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Vida Las Vegas: Sustainability in Sin City

Nevada's most glamorous city turns up the heat with its eco-friendly offerings
Kate Russell
Omega Mart

Omega Mart

Kate Russell

Las Vegas is arguably the last destination most people think about when thinking of eco-friendly vacations. I watched Teslas zoom by while I passed the solar fields just outside the Strip on an uncomfortably hot spring day and it made me think: Sure, I offset my road trip’s carbon by donating to an organization that plants trees along my planned route, but that seemed like a Band-Aid. I had hoped for this trip to use regenerative travel practices, a growing traveling philosophy that dictates one shouldn’t only leave a place as they found it, but also seek to make it better. With that in mind, I set out on a quest to do more good than harm in Sin, eh… Sinless City.


I start my venture with using the zero-emissions monorail on the Strip, which removes 2.1 million vehicles a year from the clogged roadway. Inside the just-off-the-Strip Area 51 is the family-friendly art experience Meow Wolf–the only certified B-Corporation (a certification program for environmental/social performance) in the themed entertainment industry.

The collective’s brand-new permanent installation, “Omega Mart,” is a tripped-out convenience store offering some food for thought on how we live now. Part of the entrance fee goes to support local community organizations. In addition, Meow Wolf partners with local artists to create public installations, like Luis Varela Rico’s e-waste sculpture at Goodwill of Southern Nevada.

Arcadia Earth, cave

Arcadia Earth

Leong Sim

Another artsy experience is Arcadia Earth, the first immersive environmental art exhibit to explore our natural world’s challenges. Using large-scale installations built from upcycled materials, plus augmented and virtual reality, Arcadia Earth presents climate education in a fun way. To offset their emissions, they partnered with Sea Trees, an ocean reforestation nonprofit, to help regenerate kelp forests in California.


Locating a truly green hotel can be a challenge in Las Vegas, but some properties are trying harder than others to reduce their environmental footprints. For example, a large portion of the electricity needed to power slots at MGM Resorts Aria and Vdara and pool pumping at the Wynn Las Vegas, are powered by solar fields like the one I’d seen driving in. Still, few Vegas resorts were making headway in their dependence on fossil fuels. A good tip is to look into a resort’s water reuse practices and use that as a guideline.

Wynn Las Vegas

Wynn Las Vegas

Barbara Kraft


While hunting for locally sourced cuisine, one friend laughed and said to me, “There are no farms in Vegas.” He was wrong. Enter the Summerlin neighborhood’s Honey Salt, Vegas’ only authentic farm-to-table restaurant (so far).

From the designing minds of Elizabeth Blau and Chef Kim Canteenwalla, the former of which is often credited for making Vegas a culinary destination in the first place, the sleek and stylish Honey Salt sources much of its veggie sides for its new summer seafood boil from Desert Blooms Farm in nearby Tecopa. Rumor has it that a carbon-neutral brewery, Brewdog, is also in the works for future visitors.


Friends told me to get off the Strip to find inspiration and maybe make an impact. Spring Preserve’s Origen Museum educates community members and eco-travelers about the intense process of building sustainably in the interactive (and air-conditioned) LEED-certified museum. The property’s four trails, first traversed by the Paiute Indians, wind around the complex and ribbon into a cottonwood grove and past natural springs threaded with reeds. There, native tortoises baked in the sun, offering an unexpected lesson on how slowness helps a body adapt to oppressive heat.

I took a day kayak trip from the base of the Hoover Dam, up the Colorado River, to a natural hot spring and the Emerald Cave with Evolution Expeditions. Throughout the journey, I learned about conservation efforts and the west’s water crisis (40 million people rely on water from Lake Mead). Visitors can paddle along the rushing river, past waterfalls, bighorn sheep, and bald eagles, stopping to traverse slot canyons.

While meandering along a river so strong it carved canyons, it becomes clear to me that Vegas is evolving, perhaps not as quickly as other cities, but it’s trying. And spending our tourism dollars wisely can help support that.

By Michele Bigley

Writer, author, dancer, explorer and educator Michele Bigley recently relocated to San Diego from the Bay Area. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Afar, Wired, Sierra, Via, Westways, Los Angeles Times and many more. Follow her adventures at @michelebigley

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