On the way to his office in the Bellagio's basement, Christopher Peisert stopped to pick up a small piece of trash on the casino floor.
It's not that Peisert is a neat freak. It's just that waste management has become something of a personal mission.
Peisert, 32, manages the Bellagio's service program for the hotel-casino's housekeeping department.
He is also the team leader for Bellagio's Energy and Environmental Services Division, a sustainability program launched by MGM Resorts International at the company's properties.
Peisert joined the "B Green Team" soon after transferring to Bellagio from MGM Grand. He now heads up all five goals of the Energy and Environmental Services Division, including natural resources conservation; renovation and construction; waste management; procurement; and education and communication.
Peisert has taken waste management to heart all his life. He believes it might have begun with his mother, who grew up on a sheep farm in rural Montana.
"She was a great role model," Peisert said. "She taught me to compost everything and minimize water usage. We followed a lot of those conservation practices at home. I grew up in an environment where we were taught to recycle."
At Bellagio, Peisert works closely with employees and vendors in every aspect of waste management. The goal is to recycle materials effectively, sustainably and economically.
He also takes pride in the program's the fifth goal, education and communication.
Peisert welcomes all of Bellagio's 8,300 employees who want to join the hotel-casino's Energy and Environmental Services Division team. He also enjoys when they offer suggestions for making the program better.
"We have interest from employees at all levels of the property, everyone from managers to front line employees," Peisert said. "If you want to get involved, we want you to come and help us out."
Question: How do you get the word out among Bellagio employees about the program?
Answer: New-hire employees get a sustainability introduction training as part of their orientation. Sustainability is important from the corporate level on down. Part of my goal is to share best practices among the different properties. We have monthly B-Green Team meetings at Bellagio that drive home the message and build momentum.
Question: What have been some success stories from Bellagio's sustainability programs?
Answer: The return on investment aspect of sustainability had been phenomenal. The biggest success has been the linen on beds program. Instead of changing linens every day, we change them out every couple of days or when a guest leaves. The program has saved Bellagio about $2 million a year. We have also saved about 16 million gallons of water a year just from that program alone.
Some hotel guests might wonder if this is being done just to save money. It does have an environmental impact as well. It's just as much about the environment as well as the budget. Both of those considerations are very important to us.
Question: How have hotel guests reacted to the program?
Answer: We've tracked how many Bellagio guests request to have their sheets changed every day. The highest number we've ever seen on a single given day is around five guests. That's out of 3,933 hotel rooms here. That's pretty amazing.
I have never seen a guest complain about the fact we have an in-room conservation program. I have heard some people complain that we don't do enough. People who are into sustainability are very passionate about it and they want to work with us to make it successful.
Question: What other unique conservation efforts take place at Bellagio?
Answer: We have a pretty amazing horticulture team at the Bellagio, especially with the Conservatory. We compost 100 percent of all the green waste at the Bellagio, so that plants that would normally be thrown out after their usage are turned into compost.
The summer, we're going to begin an extensive hotel room remodeling at Bellagio and we plan to implement best sustainable practices, such as conserving water and electricity.
We're also very engaged in waste management. We try and capture all materials for recycling before they reach the trash dock. We have teams that sort through trash and pull out as much material as possible, such as cans, bottles and paper. We work with the chefs at all our restaurants to capture food waste, which is then sent to RC Farms (in North Las Vegas) for the pigs.
Question: Is sustainability becoming common in the hotel and lodging industry?
Answer: We're seeing a cultural shift, not only in Las Vegas with the hotels here, but around the world and nationwide. I think 10 years ago, people were much more skeptical about the benefits of sustainability. Conservation efforts were looked at it as if (they) could hurt businesses. That negative stigma is starting to go away. Now, people realize the benefits are very real for the environment.
Question: Do you believe sustainability will become commonplace in Las Vegas?
Answer: I think it already has. When you look at the entire country, the sad fact is that Las Vegas has lagged behind in terms of sustainability initiative. Fortunately, that's turning around in a big way.
Thanks to CityCenter's (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) LEED certifications and the B Green teams at the other MGM Resorts properties, as well as the efforts of our competitors, I think you're seeing a major shift in Las Vegas. Hopefully, Las Vegas will become a leader in sustainable hospitality. Before, it was on the back burner. Now, it's at the forefront.
Our company chairman, Jim Murren, is backing this program and the Bellagio president, Randy Morton, is also behind the program. There is a lot of support from the top of the organization and that's making a big difference.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871.