How Green Do You Want It?

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Mandalay Bay announced this week its plans to build the second largest rooftop solar array in the country by 2014. The solar array will provide the hotel with about 20% of its energy needs. With the many days of sunshine that Las Vegas sees every year, it makes sense to tap into that free resource if possible. There is an upfront cost, of course, but it will pay for itself over time. It’s also a very “green” thing to do. So it’s a win-win for the hotel’s bottom line and its environmental reputation.

Mandalay Bay

Don’t underestimate the goodwill an environmental reputation can generate. I know I think more highly of hotels I know are trying to conserve resources and be environmental. Things like pumps in the shower that dispense shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel are far better for the environment than the little containers of toiletries that most hotels hand out. (Those containers wind up in landfills, after all.) Hotels with motion-sensor lights in the hallways save energy. So do rooms with keycard-activation for lights and air conditioning so energy isn’t being wasted while the room is unoccupied.

But how many people really care if their hotel is environmentally friendly or not? And how deep do those feelings run? How green do you want your hotel to be? And how green do you want it to be if it’s inconvenient or means changing your own behavior?

Many Las Vegas resorts, like the Bellagio, are already engaged in environmental practices that go unseen by hotel guests. They have workers behind the scenes sifting recycling materials out of trash, for instance. Their office areas have those motion-sensor lights. They use energy-efficient LED bulbs in their slot machines. But those things don’t require any sacrifice or change in behavior from guests. What if they did?


I’d like to think that I’m environmental, but the truth is that I’m probably mddle-of-the-road environmental. I create more recycling than trash every week, I have energy-efficient appliances, shop with reusable canvas bags, and I drink my water every day at work out of refillable Kleen Kanteen water bottles.

But I also have a Keurig coffee maker. Those little cups cannot be recycled. I eat frozen lunches every day at work, because I don’t have time to make my lunch any more. Those boxes cannot be recycled. So obviously, I’m environmental up to a point, but when it comes right down to convenience vs. being environmental, the scales tip to convenience.

Are you like that?

How many resorts and hotels actually practice what they preach, anyway? I often see signs in bathrooms saying that towels won’t be changed every day unless you throw them on the floor (which I don’t, because I’m willing to reuse them). And yet, every single day, my towels have been changed. This has been true in almost every hotel I’ve ever visited, in Las Vegas and elsewhere. If I leave a tip for housekeeping every day—which I always do—I find myself drowning in unnecessary toiletries by the end of the week. They seem to feel obligated to leave me extra shampoo just because I left them a couple of bucks.

Shower dispensers

Shower dispensers keep landfills free of toiletry bottles

Every once in awhile, I think it’s important to stop and consider what’s really important to us and why and how we make the decisions we do. So just out of curiosity, I’ve come up with a few questions we can all ask ourselves to find out just how green we want our Las Vegas resorts to be–and how much we are willing to sacrifice to “save the environment”. (Obviously, the survey only applies to those of you who give a damn about the environment, even a little. If you don’t, see you next week!)

1. Do you book your resorts based on their environmental practices?

2. When a resort offers you the option of reusing your towels for more than one day, do you do that?

3. If there were recycling bins all over your resort’s property (in your room, the lobby, casino, pool area, etc.), would you use them?

4. Assuming you consider yourself to be “green,” and if you had a choice between two equal hotels at equal prices that were right next door to each other, one widely known to be “green” and one not particularly environmentally-friendly, which would you choose?

5. What if the environmental hotel were $30/night more expensive than the non-environmental hotel? Which would you choose then?

6. What if the environmental hotel were the same price, but off-Strip?

7. Would you be okay with a keycard-activated system in your room to conserve energy when unoccupied, even if it meant your room was a little warm whenever you returned to it because the a/c hadn’t been running?

8. If a resort was super environmental—energy-efficient, recycling water as much as possible, etc.–but had no Internet or wifi service at all, would you stay there?

9. If the resort you wanted to stay at banned bottled water on its premises (even if you bought it elsewhere), would you stay there?

If you’d like to continue the conversation, please feel free to answer these questions–or pose your own–in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “How Green Do You Want It?

