Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas

Sustainability is a key ingredient of hospitality culture

Nevada 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.”

SandsExpo The Venetian Las Vegas, The Palazzo Las Vegas, and Sands Expo and Convention Center

LEEDing the Way

Since 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-golf-fallsWynn 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 Vegas

Tropicana 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 Vegas

The 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 Vegas

Aria 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 Vegas

Nowhere 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.

topgolfTopgolf, MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino

What’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-museumMob Museum, Las Vegas

The Green Light

The 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.

Historic Bonanza in Virginia City

historic-bonanzaVirginia City has history and classic American television on its side. While high-rollers head to Las Vegas and Reno draws its share of outdoor lovers, Virginia City reflects the Wild West as portrayed by the hit TV series Bonanza.

Lasting an amazing 14 seasons with 431 episodes, Bonanza featured the Cartwright family, who lived on a ranch just outside Virginia City in the 1860s. NBC’s great Western action drama has helped Virginia City carve out quite a niche for itself, especially among international travelers.

Located 25 miles south of Reno and 45 miles northeast of Lake Tahoe, Virginia City makes a great daytrip for groups meeting in either of those popular meeting destinations. The picturesque Victorian-era town, with the slogan, “Step back in time,” features an authentic Western main street with 10 saloons and bars, museums, historic churches and 19th-century homes. Visitors will want to take the 35-minute trolley ride that loops through one of the largest historic districts in the United States.

Gold Hill Hotel & Salon, only a mile outside of town, is the oldest existing hotel in Nevada, opening in 1861 after gold and silver were discovered in the nearby mountains. There are 17 guest rooms, with several suites and cabins located on property. A small gazebo can be rented for private events.

To bring guests to town, Virginia City hosts a variety of events—ranging from camel and ostrich races to rodeos and motocross—at its 3,000-seat arena.

“These special events do a lot to bring visitors from all over the world to our town,” says Deny Dotson, director of Virginia City Tourism Commission. “Our goal is to bring folks here, let them experience a little of what we have to offer with a fun event and a good time, but ultimately draw them back with our history, authenticity and the experience of stepping back in time.”
Holly Woolard

Beyond Las Vegas


Reno takes pride as Nevada’s second-largest city and has undergone efforts to expand attractions beyond gaming. The National Automobile Museum (pictured above) hosts groups up to 1,200, and its 157-seat theater boasts a 190-square-foot HD screen.

The Big Lebowski fans will be happy to know that Reno is a mecca for bowlers. The National Bowling Stadium has 78 championship lanes open for groups. The stadium’s 65,000 sq. ft. of event space is available for groups in any configuration, and contains the world’s longest video screen (440 feet wide), available for screening or scoring.

For those looking to stay fit in a dramatic setting, boutique Whitney Peak Hotel Reno allows guests to work out on the highest climbing wall in the world, BaseCamp, a 16-story hotel wall. Acrophobes beware!

Increasingly useful in greener Nevada, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa is the only site in Reno that serves as a Tesla Supercharger station. It also is the only hotel connected by skybridge to Reno-Sparks Convention Center, with 500,000 sq. ft. of space.


Just outside Las Vegas in Henderson, The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa (pictured above) is a deluxe nongaming property with easy access to The Strip but still a world apart. The luxurious Mediterranean-style property goes beyond wastewater and energy by using environmentally preferred suppliers and products. Onsite bike rental makes Lake Las Vegas, and even Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, accessible via dedicated bike trails.

Elko Convention Center in Elko recently unveiled a 19,000-square-foot expansion, giving the meeting property 29,000 sq. ft. of space. The mile-high town in Northern Nevada is notable for its outdoor activities, Western folklore and Basque heritage with famous, delicious Basque cuisine. Don’t forget to try the picon punch, a classic Basque cocktail. For something truly different, check out tiny Austin, on Highway 50 halfway between Reno and Elko. The historic mining town has reinvented itself as a mountain biking and hiking destination, surrounded by the spectacular Toiyabe Mountains.

Major Meeting Venues


Elko Convention Center
Recent expansion adds 19,000 sq. ft. for total of 29,000 total sq. ft. of meeting space; 11 meeting rooms; largest meeting rooms offers 12,150 sq. ft.; 2,600 nearby hotel rooms; 50 nearby restaurants.

