Sustainability is a growing norm in the business arena as operations acknowledge that efficiency reducing their carbon footprint and saving them money. I had a chance to chat with Christopher Brophy, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability for MGM Resorts International about what it takes to sustain a LEED Gold certified luxury property.
“ARIA’s sustainability efforts have not only earned the property a number of environmental awards, but it’s also challenged the status quo in Las Vegas. By using living vegetation, innovative heating and cooling systems and reducing unnecessary waste, ARIA has demonstrated that modern luxury and environmental integrity go hand in hand.”
Who catches the small details of wasting resources and making those changes?
That came out of the part of our launching of our environmental responsibility program and part of launching those green teams (who) we sat down with. The initial green teams were executives from each of the operating areas and so we talked through what our goals were, what we look at from operating procedures standpoint and how we focus in on energy and water conservation, how we focus on green building, waste management, procurement and just education and outreach. So having those conversations as we came up with some best practices we wanted them to implement, they came back to us saying oh well here’s some ideas that we have too
Do people on the green teams have individual responsibilities?
Each (person) of our green team is a volunteer as it relates to sustainability. They are executives or managers or supervisors within some of the operating departments like food and beverage, like casino operations, like hotel operations, housekeeping executives, executive chefs…It isn’t their normal course of responsibility but the point was we wanted to have representation from each of those operating areas so that we could identify best practices for each of them and make it relevant to their daily operating lives.
Do you work with or acquire inventory products foods etc from local businesses and vendors?
Yes we do. I think honestly we’d like to buy a lot more of those things locally but particularly as it relates to food in Las Vegas, it all depends on your definition of local if your talking about 100 miles, it is a pretty tight range. If your talking 200-500 miles, we get a vast majority from pretty local (and) regional places. We have good access into California and Arizona, so yes in that sense. I think that’s a part of what we’re really trying to improve is our supply chain this year. We focused on identifying things we can do better and we’re doing some pilot programs with some of our larger suppliers and identifying ways we can produce more local, more sustainable products. But then the other side of that is we do purchase do a lot of service providers that are local but that’s separate from the sustainable products if you will.
What are some goals over the next few years for your LEED certified properties to sustain and increase the green aspects and reduce your carbon footprint?
Our goals always fall in those five categories (Energy and Water Conservation, Green Building, Recycling and Waste Management, Sustainable Supply Chain, Outreach and Education). As we continue to operate both our LEED certified and those not LEED certified, we look to improve our operations in respect to those 5 goals. As well look to change lighting to even more advanced technology where it makes sense, we look to manage our buildings better and energy profiles of those buildings. So city center was an incredible platform to work from but even though it was built to be a 35% more energy efficient, we are constantly looking to increase that number and find ways to better use the systems that we have. I think a great example of that is we worked with one of our meetings customers to really quantify what their carbon foot print was while they stayed with us. And it turned out that what we measured was about 38% more energy efficient and more carbon efficient than if you took a typical Las Vegas property and what they came back and told us was actually their footprint turned out to be 41% less than the year before at a competing hotel. So that speaks to how we are continually working to improve given the platform that we have. I think just some other examples are we look to take what we learned through city center and bring that to our other properties as well and look like. Just like with LEED for independent verification, or validation of what we’ve been doing, Green Key is a good example of that where 15 of our properties have received their green key certification. and what we have are 4 properties that are rated at 5 keys which is the highest rating in the system and less than 2% of the 3,000 properties that submit to that program get 5 keys. and we are doing that on a 4,000 room scale
What details should Eco-conscious travelers look for in their rooms when traveling?
Just in travel in general, there’s only a few ways to look at the impact you have. obviously thee is the impact of getting there: how you get there, how you get your stuff there, and back. we don’t have much control over that. then there is picking the venue so picking a place that has a lot of that infrastructure already built in, a place that is designed to be efficient, a place whose processes support environmental responsibility and I think that’s where we really excel in particular the Aria and Vdara excel. But then there’s the things you can do and what you can look for within that facility and how you interact with the facility while your on your vacation or while you traveling. So within the room you want to look for “how water efficient are the fixtures within my room. is it a dual flush toilet or low water use toilet..We try to provide a luxury feel but in a more sustainable way. We have specially designed shower heads that are low flow but feel like they are not.. Also in the room, lighting is a big deal. Are there energy efficient bulbs, fixtures but even more than that is the controls for the room. are you able to control the temperature within the room? Do the temperatures go back to a more energy efficient mode when your not in the room for a certain amount of time. In the Aria, the room shuts down all together so there’s almost no energy flowing to the rooms until somebody has checked into the room. and there is a master switch that turns that on. When you open the door and walk in the curtains open to let the light in.
Could you talk about the stay well rooms at MGM?
They are designed to take the concept of sustainability and environmental responsibility and really bring that to the next level which is obviously human health and really enhance the guest’s experience in a place you wouldn’t necessarily expect that, which is Las Vegas. We want to provide guest with a way to really rejuvenate and get the most out of the time they spend in their rooms. Some of the features that are built into the rooms are designed to have emf protection that protect from electromagnetic fields. In the Aria, the rooms are smart to begin with. We did a lot to make those rooms their own environments.
What I learned from MGM/Aria and it’s green teams is that is really does take a team commitment to make sustainability work. By integrating the feedback of staff, it makes it easier to identify issues that could be made more efficient. Having best practices in place as the undercurrent of an establishment make it easier for guests to be active participants by choosing a hotel that has a defined, green initiative. I hope to return to Vegas soon and experience one of those stay well rooms as it sounds like a green living gal like myself could enjoy it.
Thanks to Rey Bouknight II, Director of Corporate Communications of MGM Resorts International for taking the time to meet with me during my quick trip to Vegas.