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Laura Carroll

LV Sands has cool attractions, but what about those shade trees?

18 July 2012

Las Vegas Sands Corp. may be best known for over-the-top attractions such as The Venetian gondola rides in the desert, but the global gaming giant also wants you to know about its shade trees.

Those are the 250 trees on the roof of its Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino in Singapore. The SkyPark's forest helps keep the building cool and returns oxygen to the environment. (It's also a revenue center. Observation deck tickets are $20 for adults.)

That green effort was one of many highlighted in the company's just-released report on its Sands Eco 360 program, which extends from The Venetian and The Palazzo to the corporation's other properties in Pennsylvania, Singapore and Macao.

Las Vegas Sands began its sustainability efforts seven years ago, but this report is the company's first compilation verified by an independent source. The study of the company's green operations was verified by Amsterdam-based Global Reporting Initiative, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainability.

"It is the most recognized standard for reporting globally, so that's why we chose GRI," said Katarina Tesarova, executive director of global sustainability for Las Vegas Sands.

In 2011, Las Vegas Sands spent $2.5 million on capital expenses to sustain environmental efforts. In addition, each property has a sustainability director to lead the charge.

"We know that, yes, we are reducing costs by doing this. We also know that by investing into these right technologies we have a payback on certain items over the next seven or eight years," said Norbert Riezler, senior vice president and chief procurement sustainability officer.

Riezler also noted that many conventions and meetings, such as October's IMEX America show, choose meeting space based on green options the host can offer. That makes going green good for business.

"It starts becoming a differentiator," he said.

In Las Vegas, The Palazzo houses one of the nation's largest rooftop solar-thermal systems. A collection area of 18,200 square feet with 364 panels provides hot water for swimming pools and spas.

Through its Sands Eco 360 program, Las Vegas Sands also solicits employee suggestions, many of which have resulted in bottom-line savings.

For instance, toasters in the employee cafeteria previously ran continuously. Based on an employee's suggestion, they toast only when they're fed bread - a $20,000 savings in energy costs.

"It's these simple ideas that work," Riezler said.

But the company is focuses on changes that can have the most impact, such as using steel that has 95 percent recycled content in the construction of The Palazzo.

"Ultimately, it's not about us, but about what we do and how it affects other people," said Michael Leven, president and COO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The Sands Bethlehem property in Pennsylvania, for example, is built on the 126-acre former Bethlehem Steel plant, once the largest brownfield site in the nation.

Contamination in the Sands Bethlehem area was remediated in line with a site-specific environmental standard. During demolition, more than 22,500 tons of steel was sent to recyclers, with much of it returned to the site for use in building the resort. In 2011, team members worked with community volunteers at the annual Southside Cleanup, making a once-polluted river that borders Sands Bethlehem a habitat for wildlife and a valued community resource.

Michael Luehrs, president of the Green Meetings Industry Council said it was "heartening" that the company is focused on all aspects of sustainability, including carbon and water.

"Anybody who feels this is a trend, isn't really paying attention," Luehrs said of sustainability efforts.