The Greening of Las Vegas

The Green Chamber of Commerce opens its second national branch right here, of all places

Money isn’t the only green thing in Las Vegas, at least not anymore. The recent debut of the Green Chamber of Commerce Las Vegas Chapter in August is a nod to our growing sustainability. The Las Vegas chapter is actually the first outside of the national office in San Francisco, which opened in 2007.

Las Vegas chapter president Greg St. Martin insists that the quick opening was more circumstantial than political. Five other chapters are in the process of opening across the country, but the Las Vegas one was quickest to the draw. That speed is actually something more commonly associated with Las Vegas than its sustainability.

St. Martin hears it all the time—the surprise and stifled laughter that comes across when the words “Las Vegas” and “green” are used in the same sentence. But a quick Internet search (or, more specifically, a search on the Secretary of State’s page) demonstrates how commonly those words are paired. In fact, the Green Chamber of Commerce Las Vegas Chapter isn’t the only game in town. There’s also the Las Vegas International Green Chamber of Commerce and Ward 5’s Green Chamber of Commerce.

“The green economy in Las Vegas is making a huge transformation, that’s due in great part to [Sen.] Harry Reid with his green initiatives in this town,” St. Martin says.

Reid has worked to bring new-energy jobs to Nevada, most recently with the opening of A-Power Energy Generation Systems, which will bring 1,000 jobs to a Henderson LED manufacturing and wind turbine plant. On Oct. 12, Reid attended a dedication ceremony for the plant and said, “Today, we’re here for a strategy for tomorrow. Nevada is already the nation’s hub for renewable energy.”

Las Vegas has seen a dramatic increase in sustainability in just the last two years. CityCenter brought the green spotlight to Las Vegas with its LEED-certified facilities, joining the ranks of the Palazzo; Molasky Corporate Center; the UNLV Science Engineering and Technology Building; the Springs Preserve Origen Experience, Guest Services buildings and Desert Living Center; and many other sustainable structures. The city of Las Vegas’ fleet of cars runs on alternative fuels, making it among the cleanest in the country. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is acquiring a fleet of bicycles to distribute to other governmental offices.

Look around and see double-decker buses and the monorail (often a punchline, but still, it’s a monorail). There are farmers markets and a growing number of recycling programs. While we won’t likely be seeing Las Vegas on any “Greenest Cities” lists anytime soon—we’re in the desert and chock-a-block with irrigated lawns, fake lakes, a fake volcano, swimming pools and a practically impenetrable car culture, to name a few non-green things—change is afoot. And the Green Chamber of Commerce aims to help support and foster that change.

St. Martin says the chamber doesn’t have strict qualifications for joining, but requests that members exhibit a number of sustainable qualities and be interested in becoming more so, whether that means switching out lightbulbs, recycling, becoming paperless or other steps. Since August, 32 businesses have joined, including Mandalay Bay, Freeman exhibit services, Realm of Design, Stewart Title, Green Clean Commercial Cleaning, Sprint and more. St. Martin says that in time he hopes to have 500 members.

“We’re going to educate the public on green and we’re going to educate the public that we have the green members that do what they need in green,” he says. “We have a place where green companies can all unite and come together and network among each other. The most loyal people in the world, that I’ve found, are green companies. They like to work with each other.”