How Tracking Helped a Vegas Legend Lead the Way in Sustainability

Amber Johnson CSR, Sustainability

MGM sort for compost

MGM Resorts International serves 45,000 meals every day to their employees alone. And while their legendary properties on the Vegas strip and elsewhere are known for their grandeur and excess, MGM Resorts’ Executives found the excess food waste generated by these properties to be a significant problem.

“I think it’s obscene how much food people waste,” Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International Jim Murren told the audience at a recent gathering of the Corporate Responsibility Officers Association.

With help from Chief Sustainability Officer Cindy Ortega and the MGM Resorts’ Chefs, Murren set out to tackle food waste. Like many sustainability initiatives, the approach looked at both reducing the amount of food that was wasted, and then finding ways to recycle the waste that could not be prevented.

Some food and beverage outlets have piloted technologies like LeanPath’s Value Waste, a technology company that provides food waste tracking systems, to target the source of wasted food.  One easily identified source was the buffet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, as well as other buffets in the resort portfolio. Bulk production of food for the buffets meant bulk quantities of waste, MGM leaders learned.

“Right away we spotted an opportunity to change to cook-to-order,” Chef Justin Fredrickson noted on the LeanPath blog. “Rather than cooking massive amounts, now we cook more right when we need it. That was the first big thing as far as eliminated waste—that little change has helped save up to $9,000 a month in food cost savings.”

Beyond cost savings, LeanPath reports it also drove up customer satisfaction scores by nearly 10 percent.

Some food waste is not preventable, so Ortega and her team began to look at responsible means of disposing of the waste the Resorts generated. Their size and financial standing allowed them to make significant capital investments while supporting the expansion of local recycling center by driving the availability of local commodities.

Nearly 20 percent of MGM Resorts’ food waste goes to a pig farm. While remaining food and organic products are composted locally in Las Vegas and converted into fertilizer.. These efforts keep 17,000 tons of food waste out of landfills each year.

“In the United States over 300 million tons of food is landfilled annually, that’s nearly 18% of overall waste,” said Ms. Ortega. “At our Resorts we recognize that food and organic waste make up over 35% of the waste stream and that by responsibly diverting the materials from landfill we can improve our carbon footprint, increase our recycling rate, and help develop local green businesses.”

MGM’s sustainability and responsibility initiatives extend far beyond food waste. The company focuses on five core areas: energy and water conservation, recycling and waste management, green building, sustainable supply chain, and outreach and education. Some Company highlights include building their own Cogeneration Power Plant that uses excess heat and saves enough energy to power 50,000 homes. In Las Vegas, where water sustainability is a growing concern, MGM Resorts uses advanced plumbing techniques, low-flow faucets, and innovative landscaping practices to reduce consumption. MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay Convention Center is getting an array of solar panels that will be the second largest installment in the United States and the largest Convention Center installment in the world. Thanks to efforts like these, over the past five years MGM Resorts has reduced its energy consumption by more than 12 percent and has saved a total of 2.5 billion gallons of water.

Find More from Our Food Waste Series

Food waste series graphic


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Amber Johnson is the corporate relations advisor for the Center for Values-Driven Leadership. Find her on Google+. To find more coverage of sustainability from the Center, check out these articles and videos.

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