When most travelers think of ethical tourism, they imagine exotic places and different cultures, like the rainforests of Central America or the pyramids in Egypt. However, it is important to remember that travel impacts every destination, not just those located on different continents. Even locals of tourist-infested vacation hot spots prefer that travelers are mindful of their surroundings and make sustainable choices. Indeed, even Sin City benefits from ethical tourism.
Despite the cultivated atmosphere of over-indulgence, it is actually rather easy to travel sustainably in Las Vegas. Here are four ways you can significantly reduce your environmental impact during your whirlwind Vegas vacation.
Getting to Las Vegas is perhaps the most energy-intensive activity of your trip, and both driving and flying place a noticeable strain on the environment. When it comes to the amount of carbon dioxide produced during travel, jet fuel, aviation gas, and small vehicle gas are essentially equal at 21.1 pounds per gallon, 18.4 pounds per gallon, and 19.6 pounds per gallon, respectively.
However, it is important to note that aviation fuel generates worse emissions than cars: Water vapor, black carbon, nitrous oxide, and sulphur oxide all add to the greenhouse effect even more than familiar CO2. Yet, unless you are traveling via private jet ― which is unquestionably the least energy efficient mode of transportation ― flying might be the greenest way to go on vacation. Because planes can carry upwards of 200 passengers, the environmental impact is dramatically lower than if all those people journeyed via personal car.
No matter how you get to Vegas, you will consume energy and create harmful emissions. However, you can work to negate your carbon footprint by making contributions to green initiatives. Some airlines offer passengers the opportunity to add an additional $25 carbon offset to their ticket price, but for most fliers, it is more economical to find offsets elsewhere. Reputable offset providers, like CarbonFund.org, channel your money to carbon-canceling projects like renewable energy, traffic remediation, and nature rehabilitation. Alternatively, you could participate in an offsetting activity while you are in Las Vegas, such as planting a tree or picking up trash.
Speaking of emissions, research on the hospitality industry suggests that the average hotel generates roughly 50 pounds of carbon dioxide every night. The reason for this is obvious once you consider just how much energy most resorts require; they must provide power to hundreds (if not thousands) of personal rooms as well as hallways, bars and restaurants, pools, and more.
Moreover, most hotels dispose of more than three pounds of waste per guest per day, which adds up alarmingly fast. Perhaps worst of all, Vegas hotels are incredibly reliant on water, as features such as pools, fountains, golf courses, and gardens are expected by most tourists. Unfortunately, water is scarce in the Mojave Desert, which means the 120 gallons used per guest per day is especially valuable.
The hospitality industry is slowly and steadily becoming greener, but not without the help of eco-conscious patrons. Thus, selecting a Las Vegas resort for its commitment to sustainable practices will encourage other regional hotels to improve their resource efficiency and become green.
Currently, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation is the hospitality group most committed to reducing environmental impact and conserving resources. Their resorts, which include the Palazzo and the Venetian, consistently rank highest in sustainability amongst the Strip’s luxury hotels. Plus, the accommodations and amenities are luxurious as well as green, so you can enjoy your trip to Las Vegas without worrying about your hotel’s resource management.
There is little doubt why you want to go to Sin City; the vacation hot spot is bursting with exciting light, sound, and opportunity. However, in between your evenings of indulgence, you might plan adventures that will educate you on the region’s culture and history.
One of the most rewarding ethical experiences in Las Vegas is a day trip to the Springs Preserve, which is just 10 minutes from the Strip. This 180-acre space contains trails that lead you through Nevada’s natural wilderness as well as a number of museums and galleries containing Silver State history and art.
Though it might seem easier to be an ethical traveler within your own country, there is still quite a bit you can do to ensure your travels have as little negative impact as possible. By keeping your carbon footprint small, monitoring your resource usage, and staying aware of how you interact with your destination, you can have a memorable vacation that benefits you and the place you visit ― whether it’s Sin City or the Vatican.