How Las Vegas Aims to Hit the Green Meetings Jackpot

Feb 14, 2014 3:00 PM ET

By Nikki Gloudeman
Published February 14, 2014

When you think of Las Vegas, bright lights and glitz probably come to mind — not exactly eco-friendly concepts. So it's somewhat surprising to learn that the city has developed into a sustainable city for meetings and events.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) touts practices including "the use of sustainable products, energy-efficient lighting, water conservation, sustainable food choices, green building, reducing carbon emissions, cleansing and recycling excess soap and shampoo for use in developing countries [through the program Clean the World] and donating extra food to food banks." That's according to Taryle Spain, director of client services.

At a destination level, significant results have been attained across several sectors.

Recycling? Check. In 2012, the Cashman Center and Las Vegas Convention Center — the third-largest of its kind in the nation — recycled a record 68 percent, or 3,288 tons, of materials. Alt-fuel transportation infrastructure? Check. About a month ago, the LVCVA introduced four electronic-vehicle charging stations to serve delegates at the convention center. Community-building? Check. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Vegas-based Zappos, seeks to turn Vegas into the "most community-focused large city in the world".

In addition, several of the city's resorts have embraced bold programs, spanning everything from building efficiency to food-waste reduction.

This isn't to say Vegas is perfect, or that there's not more work to be done. Indeed, many stats remain troubling. Southern Nevada, anchored by Las Vegas, has a peak-load electricity demand of 5,761 megawatts — about five times higher than in northern Nevada. Similarly, southern Nevada powers 103,005 commercial and street lights, far higher than northern Nevada's 45,223.

The desert city also remains water-strapped. In 2012, the Las Vegas Valley used about 108 billion gallons of water, a 1.6 percent increase from 2011. That's to say nothing of the emissions burned by the roughly 40 million tourists who travel to the city each year.

Still, it's worth noting the city's significant green-meeting strides — especially considering Vegas' towering event infrastructure and perceptions of lavishness. Here are some major hotel companies leading the charge to reinvent Sin City as a green meetings city to watch.

Caesars Entertainment
Caesars Entertainment owns some of the Strip's largest resorts and casinos — including Caesars Palace, Paris, Bally's, Flamingo, Rio, Planet Hollywood, Harrah's Las Vegas and The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace). The corporation launched its influential CodeGreen program in 2008. This strategy aims to minimize water, energy and waste across the global corporate portfolio, with a focus on engaging employees to drive change. To date, more than 200 banquet and meeting managers, including national sales managers, have been trained to work with planners to execute sustainable events. 

As an extra step, the company rewards employees for implementing CodeGreen measures in their homes. So far, Caesars has awarded $80,000 in reward credits to employees who have, for example, completed a home energy audit or donated fruit from their gardens to local shelters. Employees can use these incentives for gifts and trips.

The company additionally has extended its green efforts through outside partnerships. For instance, it has contributed $1.5 million to the Public Education Foundation Teacher Exchange, which connects teachers with school materials. About 400,000 pounds of recycled meeting and event materials have been donated to the foundation — reducing waste while supporting local education.

To make its case to stakeholders and consumers, the company has carefully tracked progress. It is able to tout, for example, that over the past nine years, $70 million has been invested into energy-efficiency programs at a corporate level (not including what properties have invested on their own). 

While these initiatives serve the environmental cause, Gwen Migita, director of corporate social responsibility for the company, notes that it also has bolstered the bottom line and key brand values. "The learning lesson for us has been how to link sustainability back into our core business model," she said. "We recognize that happy customers are more loyal customers, so it ties into profitability."

Next on the agenda is a plan to add more electric-vehicle charging stations to Caesars' properties in major markets throughout the United States — an initiative already in place at the Las Vegas Flamingo and expanded to Lake Tahoe and Reno properties. There are 16 stations in Northern Nevada, the most in the region.