Red Lion Hotel & Casino Elko
222 guest rooms; fitness center; 24-hour business center; 4,320-square-foot conference room; three meeting rooms.


Eureka Gold Country Inn
Walking distance to Eureka Opera House; 44 guest rooms, including three suites; hot tub; dining area for continental breakfast; weight room; nearby Jackson House dates to 1877 and is used as a spillover property.

Eureka Opera HouseOperaHouseHR
Built in 1880; theater seats 300; banquets seat up to 150; two meeting rooms for up to 50 people; four hotels and inns within walking distance.

Las Vegas

Aria Resort & Casino
4,004 guest rooms; largest LEED Gold hotel in the world; 300,000-square-foot convention center with four ballrooms; Julian Serrano Tapas restaurant.

Caesars Palace Las Vegas
Vegas institution since 1966; 3,960 guest rooms; 300,000-square-foot convention center; theater seats 4,100; restaurants by Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay and Nobu Matsuhisa.

Las Vegas Convention Center
Accessible by monorail just off The Strip; one of the busiest convention centers in the country; 2 million sq. ft. of exhibition space and nearly 250,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 144 meeting rooms; within 3 miles of 100,000 guest rooms.

Linq Hotel & Casino
2,640 guest rooms; 63,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 12 meeting rooms for groups of up to 300; ballroom; ; world’s largest classic car showroom.

MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino
Largest hotel in the United States, with 6,852 rooms; 600,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; restaurants by Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Joel Robuchon and Michael Mina.

Luxor Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
Blue Man Group Las Vegas performs daily; 4,400 guest rooms; 20,000-square-foot ballroom breaks into ten spaces; one of largest pools in Vegas.

Palms Casino Resort
653 guest rooms and suites; The View meeting space holds 476; Ghostbar on 55th floor with glass floored balconies; MTV Real World Suite at $10,000 per night; Drift Spa.

South Point Hotel Casino & Spa
2,079 guest rooms; outdoor pool; spa; 80,000-square-foot exhibition pavilion with energy-efficient lighting; 71,000 sq. ft. of conference space.

The Palazzo Las Vegas
3,068 luxury suites; 720-square-foot standard rooms are largest in Las Vegas; next to LEED Gold Sands Expo and Convention Center, offering 1.25 million sq. ft. of total meeting space; The Palazzo combines with the convention center and The Venetian to form the largest LEED certified complex in the world.

The Venetian Las Vegas
4,049 guest rooms; LEED Gold certified; adjacent to Sands Expo and Convention Center; restaurants by Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Emeril Lagasse; Canyon Ranch spa; 85,000-square-foot ballroom.

The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa
Moroccan-theme nongaming spa resort in Henderson; 493 guest rooms; 90,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space; can accommodate up to 2,100; Spa Moulay; bike rental onsite.

Tropicana Las Vegas
1,502 guest rooms; 72,000 sq. ft. of convention space has undergone recent $200 million makeover; themed meeting rooms such as Beach Club and Havana Room; four restaurants.

Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort
LEED Gold property with Audubon certified golf course; properties combine to offer 4,750 guest rooms and suites and 260,000 sq. ft. of event space; more Forbes Five Star awards than any property in world; Le Reve The Dream show by Cirque du Soleil; convenient location for those meeting at Sands Expo and Convention Center.


Atlantis Casino Resort Spa
2.2 miles from Reno–Tahoe International Airport (RNO); 824 guest rooms; two ballrooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space; spa.

Grand Sierra Resort and Casino
More than 200,000 sq. ft. of event space; 1,900 guest rooms and suites; family friendly, with video arcade, bowling center, movie theater and Top Golf range; 2,700-seat theater hosts concerts.

Peppermill Resort Hotel
AAA Four Diamond geothermal energy innovator; 106,000 sq. ft. of space includes 62,000-square-foot Tuscany Ballroom; 1,635 guest rooms.

Reno-Sparks Convention Center
Five exhibit halls totaling 381,000 sq. ft. of space; 53 meeting rooms, with space for up to 3,000 people; connected to Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.

Silver Legacy
Next to Reno Events Center, with 56,000 sq. ft. of space; 1,710 guest rooms; 33,000-square-foot ballroom; connected to Eldorado Hotel Casino and Circus Circus Reno to create citywide options.