Grand Villa Casino is best known for providing quality entertainment to the City of Burnaby. There’s more to this organization than just gaming; they are aggressively pursuing mechanical, operational, and behavioral programs to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. Grand Villa Casino was a part of the Burnaby Business Day Showcase to raise public awareness of the green business practices conducted at their Personas Restaurant as well as the casino. This year, Grand Villa made history by becoming the first casino to purchase renewable natural gas. This groundbreaking feat, along with many other past accomplishments, earned the casino the City of Burnaby’s 2014 Environmental Sustainability Award for Business Stewardship.
The BBOT has proudly witnessed Grand Villa Casino’s continued development to raise its expectations to meet the BBOT Pledge for a Sustainable Community which launched in the fall of 2012.
Jeff Lee, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment’s Energy Operation Manager, was a panelist by request at the Green Talks! event where he shared details about the cooling tower project at Grand Villa Casino which helps power 112 homes for a year and reduce 151 tons of GHG’s. This project will provide free cooling to the casino floors and also redirect waste heat to service the domestic hot water supply. He sat down with BBOT to share some of the goals and challenges in making Grand Villa Casino more sustainable.
BBOT: When did sustainability become a consideration for your organization?
Jeff: As an Operations Manager, I know first-hand how much maintenance the casino needs. It’s a large building that runs 24 hours; of course it requires a lot of upkeep. Energy efficiency was actually an accident with the thought of “There’s got to be a better way than changing the same light bulb every 3 months.” Upgrading our lights to LED increased their life expectancy and lowered their service requirements; that means we waste less time and money changing light bulbs! As an added benefit, the new fixtures now only consume a portion of electricity than they used to. We took the Pledge for a Sustainable Burnaby in 2012 and then formed an Energy Management team shortly after to focus on other energy-saving opportunities.
BBOT: How did you choose what you should tackle?
Jeff: We address the urgent situations first: equipment that are nearing end-of-life and/or cost more to fix than to replace, and especially the mechanical issues that affect our staff and clients’ comfort levels. We’ve also reached out to third-party consultants to conduct a more thorough energy audit and provide a detailed report with recommended projects for us to pursue.
BBOT: Are there any particular sustainable initiatives that have impacted your organization?
Jeff: Lunch and learn gatherings with the entire operations and maintenance staff. It’s not very often that we all get a chance to sit down and talk about environmental projects or initiatives. This makes for an easy ice breaker and we all just like to eat and laugh! Energy management is now part of the capital planning group. This gives us a chance to catch missed opportunities right from the start.
BBOT: Has sustainability had a favourable (or any other kind of impact) on your organization?
Jeff: It has raised awareness among building operators, maintenance technicians and all staff about reducing our carbon footprint. Casinos are not known for being green as nothing ever shuts off, but we are chipping away at this and changing the way people think of us. The best reaction comes from mentioning “Did you know that we (Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Ltd) have saved enough energy to power over 35o homes for a year and reduced over 260 tons of GHG?” It matters to a lot of people, and we aim to please them all.
BBOT: They say that organizations who undertake sustainable measures are at the beginning of a long process or journey. Are there next steps or goals for Grand Villa Casino in terms of objectives?
Jeff: Yes. There are still so many amazing opportunities planned, but so little time to discuss them all! Basically, we have a game plan mapped out for the next three years. Our goal is to reduce our energy consumption by 20%.
BBOT: What obstacles or barriers have you encountered and how did you overcome them (or how are you overcoming them?)
Jeff: As with any new idea for any business, the biggest obstacle is proving that the method works and that there is value in it. My word of advice is to always have transparency: don’t be afraid to share the goals and benefits, but do it without putting anyone to sleep! No one wants to read an essay. Keep it simple yet powerful and to the point. Always be the driver, don’t stand on the sidelines as not much happens there other than getting cold.
BBOT: Has taking the Pledge helped Grand Villa Casino communicate its sustainability-related goals and initiatives internally with staff, or outside the company with clients?
Jeff: Yes, it’s definitely helped clarify our goals of reducing our impact, practicing energy efficiency and publicize the latest accomplishments to our staff and clients.