Travel News

Las Vegas Goes Green

Locations in this article:  Austin, TX Chicago, IL Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas StripThere might be plenty of ego in Las Vegas, but what about eco? Absolutely. The city famous for taking a gamble is rolling the dice that visitors are willing to spend green for an environmentally friendly Vegas.

Virtuous Traveler Leslie Garrett continues her series of big cities with an unexpectedly eco-friendly twist.

Lots of people think “green” when they think Vegas. But most are already counting the greenbacks they plan on bringing home from the casinos.

But green as in eco? Vegas? You can be forgiven for a certain skepticism.

Yet Sin City has cast an eye toward sustainability.

And, as a city that the world tends to watch, it’s prepared to make the notion of eco-friendliness more than just a gamble.

Steve Rypka is president of Green Dream Enterprises, a Vegas-based green living consulting firm. While he admits his city was a little slow out of the gates in terms of moving toward sustainability, in typical Vegas fashion it has now “taken on a life of its own.” He points specifically to the leviathan $7-billion undertaking by the MGM Mirage. Project CityCenter, as it is called, aims to be constructed by 2009.

While the sheer size of it—upon completion it will boast seven underground parking lots, a retail and entertainment district hotels, residences and, of course, a casino—would make many environmentalists roll their eyes, Rypka gives MGM kudos for taking the lead and notes that the company is greening its other properties, too.

Desert landscapeGlenn Hasek, publisher and editor of Green Lodging News is also impressed by the magnitude of the MGM project. It’s “currently the largest project in the United States in pursuit of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.” What’s more, he says, “the historic CityCenter development, combined with the growing acceptance of LEED as a green building standard, has encouraged other hotel owners/developers to follow suit.”

Rypka has noticed the trend, too, commenting that “corporations realize that environmental stewardship make good business sense.”

It was “good business” that was behind the decision by Lucky Cab Company executives to add hybrids to its fleet. Ten percent of the company’s cars are currently hybrids, says Rick Hammes, operations manager for Lucky, with plans to boost that number to half. While he says that customers like the cars and the drivers love them, it was really cost-savings that drove the decision.

“The savings are just so much,” he says. “In two years, the cars have paid for themselves.”

But hybrid taxis aren’t he only green mode of transport in Vegas. Shoppers can hop a hydrogen bus to travel from downtown to the Premium Outlets district.

And to further attract the green that tourists bring with them, the city is offering up some new eco-attractions.

Gardens Springs PreserveThe Springs Preserve opened in June of 2007 and casts a wary glance back at Vegas’ past (indeed, the city is situated on the original site for the springs, a verdant valley which led early settlers to call it Las Vegas—Spanish for “the meadows,” explains Steve Rypka—and an optimistic eye toward a more eco-friendly future).

Exhibits and classes offer up advice on protecting resources and appreciating area wildlife and flora. There are nature trails, eight acres of gardens with more than 1,200 plant species and, for those interested in sustainable gourmet cuisine, a café operated by Wolfgang Puck is planned for 2009.

Also in the works is a 30-story vertical farm, perhaps not surprisingly the world’s first. This mega project—called the World—is expected to cost about $200 million. The idea is that it will grow enough food to feed 72,000 people for a year and provide another larger-than-life tourist attraction.

This one would grow everything from strawberries to bananas, making the popular eco-trend of eating locally a lot more palatable. The project is expected to open its doors in 2010. It might be considered a risky venture to wager that the city of excess and extravagance could re-invent itself as the city of environmental sensibility. But it’s one that will likely pay off in spades.

Leslie Garrett is author of The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World.Visit her at

Previously By Leslie Garrett::

Austin: Texas Gold and Green

Carbon Offsets: Travel With a Clean Conscience?

Eco-Oakland: The City You Only Thought You Knew

Chicago: More Green Than Meets the Eye


The Good, The Green and the Downright Crazy Tours

Green Travel Gadgets

Green Honeymoons

Bye Polar: Arctic Travel

Need more interesting travel ideas for Las Vegas? Check out the Luckiest Day in Vegas.

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