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There is much to like about Las Vegas Valley

I’ve lived in Southern Nevada for about 35 years and, I must admit, I’m really starting to like it. I suppose it takes time for anyone to settle in, but in this case, it is the transformation of the community that is making the difference for me. Ever since Bugsy Siegel’s heyday, there has been a lot happening here, but I often felt there was something lacking. Whatever that gap was for me, it is now rapidly shrinking.

I like the green developments that are sprouting here and there. We need more, of course, but at least now people can actually shop for a green home and have a chance of finding one. Builders, Realtors, appraisers and lenders are getting on board as the value of green housing is increasingly acknowledged. There are new paths for existing homeowners to green their properties, like one-stop home energy-improvement programs, as well as more qualified contractors with the training to do the work. This is important to building a stable and sustainable economy.

I like our clean energy. With our abundant sunshine, it is wonderful to see how solar power is finally coming of age. We now have numerous utility-scale facilities (with more on the way) that feed carbon-free electricity into the grid on a daily basis. And where once there were few, if any, there are now thousands of homes and businesses generating renewable energy from their own rooftops. The trend is rapidly accelerating as solar energy approaches grid parity. In Southern Nevada, it now makes very good sense to own your power-generating system.

I like the ever-growing options for those of us who prefer plant-based epicurean delights. For home-based and professional chefs, there are now a number of excellent weekly farmer’s markets sprinkled across the valley. We even have options for community supported agriculture, with Quail Hollow Farm in Overton perhaps the best known.

I also like the growing number of restaurants that offer vegan food. No Southern Nevadan has done more to promote this ethic than my friend and self-proclaimed “food encourager” Paul Graham. His blog, EatingVeganIn
Vegas.tumblr.com, is a treasure trove of delightful discovery. That’s where I’ve been introduced to some of my favorite hangouts, including the all-vegan Veggie House on Spring Mountain Road and the wonderful Sunrise Coffee on East Sunset Road (whose organic, fair-trade coffee and scrumptious vegan burritos are becoming legendary). By the way, Paul is working on a book that I think is destined to become a must-have resource for residents and visitors, vegan or not.

I like the focus on sustainability by our state, county and city officials. Their efforts are paying off in many ways and we all benefit. From Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings to urban trail systems, our community is maturing as it becomes healthier and more enjoyable, not just bigger. In fact, the lack of a building frenzy has been a welcome relief and feels much more “normal” than the rapid-fire, nonsensical growth of decades past.

I like the way a lot of young professionals are moving into the urban core and turning old energy-hog homes into power and water-sipping oases of green hipness. I like that Zappos is doing the same thing with the old Las Vegas City Hall. I like that the new city halls for Las Vegas and North Las Vegas were built green, with occupant and planetary well-being as part of the plan.

I like the many organizations that work hard to promote these things. The U.S. Green Building Council, Nevada Chapter; Solar NV, the Southern Nevada Chapter of the American Solar Energy Society; Green Chips; AIA Las Vegas, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects; and the Outside Las Vegas Foundation are just a few.

I appreciate the efforts of all Southern Nevadans working toward the long-term vision of a truly sustainable community. Thanks. I’m really starting to like it here!

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Rypka, please visit www.greendream.biz.

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