildings that make up CityCenter are part of MGM Resorts International’s portfolio, but since this 67-acre urban resort destination on the Strip was so groundbreaking, we thought it deserved to be in a group all its own.

CityCenter is comprised of Aria, Vdara and The Shops at Crystals (all operated by MGM Resorts International). You’ll find Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas and Veer Towers, a luxury residential condominium complex, here too.

Each of these properties has earned LEED Gold certification. Together they represent the world’s largest private sustainable development.

A green lifestyle and environmental responsibility are especially in vogue at CityCenter. Take Aria, for example. This resort features the world’s first fleet of stretch limos powered by compressed natural gas, which is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels available.

Designed to block heat and maximize natural light, Aria operates at around 30 percent greater energy efficiency than comparable resorts. And it conserves an estimated 33 percent of water by utilizing efficient plumbing fixtures. Aria also has two recycling docks for the collection and separation of glass, paper, cardboard, metals, plastic, food waste and grease.

In 2010 Aria and Vdara became the first Las Vegas hotels to get the 5 Keys designation from the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, one of the foremost “green” certification and audit programs in North America. The 5 Keys designation is the highest possible. Only about 1 percent of the hotels that are rated achieve it. In 2012 Aria also received a 5 Keys designation from the Green Key Meetings Program for its convention facilities and services.

The Shops at Crystals also boasts efficient water fixtures along with radiant floor cooling. Skylights allow an abundance of natural light to pour into the gorgeous three-level shopping center. Much of the wood used for features like staircases and a treehouse-shaped dining room (part of Mastro’s Ocean Club) came from forests with sustainable management practices. This was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The Shops at Crystals even offers complimentary electric vehicle charging within its 24-hour valet.

The LINQ Promenade, CodeGreen and Rio

Clockwise from left: The LINQ Promenade and High Roller observation wheel, employees supporting a CodeGreen endeavor and the Rio

Caesars Entertainment 

Caesars Entertainment is dedicated to protecting the environment. The corporation has set an overall objective of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent per square foot by 2025. Now that’s an ambitious long-term goal! In 2013, Caesars Entertainment exceeded its short-term goal of 10 percent (with a reduction of 12.7 percent), and it won an EPA Climate Leadership Award for Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management in 2014.

The staff shares this passionate commitment to reducing the corporation’s carbon footprint. The employee-driven program CodeGreen not only educates employees about conservation, but also aims to trim down resource usage in order to preserve the environment for future generations.

At all of its resorts, Caesars Entertainment has practices in place like recycling, lessening waste, increasing energy efficiency and saving water. An initiative in 2010 – 2012 led to the replacement of halogen light bulbs with more efficient LED alternatives at all of its U.S. resorts.

Almost a decade ago a cogeneration facility was installed at Rio Las Vegas that produces 5 megawatts of electricity onsite. This reduces energy loss through transmission lines and captures waste heat for hot water. Today the facility generates about 40 percent of the resort’s electricity and 60 percent of its hot water.

Sustainable construction is another focal area for Caesars Entertainment. The 110,000-square-foot expansion of the conference center at Caesars Palace was awarded LEED Silver certification in 2010, as was the resort’s Octavius Tower in 2012. And everyone’s heard of the corporation’s popular LINQ Promenade. This outdoor dining, entertainment and shopping district, which is home to the High Roller observation wheel, has also received LEED Silver certification.

In addition, The LINQ Promenade can brag about energy cost savings of more than 21 percent over the LEED baseline building performance. By utilizing drought tolerant plants and high-efficiency drip irrigation systems, potable water consumption is being reduced by 51 percent as well.

Along with new construction projects, Caesars Entertainment is also pursuing LEED certifications for its existing buildings in Nevada.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is a worldly sort of place, so it’s no surprise this hotel has a sustainable outlook. One unique thing they do here is recycle worn sheets and pillowcases for other uses. Over the span of a year, the resort has repurposed 21,500 pillowcases and 12,700 sheets into more than 79,000 cleaning rags. Under a similar initiative, bottles are converted into glassware and used throughout the property. Other items salvaged are corks, batteries and car keys. All in all, 4,520 tons of trash were recycled by the resort in a year – that amounts to 43 percent of its total waste system.

In addition, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas features an exclusive Tesla rapid charging station. If you drive one of these electric sports cars and are staying at the resort, you can pull into the West End tower’s valet and request a charge for your vehicle at no cost. Then you’ll be ready to cruise the famous Strip or explore the outlying valley.

As you can see, hospitality and eco-consciousness aren’t mutually exclusive in Vegas. These do-gooder hotels (and many others that haven’t been mentioned) are making a real effort. Now if only the rest of us would follow their “green” lead, we’d surely make a big difference in our world.

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I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Vegas.com. Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.