From gambling to fine dining and carousing, there is no shortage of entertainment options in Las Vegas. But a few weeks ago, I found myself in a place I had never envisioned visiting -- the waste recycling area for the Venetian and the Palazzo.
Las Vegas Sands has become a global leader in sustainable development. The company builds and operates its properties with the goal of preserving the environment, and last month, it launched its ECO 360 program, which is designed to spread its best environmentally-friendly practices, technology and methodology throughout the company.
The results of the Las Vegas Sands sustainable development efforts are impressive. The Palazzo received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver certification for new construction in 2008. And this March, the Venetian received the LEED gold certification for existing buildings. The two LEED certifications make the Venetian and Palazzo complex -- including the Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention center -- the largest 'green' building in the world with 17.9 million square feet of LEED certified space.
And don't think for one minute that Las Vegas Sands is pursuing all these "green" policies out of the kindness of its own heart. At the press event announcing the launch of ECO 360, Las Vegas Sands COO Michael Leven noted that for every $1 invested in sustainable development, Las Vegas Sands saves $4.
And all of that brings us back to sifting through garbage, which is one of the key elements of the program. To find out more about the recycling and other "green" practices Las Vegas Sands has adopted, read on.
10. Artificial turf
No, we're not making this up. If you use fake grass, you don't have to water it or mow it. And let's face it, just how much stuff in Las Vegas is "real?" Using artificial turf in the desert makes perfect sense. For the very real plants they do water, a subsurface drip system is used to avoid evaporation.
9. New laundry technology
Laundry isn't exactly sexy. But with the right technology, you can save a lot of water. And that's exactly what Las Vegas Sands has done. They've hired a vendor that uses new laundry technology to reduce water consumption by 72 percent. Guests participating in the Eco-Linen program -- where guests who are staying more than one night choose when to get fresh towels and linens -- helps the company save more than 11 million gallons of water a year and 170,000 gallons of detergent a year.
8. Designing new light bulbs
When Las Vegas Sands decided to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, it wasn't happy with any of the bulbs on the market, so they had one designed just for them. Yes, they had energy-efficient light bulbs designed just for them. How cool is that?
7. Master light switch
My favorite feature (besides the flat screen HD TV) at my room in the Palazzo was the master light switch. This switch kills all the lights in the room and is located right by the door. It's the handiest new hotel feature I've seen in some time. No more trying to turn all the lights off -- or just leaving them on all day. Instead, hit one switch and all the lights are turned off.
6. Environmental sensors
At the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the hotel rooms will have an "Eco" button a remote control that will give guests the option of raising the temperature of the room a few degrees when no one is using it to save some electricity.
5. Solar thermal systems
If there's one thing the desert has, it's sun. And the Palazzo uses it in a big way. The largest solar thermal system in the United States is at the resort, and it's used to provide hot water for the swimming pools and spas.
4. Recycling solid waste
Now we return to where this story started -- recycling waste. Hidden well out of sight and mind (and smell) to casino customers sit the waste recycling areas. Here, workers sift through garbage and separate solid waste (glass, plastics, aluminum and paper) and food waste. More than 55% of the solid waste generated by the Venetian and Palazzo is recycled.
3. Recycling food waste
The Venetian and Palazzo turn more than 75% of the food waste into either animal feed at local farms or compost. The workers that sort through the trash really deserve a ton of credit. I spent some time watching them work and smelling their work environment. The work is hard, and rooms are smelly. But these people do a great job, and without them these environmental efforts wouldn't work.
2. New water fixtures
I have to admit, I am a fan of long, hot showers. And I like a lot of water pressure. And the Palazzo shower provided plenty of hot water and water pressure, so I was surprised to find out that these fixtures are actually environmentally friendly (even if I'm not). New water fixtures at the Venetian and Palazzo save 20% over standard fixtures. When you combine that with other water saving initiatives at the resorts and the convention center, you get annual savings of 100 million gallons.
1. Making green a priority
I asked Nicholas Rumanes, the vice president for corporate development at Las Vegas Sands, what the keys were to increasing "green" development within Las Vegas Sands, and his answer was pretty interesting. Essentially, he said you have to get the right people talking to each other, and talking to the people in upper management who can transmit the ideas.
"Your organization has to be set up correctly to do that," Rumanes explained.
"You have to make green a priority," added Leven.
"And if we do our jobs right, our guests won't know they're in an eco-friendly establishment," Rumanes said.
Those statements sum up why Las Vegas Sands is leading the way in sustainable development. So the next time you're in the Venetian or the Palazzo, take a look around think about all the little things that are being done to save the environment there. I think you'll be pretty impressed by the scope of it all.