  1. Joanne

    I guess I’m a super bad person but when I go on vacation I don’t want to worry about any of this stuff. I even hate the key card thing with the a/c. When I’m in Vegas and it’s 110 out I want to be able to go into my room and have it be cool for me. I don’t want to reuse my towels either. I figure I’m paying to have luxury for a few days so I want it. I would use recycle bins though. That is no big deal. But I don’t want to pay extra for a hotel to be green. At home, I will do all that stuff but I don’t want to do it on vacation. I know, that’s bad but it’s the truth. Sometimes I think when we think it’s green it’s really not. It ends up costing more electric or gas to do some things we think are green.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I don’t think that makes you a bad person at all, Joanne. I think that makes you normal! Most people probably feel the same way. If you’re on vacation, you don’t want to read all the horrible news in the newspaper, you don’t want to sacrifice, you don’t want to suffer. It’s vacation. Personally, I don’t want to couch-surf or go camping. That’s not MY idea of a vacation, even though it’s cheaper. I think it’s probably a small minority of vacationers who are willing to “rough it” a little bit for a higher cause. I’d be happy to be proven wrong on that, but I doubt I will be. Still, it never hurts to think about these things….

  2. Shawn P

    Most of the energy used by fluorescent bulbs is used at startup, so motion sensors on fluorescent lighting are actually worse for the environment, due to the fact that the motion sensor itself draws a constant 5 watts to remain in the “ready” state, along with the added wear and tear on the bulbs and the starter. The exhaust coming out of a Toyota Camry is almost cleaner than the air you breathe, but most electricity to charge one of those “green” electric cars is generated by burning coal. Most “green” technology just moves the damage from column A to column B.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Now, Shawn, c’mon. I’m pretty sure the exhaust coming out of a Toyota Camry is not cleaner than the air I breathe. I live in Vermont, after all. Air’s pretty clean here.

      1. Hardware

        Almost cleaner, he said, not cleaner. Nonetheless, that would have to be pretty clean exhaust. And I’d love to see documentation of that. Without such documentation, I have to believe the claims about the energy used for fluorescent bulbs to be exaggerated, too.

        I do agree, many environmentally friendly efforts have an opportunity cost. Is it wrong to use more energy to produce less waste? YMMV.

        I haven’t stayed in a room that offers bulk dispensers of soap and shampoo. I wouldn’t prefer it, but individual soaps and shampoos generate a lot of waste, without a doubt. I’d prefer the option to bring my own and save $5/night on a room. This presumes I’m checking a bag when I fly into Vegas, because Lord knows an 8-ounce bottle of shampoo is going to blow up a plane. And yes, I know, I could secretly be carrying gasoline in that shampoo bottle and secretly be planning to light the plane on fire. (I just thought of that scenario….. scary thought.)

        1. Gray Cargill Post author

          Ooh, I like that question, Mike: “Is it wrong to use more energy to produce less waste?” Hmmm….I actually bought some little plastic travel bottles that I can just squirt a few days’ worth of shampoo and conditioner in when I need to bring my own toiletries (yes, I have stayed at places that didn’t have them). They’re reusable of course, so more environmentally friendly than the toiletries you get at the hotel AND better in that I get to use the brand I like. But yeah, then you have to fuss with pulling out the gallon ziploc bag at security. Bleh.

  3. Jeff @ GoTravelzing

    I can see it now. On top the resort fees there will now be a Green Fee and I am not talking about golf. I also doubt they will ban bottled water since they love charging $5 a bottle if you use the ones they conveniently leave for you in your room. I bet they sell a lot of these since most people are too lazy to walk down to CVS/Walgreen which seem to be on every corner of the strip now.

    I try to reuse towels but sometimes they take them off the hook and replace them anyways. (It happened in Toronto)

    I do think a lot of the hotels do a lot more green things than we realize. They just have to because of the amount of resources that they consume.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      LOL, jeez, Jeff, don’t give them any ideas! True about the bottled water–unless they decide to start charging for tap water. Damn, now I’m giving them ideas.

  4. Shelly

    Hi Gray,
    I think environmentally friendly hotels/resorts are just trying to do their part. Of course, nothing is going to be perfect, but let’s give them a hand for at least trying. Yes, I would stay at a place that had separate receptacles for trash. It only takes a moment to throw it in the appropriate containers. This is OUR Earth. It is what WE make it. So, why would we not do our part? Does anyone really NEED fresh towels every use? You are clean after you shower, so why not use them again? I have stayed at places where they give you a certain amount of credit for NOT having housekeeping come in on a daily basis. The containers in the shower are a good idea, but please housekeeping, please make sure to clean them appropriately. Recycled water, sure. I would choose the resort/hotel that is more green over the other for the same price. If the price were different, it would depend on the other amenities/accommodations being offered to me. (Trying to remember all your questions) But for the most part, I have to say kudos to these places for taking the time to be environmentally friendly. Again, this is OUR Earth and WE ALL need to do our part it helping to keep it clean and green.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Good for you, Shelly! Like I said, I am always impressed with a place that tries to be environmental. It doesn’t have to be a totally green hotel, but every little bit helps. Just like every little thing we do helps. Thanks for your response!

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