On March 29th, casinos on the Las Vegas Strip joined in a worldwide tradition called Earth Hour. Between 8:30 and 9:30 PM, the casinos dimmed all non-essential lights, including rooftop marquees, in an effort to raise public awareness of electricity usage and energy conservation. Participating companies included Boyd Entertainment, Caesars Entertainment, the Sands of Las Vegas, and MGM.
The Earth Hour Tradition
Not to be confused with Earth Day, which occurs on April 22 every year, Earth Hour is a seven-year-old tradition started by the World Wildlife Fund. The electricity dimming begins in New Zealand and works its way around the globe for a 24-hour period. Not all cities participate in Earth Hour. In the US, approximately 60 cities observe the ritual. This year, Chicago was named the US “Earth Hour Capital” by a panel of judges. The judges selected the Windy City because of its consistent and dedicated promotion of renewable energy. Chicago will receive a $30,000 grant toward the purchase of energy-efficient solar products for its residents because of its commitment to the green cause. City officials are encouraging residents to go “beyond the hour” by installing solar panels that will help conserve energy all year long.
Electricity Use in Las Vegas
As might be expected, the casinos of Las Vegas use an immense amount of electricity each day. The gambling companies' observation of Earth Hour illustrates their awareness of this fact. According to Forbes, Las Vegas casinos account for one fifth of the city's entire electricity usage. Like many other regions on the globe, city officials advocate the use of green technologies to conserve natural resources. Green technology is still a relatively new concept, however, and converting a large city like Las Vegas to such a new form of technology takes time and money.
Air Quality and Transportation
Preserving and improving the quality of the air people breathe, particularly in a bustling city like Las Vegas where so many vehicles and businesses pollute the atmosphere, is an essential component of going green. The Las Vegas government encourages residents to make their next car purchase a fuel efficient one. Hybrid electric vehicles, or HEVs, run on a combination of conventional and non-conventional fuels. Many car companies offer hybrid models for 2014, including Acura, Audi, BMW, Ford, Honda, Kia, and Lexus.
The city's alternative fuel program aims to make all government vehicles as fuel-efficient and green as possible. Las Vegas officials and city workers currently use 85 hybrid vehicles, 125 bi-fueled vehicles, and 368 vehicles that require a biodiesel blend.
Citizens are encouraged to plant trees in Las Vegas to help trap airborne pollutants, absorb harmful gases, and replenish the atmosphere with oxygen. The Las Vegas City Council Urban Forestry Initiative has a goal of increasing tree coverage in the city from 10 to 20 percent by 2035.
Las Vegas offers convenient recycling centers at many of its city parks. Citizens are encouraged to drop off recyclable materials there. The city promotes “single stream” recycling, which means that all forms of recyclable material can be deposited in the same blue box, including plastics, glass, cardboard, and paper. The city recently obtained a new contract with Simple Environmental Services Group. By partnering with this company, the hope is that Las Vegas will reduce its waste management costs by over $300,000 each year.
City employees use recycled products whenever they can to save operational costs. For example, memos are sent on recycled paper, recycled antifreeze is used in city vehicles, and a new park trail system made of recycled materials instead of concrete is currently in the works.
The Water Efficient Technologies program, or WET, offers financial incentives to citizens who use certain water-conserving technologies. These technologies include high-efficiency toilet and shower head retrofits and artificial turf on grassy sports fields. New homes that belong to the city's Water Smart Home program conserve approximately 75,000 gallons of water a year, saving homeowners money and preserving one of the most precious natural resources in the desert: Water.
The city provides an official tip guide for energy efficiency. Some highlighted tips include the following:
- Use Energy Star appliances whenever possible.
- Dry laundry on a clothesline or rack instead of using a dryer.
- Unplug appliances and set water heater on low when taking a vacation.
- Unplug all electrical devices, like computers and toasters, when not in use.
- Keep garage door closed in the winter, especially if it is attached to the house.
- Use a programmable thermostat to minimize unnecessary spikes in heat.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs for maximum energy efficiency.
- Use high-efficiency shower heads and water spigots.
Casinos Going Green
Wynn Las Vegas is in charge of one of the city's most aggressive recycling centers. The Monte Carlo won four "keys" in the Green Key Eco-Rating Program for its efforts toward energy conservation and environmental responsibility. Circus Circus won a similar award for its focus on sustainability and recycling. MGM Resorts International boasts that it is a leader in "environmental stewardship," saving millions of kilowatt electricity hours and billions of gallons of water over the past five years. Indeed, the casinos of Nevada display a keen interest in the energy conservation and sustainability projects that accompany the green movement.
While it's true that the Sin City devours a great deal of electricity every day, it is equally true that the town's casinos are making an effort to minimize their carbon footprint. Earth Hour is just one example of the region's efforts to be responsible stewards of the earth and all its natural resources. As the green movement evolves, more examples of energy conscientiousness in Nevada's gambling halls are sure to emerge.