by Kathy Callahan
Having—and touting—eco-friendly, sustainable gaming facilities should be a priority
Kathy Callahan is a communications consultant working with the gaming industry. She can be reached at (702) 415-9806, or by e-mail at KBC17400@aol.com
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. These are the three bywords of “green” sustainability thinking: reduce consumption of non-renewable energy and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of your business, reuse precious natural resources, recycle valuable materials. It’s a hot topic in business today.
Stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, environmental groups and the general public, are holding companies to higher standards across a three-part bottom line of economic, social and environmental management. And sustainability can make headlines, both positive and negative.
Not to criticize, but the gaming industry appears to be slow to embrace the issue. Look on the American Gaming Association Web site, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a fact sheet or any other information on sustainability. It takes more than a few clicks to find information, if any, on the Web sites of the major casino companies. So even if we are making strides in this area, we’re not making it public.
If the industry is a late adopter, our many stakeholders may not be—so there’s no time like the present to start to get ahead of this issue. And that’s both in terms of our actions, and then telling our story.
The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) offers extensive information on how its members can create a full-fledged green program for their businesses. We can take a page from the AH&LA and examine how some of their practices might apply to our own hotels and resorts.
The AH&LA looks at three primary areas for environmental management: energy, waste and water. Marriott Hotels is a leader in this arena and is the first hotel company to join the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders Program, which the company promotes on the “Environmental Stewardship” section of its Web site. Marriott set a five-year goal to reduce greenhouse gases by six percent per guestroom by 2010 and launched their retro-commissioning initiative in 2006 to maximize energy in all U.S. hotels. They are well on their way and have already reduced greenhouse gases in 2006 by two percent in each guestroom.
Reducing energy usage has some obvious low-hanging fruit, such as replacing traditional light bulbs with lower-energy versions. Marriott’s “Re-Lamp” campaign replaced 450,000 light bulbs with fluorescent lighting in 2006, saving 65 percent on overall lighting costs and energy usage in guestrooms. Consider the number of light bulbs in even a modestly-sized casino resort, and the implications for your property can be staggering. Marriott also replaced 4,500 outdoor signs with LED and fiber optic technology, yielding a 40 percent reduction in outdoor advertising use in its first year.
Building greener buildings from the ground up is an important way to conserve energy and improve overall sustainability. Kudos to MGM Mirage for committing to build its CityCenter project according to the strict guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, which is the nationally accepted green building rating system. The LEED certification promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
In terms of waste, the AH&LA recommends identifying waste streams (such as glass, paper, plastic, aluminum and other metals, cooking oils, surplus prepared food, cardboard and organic waste) and how the waste is currently dealt with, then setting targets to minimize waste by reducing, recycling or reusing.
Marriott has attacked waste on one front by recycling materials during hotel renovations. According to its Web site, more than 90 percent of building materials—steel, concrete and copper—will be reused in the construction of a new Residence Inn and an addition to the Courtyard Hotel in South Miami. Furniture, fixtures and equipment from the renovation were donated to non-profit groups rather than being sent to a landfill.
Saving water is not hard to do, and in the desert where every drop is precious, it should be an imperative. All of us have seen hotel tent cards encouraging guests to reuse towels and bed linens. Marriott reports its nationwide program has saved 11 to 17 percent on hot water and sewer bills involved in laundering operations at each hotel. Installing 400,000 new showerheads has reduced hot water usage by 10 percent each year. Again, that’s just the low-hanging fruit. Other ideas can include using grey water for gardening, washing floors or flushing toilets, or capturing rainwater for reuse.
Green business isn’t just a fringe movement. It’s good business and it’s increasingly considered in a company’s reputation scorecard. Fortune now has a listing of “10 green giants,” BusinessWeek names top green companies and so does Working Mother. Make it your mission to be the first casino company on one of those lists.