Saving the planet isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a resort and casino. Or likely the second or the third thing. It's a business that runs 24 hours a day, seven days of the week. And casinos tend to be well-lit to say the least.
But there's no excuse for an always-on entertainment and vacation destination not to be hyper-focused on managing and monitoring its environmental impact, considering how big its energy footprint could be.
As part of the team at Harrah's Resort Southern California, I'm proud to say that conservation is a big deal.
Since we kicked off a company-wide initiative toward eco-friendly choices in 2007, we've gained some valuable insights into how changes, large and small, can contribute to the sustainability and health of the environment -- locally and globally.
Lesson #1: Location, location, location.
As a business that uses electricity 365 days a year, offsetting this impact was a bright idea. Fortunately, in Southern California there is one natural resource that we can almost always count on -- the sun. We get 264 days of sunshine per year; so putting the sun to work seemed like a good choice.
By installing our 5.5-acre solar field, we've discovered a couple of unexpected benefits:
1. The impact of solar is more than just creating your own clean energy, it's also the impact you have by not putting out. Generating our own solar power conserves as much carbon dioxide as planting 450 trees per year or keeping 1,722 cars off the road.
2. Once in place, solar fields require minimal maintenance. After the initial cost of the equipment and setup, the equipment has a long life span. Aside from dusting and a few minor repairs annually, a solar field pretty much takes care of itself.
Lesson #2: Food from your backyard tastes better.
Farm to table isn't just a cool catch phrase. When businesses choose to buy from local sources, guests reap the benefits. Purchasing from local farms reduces carbon footprints and helps to put money back into the local economy. In addition, choosing sustainably caught seafood is both preferred by most people and has a larger value to the planet.
Lesson #3: Even the smallest change can have a global impact.
According to the World Health Organization, over two million children under the age of five die every year from diseases preventable by good hygiene. While everyone loves the convenience of complimentary soap and shampoo, they tend to generate a great deal of waste. By partnering with organizations like Clean The World, resorts and hotels can donate thousands of pounds of soap and hygiene products, which are then sanitized, repackaged and redistributed globally in areas where they are needed.
Lesson #4: You win some, you lose some.
Look, not every earth-friendly idea is good for every individual or business. In the nine years of our CodeGreen initiative we've had a few programs strike out. For example, we undertook a large composting project that turned out to be more of a burden than a blessing. Instead of sticking to it just because we thought it could work, we pulled back, reached out to our team for new ideas and found other areas where we could make a difference.
Going green isn't glamorous but the lessons we've learned can easily be translated to choices at home. You never know who can come up with a great idea, so stay open to possibilities--even the smallest efforts can have a huge impact on the planet.