Eight years ago, PPAI set a goal: The PPAI Expo should become a zero-waste event. In the beginning, there was some internal skepticism that it was even possible – that the biggest waste of all would be our time.

But we truly believed that we could and should do better. So we were elated to learn as a staff, when all the dust was settled and the calculations from Mandalay Bay Convention Center were returned, that The PPAI Expo 2023 achieved this huge milestone. All told, we recycled 107,862 pounds of material that week in Las Vegas.

Nearly 54 tons!

We could not have done it without the long-term vision and commitment of PPAI staff, or without the help from so many members like you.

But we also owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mandalay Bay and the work of its parent company, MGM Resorts, for creating sustainability policies that deliver results. They are world-class leaders in sustainability, so it was also a personal thrill to join PPAI’s Product Responsibility Advisory Group for a tour of the convention center’s sustainability program during the week of the event.

While alternative energy usage and water conservation were the foundation of MGM Resorts’ sustainability program, materials recycling was also a huge focus. All of us on the tour came away inspired by the effort and filled with concepts we can try to adapt and implement to improve our own operations.

Not all of these will be attainable for you – or even applicable – but there’s at least a chance they’ll spark an idea that does make a positive impact. I just have to share these key insights from the tour:

Consider process and training adjustments. The tour revealed MGM Resorts replaced over 1.4 million light fixtures with energy-efficient LED lighting. The resort also trains its room attendants to draw the curtains and turn the HVAC systems to 72 degrees when servicing guest rooms, which helps maintain room temperatures while using less energy.

Search for scalable options. Perhaps one of the largest impacts is made by MGM’s Mega Solar Array, which comprises 323,000 solar panels arranged on 640 acres in the desert north of Las Vegas. The Mandalay Bay Convention Center’s roof holds 26,000 solar panels on 26 acres, which it claims is the largest contiguous solar array in the United States. Collectively, MGM Resorts’ alternative energy program provides up to 90% of its daytime electricity needs across 13 properties in Las Vegas. While most buildings in our industry may not have 26 acres of roof space, solar panels and energy-efficient lightbulbs are scalable activities that can produce impactful results for industry companies looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints.

Know that opportunities to reduce consumption are all around you. The resort has removed 200,000 square feet of natural grass on its properties and replaced it with landscaping alternatives more tolerant to the droughts that affect Las Vegas and other areas. Aside from switching out the grass, Mandalay Bay also replaced non-native plant and tree species with native plants that do not need to consume as much water to survive in the Las Vegas environment.

Set goals. The resort previously created an initiative to reduce its collective water usage per square foot by 30%, which it reached in 2019. When you set specific sustainability goals, you can measure your progress, which makes it easier to adjust as needed.

Consider your equipment. In this way, some of the resort’s practices are quite translatable for promotional products business, or even our homes. For example, MGM has saved water by switching to low- or controlled-flush urinals and toilets and installing faucets with timers or sensors to control water flow.

Make waste diversion your priority. There are numerous motivations and processes for diverting waste from landfills, incinerators and oceans. PPAI offers guidance in this area that explains the motivations and outlines some of the solutions available for promotional products industry businesses. MGM Resorts’ waste management program employs the single-stream method, meaning all the waste at their properties goes into the same trash receptacles. It may go unnoticed that MGM properties do not have separate trash and recycling bins. This is because MGM sorts the trash at each of its properties before sending it to the respective materials recycling facilities. Every MGM property has at least one loading dock dedicated to recycling, and Mandalay Bay Convention Center has 11.

Be sure you can substantiate your claims. These recycling docks are used to sort the material before it goes to recycling facilities. It is the best method MGM has devised for ensuring its waste will be diverted instead of discarded at landfills. It is important for promotional products industry businesses to know where our products come from, but it is also important to know where our production waste goes, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure we can substantiate any claims we are making regarding green production processes.

Norris is the public affairs manager for PPAI.