The Greening of Las Vegas

Las Vegas is all about the "experience." In a city focused on spontaneous and gluttonous consumption, the trick is to keep the tourists entertained and the green innovation transparent, or the city will undermine its sole reason for being. But, with environmental concerns now looming large, even Las Vegas is looking to replace the Luxor beam with compact fluorescents.

Project CityCenter by MGM Mirage will be the largest LEED-certified development of its kind in the U.S.© MGM Mirage

"The bigger question is, do we even need a Luxor beam?" says Steve Rypka, president of GreenDream Enterprises, a Las Vegas green living consulting firm. "Las Vegas has worldwide recognition. How wonderful it would be for the city to be seen as a leader in green."

From a building perspective, the multibillion-dollar Project CityCenter by MGM Mirage slated to open in 2009 has applied to become a LEED-certified development, the largest of its kind in the U.S.

"MGM Mirage has a commitment to sustainability, but our sheer size requires examining the world of possibilities," said Gordon Absher, an MGM Mirage spokesperson. "The company overall is focused on three key areas for becoming greener: new resort construction, existing resort renovations and maintenance and general sustainable opportunities."

Taxis are a staple on the Strip, and Lucky Cab Company of Nevada introduced Toyota Prius hybrid taxis in 2005. Desiree Dante, vice president of Lucky Cab, says, "We’re expecting that 20 percent of our fleet will be Prius by the end of 2007. We save about $5,000 per vehicle annually with the hybrid cars." Other taxi companies in town are now testing hybrid vehicles in their fleets.

Las Vegas is also the first city in the West to put hydrogen-powered buses on the road to transport tourists from downtown to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. Meanwhile, Nevada Solar One, a solar thermal installation in the desert outside Las Vegas, is producing 64 megawatts of power.

"We’re stewards of the planet," says Rypka. "We now have a tremendous opportunity to use our intelligence to make a difference. There’s currently no green solution for long-distance rapid transportation like air travel, yet Las Vegas is dependent upon tourism. We need to be more creative, to bring people in and lessen the environmental impact."The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau slogan is "What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas." But, when it comes to green living, everybody is affected.