Sustainability is everyone's problem. We all share the same planet and need to contribute to the cultural changes necessary to achieve a new mode of business and lifestyle. The hotel industry has already made great strides in fostering sustainability, and has many associations, certifications, and stakeholders supporting these efforts.1 Given the volume of
people who visit U.S. casinos each year, casinos also have an opportunity to participate in this cultural change. Green casinos will likely attract the same beneficial positive goodwill that Toyota has gained from its leadership in hybrid cars.
From electronic waste to energy-consuming gaming machines, there are countless areas where going green can save resources for both the environment and the property. But to go truly green involves change on three levels: altering products or processes (alpha change), altering systems (beta change), and finally, altering structures (gamma change). As these levels of change increase, so does the sophistication of the implementation and the potential payoff.
Ideally, a strategy for ecological sustainability should embrace each one of these levels. The great danger, however, is to focus only on the first level, alpha change, because this is the simplest form of change with the greatest short terms benefits. The long-term payoff typically comes from gamma or structural change. At all levels, better information and
better control systems provide the green pathways many casinos seek.
Alpha change is directed at improving products or processes to reduce waste. For many organizations, information technology is a major consumer of energy. The traditional desktop PC is an anachronism in the age of the Internet. Moving to lean diskless network computers, where all data is stored on shared servers, can save the energy used to spin disks on every desktop. The browser is already the interface to nearly all applications, and Google has network applications for word processing and spreadsheet applications, and
presentation software is on the way.
Thus, a first stage for most organizations is to move to network computers to reduce energy consumption. For a casino, another move would be to move to low energy slot machines or work with suppliers to develop such products.
Beta change alters current systems or creates new ones. Think of a system as an integrated collection of products and processes designed to achieve a purpose. For example, a casino might designate an executive to monitor the use of energy and other issues related to sustainability with a goal of redesigning processes and modifying products to increase sustainability.
Control systems could be developed, for example, to minimize energy use when there is no human activity within specific areas of a casino. Accordingly, banks of slot machines and their associated lighting could automatically move into sleep mode when no one is in the area and automatically turn back on again when movement is sensed.
The highest level of change, gamma, is targeted at redesigning physical, managerial and cultural structures. New casinos could be designed to be environmentally friendly, and it is encouraging that many casinos intend to achieve a USGBC LEED2 certification. Managerial structures could be changed to establish an executive responsible for green issues and educating staff in reducing waste without unduly compromising guest experience.
We all have to go green, and those who go first will achieve the cost savings sooner and elevate their brand faster.