Las Vegas has long been associated with excess. Buffets that stretch a mile long. Neon signs that glitter to the heavens. Million-dollar jackpots and high-stakes card games. Entertainment all night long. Cocktails around every turn. So how does an environmentally conscious traveler indulge in that excess while warding off the twinge of guilt that perhaps it’s just a bit too much?
Believe it or not, Las Vegas is making strides in going green. The city in the desert has long promoted water-saving techniques, and now more and more hotels, restaurants and attractions are finding ways to lighten their load on the environment so visitors can enjoy the excess without the guilt.
The name Las Vegas means “the meadows,” and few visitors know that this desert city was once a welcome oasis to settlers moving West. One of the most stunning attractions in Las Vegas is on the site of the original springs that fed the valley and is aptly named the Springs Preserve. Opened in 2007, this is an interactive museum, gallery, garden and playground all dedicated to living green. The buildings are platinum LEED certified, the highest ranking in green building possible. The Gardens at the Springs Preserve include eight acres of desert landscaping ideas for a sustainable community. The interactive exhibits show how our everyday lives impact the earth and what we can do to lessen that impact. A flash-flood exhibit tells the story of desert floods and actually recreates a flash flood (don’t stand too close to the edge – you’ll get wet!). This incredible attraction, only three miles from the Las Vegas Strip, is a refreshing and inspiring addition to the plethora of things to do and see in Vegas.
Several adventure tour companies in Las Vegas are as committed to preserving their natural playgrounds as they are to enjoying them. Escape Adventures, which operates tours throughout North America, was the world’s first carbon-neutral outfitter and uses solar power at its offices and vegetable oil to run its fleet of vehicles. The company’s Las Vegas office conducts bicycle trips to nearby Red Rock Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Adrenaline ATV Tours, which happens to be the only ATV company licensed to operate in the magnificent Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, is converting its fleet of ATVs to bio-diesel.
If you plan to stay at a hotel on the Strip, it’s now easier than ever to valet your car (no fee for valet parking in Las Vegas – bonus!) and leave it there for the duration of your trip. The Las Vegas Monorail links the entire Strip and its $5 ticket price is worth avoiding the crowded sidewalks. If walking or taking the Monorail are not options, Lucky Cab Company has a fleet of hybrid taxis, and EV Rental Cars has hybrid options as well.
Many hotels have increased their recycling programs and are replacing water-thirsty landscaping with xeriscaping instead. Boyd Gaming, which owns a spattering of casino resorts in Las Vegas including the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, The Orleans and Fremont Hotel and Casino, has built a state-of-the-art environmentally friendly and LEED certified laundry facility and taken all its laundry services in-house. The laundry facility uses half the water of traditional laundries, 27 percent less energy and 47 percent less natural gas.
The recently completed Palazzo resort was designated the nation’s largest LEED-certified building, and City Center will follow suit once it’s completed next fall. Palazzo’s pools are heated by solar panels, and in the summer even the water for guest rooms will be heated by solar panels. Sensors turn off lights and turn down the air conditioning in empty rooms, and artificial grass and moisture sensors reduce wasteful watering.
Hotels owned by MGM/Mirage and Harrah’s, which total 25 throughout Nevada, are replacing fluorescent lighting with lower-energy lighting and installing sensors that will turn off air-conditioning units when guests are not in their rooms.
Travelers to Las Vegas can feel they’re doing their part to protect the land they’re visiting by staying at eco-conscious hotels, dining at restaurants that offer organic food, taking public transportation and visiting green attractions. And while the action and glamour of the Strip are exciting, they pale in comparison to the natural beauty that awaits just beyond the glare of the lights.