The reinvention of Sin City as a sustainable city


Las Vegas is a city long associated with the idea of excess and even waste, but in recent years, there has been a notable shift toward sustainability and best environmental practice.

When you first visit Las Vegas, the sight of so many spectacular casino resorts along the famous Las Vegas Strip gives the overwhelming impression of a city that lives to excess, but think about the city’s location and you quickly realize that this is one place where sustainability is key. Las Vegas is located in the Mojave Desert, in an arid environment and a subtropical, desert climate. As such, water is a precious resource, but at the same time, the emergence of Las Vegas as the “entertainment capital of the world” has meant huge pressure on water resources within the city itself.

Nevada, Las Vegas’s home state, is one of a total of seven states dependent on the water of the Colorado River, and over the years that river has become over-burdened. As a result, any initiative to preserve water supplies is welcome, and in Las Vegas the conservation of water is a key element of the environmental strategies that have been adopted and implemented by the city’s casino resorts. Indeed, most of the water used by the casinos is actually pumped into a treatment facility and ultimately returned to nearby Lake Mead, the massive reservoir that serves Las Vegas and other communities across Nevada, Arizona, and California. In doing so, the casino resorts are sending water back into the reservoir that would otherwise be lost, thus potentially preventing water shortages in a city that has become one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the US.

Of course, environmental sustainability goes beyond the preservation of water supplies. The environmental strategies of the casinos also emphasize the recycling of waste. It is estimated that the casinos produce almost 500,000 tons of waste each year. Until recent years, most of that waste wound up in landfill sites, but the casinos have introduced sorting systems in their back-of-house operations. Even food waste is sorted.

A third way in which Las Vegas is embracing environmental sustainability is energy supply. As befits its desert location, Las Vegas has become a solar power hub. Figures compiled by GTM Research show that in 2014, the state of Nevada was the third-highest state for the installation of solar. Nevada, with its abundant sunshine and plentiful land for solar panel installation, is an example of using what you have to sustain energy and help the environment.

Steve Wynn is someone who knows all about sustainability in Las Vegas. As chief executive and chairman of Wynn Resorts Limited, he oversees a company that has played a big role in the redevelopment of the Las Vegas Strip. In the past, Wynn has opened such distinctive Las Vegas resorts as Bellagio, Treasure Island, and Mirage. In his work, Wynn has helped reshape the image of Las Vegas as a more sustainable city, using the best in environmental practices. The Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resorts have achieved the Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation, thanks to such initiatives as efficient plumbing, the installation of energy-saving technologies, and the use of goods made with recycled content. During recent renovations of guest rooms, Wynn emphasized the importance of sustainability by recycling and repurposing all materials removed from the rooms in question.

Reinvention means renewal, and renewal is what keeps a city going into the future. The ability of Las Vegas to reinvent itself means that as a visitor destination and as somewhere to live, it will keep going long into the future.