It's glitzy, but can it be green too?
Las Vegas is probably the last place you'll think of when it comes to eco-friendly, sustainable travel. With it's bright lights, thousands of tourists, all-you-can-eat buffets, Las Vegas is all about indulgence. It was surprising to me that after visiting Las Vegas for the 4th time that I started seeing a lot of places taking on sustainability practices. Perhaps, they've been doing it all along, but I'm just noticing now. Either way, I'm glad to see it and I'm happy to share my tips for indulging in Las Vegas without lots of environmental guilt.
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First thing's first, the water bottle situation. This probably by far is my biggest win on my recent visit to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. I successfully went 5 days without purchasing a single single-use water bottle and I drink a lot of water and the desert is very hot. Armed with my trusty insulated Klean Kanteen (yes, this has been a life changing product for me in so many ways), I was able to avoid the expensive and dreaded plastic water bottles. Here's how:
Grab your trusty reusable bottle. Better if insulated to combat the desert heat.
Fill it halfway with ice. Get ice from soda dispensers, hotel ice machines or kindly ask a bartender, barista or waiter.
Fill the rest with water. Get water from a fountain, from the bar or from a natural spring source that I found in the Grand Canyon. With air temps over 100, your water will remain cool and refreshing.
Repeat as often as needed.
Support and stay at places where sustainability practices are one of the hotel's key goals. We stayed at the Monte Carlo, an MGM property. MGM Resorts are leading the way in sustainability. In 2013, they were recognized by the EPA and the state of Nevada for their food waste recovery program. They've installed solar panels at Mandalay Bay Convention Center enough to power thousands of homes in Las Vegas. I also noticed lots of signs in their rooms educating guests about their Green Key Eco-Rating and encouraging customers to reduce towel and sheets usage to save on water. These are terrific steps that sounds small but add up.
Also, as a side note, why do people tend to be so wasteful on holidays than when they are at home. I mean, I don't use up a new towel everyday so why should I do that when traveling.
Refuse or Ask for An Alternative
If you've been to Vegas, there's a lot of "free" stuff being handed out. From drinks on the casino floor to flyers to other tsotchkes, don't forget that the best thing you can do is to refuse these things especially if it's not needed. For drinks, try to get beer or wine that will come in glass. Refuse the small water bottles they give you and bring your reusable on the casino floor. This is also a great way to refuse some extra calories because no matter what that pina colada will always sound good as you place your bets. For places where you might be getting an excess of things, only take what you need. We had a chance to grab burgers at In-n-Out and instead of going all out and each getting a meal combo, we opted to split two combos since the fries were a lot and we could use our own cups to get drinks.
Tour the Canyons Responsibly
We rented a car for a day trip to Red Rock Canyon and hired a van and a driver for the long ride to the Grand Canyon. For both, we had the opportunity to bring our own snacks and get our water bottles refilled. At the Visitor Center at Red Rock Canyon, you'll find those lovely Elkay International fountains. Be warned that the water is warm which is why I recommend filling up with half ice above. The Visitor Center at Red Rock doesn't have an indoor fountain or other places to get drinks other than to buy bottled waters, soda and juices. At the Grand Canyon, we found a natural spring source with cold water at the Yavapai Point. This one is a few miles from the main Visitor Center. I highly recommend skipping the Center and coming here directly for the views and for a refill.
Support Businesses Doing Their Part
Peer in and take a look at how people are getting served. Is it on real, reusable plates or disposable materials? Vegas has something for everyone and taking the time to look and figure out how to reduce your waste while you indulge a little bit can go a long way.
I found a cute cafe connected to Monte Carlo, called Sambalatte. It was pretty quiet which is rare in Vegas so I was able to get some work done there. Fortunately for me, they also had to-stay options for food and drink which means a few less disposable cups to use. I think Sambalatte might be a hidden gem in Vegas. I don't think a lot of people know that it's there yet. It serves great coffee and has a very laid back vibe. As a frequenter of cafes from Istanbul to New York to Portland, I love a good cafe when I see one. I like this one. I love that they had Keep Cups for sale, I love that they are trying also trying to promote local coffee growers in South America. Instead of keeping yourself in one of the hotel Business Center, come here instead. The Wi-Fi is good. The coffee is good. Just make sure to have it to-stay.