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Desert Companion

Michele Diener: 'We have an opportunity to educate'

It sounds like a title out of a David Foster Wallace novel. In 2008, Michele Diener was hired as MGM International's Director of Corporate Sustainability Strategies. But there's no satire here - it's a serious gig. Diener is responsible for keeping not just the massive CityCenter complex green and lean, but also the company's 15 hotels. She helped establish a green team at each resort, worked with each property to earn Green Key certification (similar to a rating system like AAA Diamonds, but ranking environmental sensitivity), and helped the company design the first fleet of stretch limos in the world to run on compressed natural gas. She even pioneered - yes - green beer. In a manner of speaking, anyway. One day Diener's talking organic liquor and spirits (available at select MGM properties), the next it's disposable to-go containers made from corn-derived plastic, the next it's about how to conserve water while thawing meat. "Best part of my job is the variety of challenges," says Diener, a Cornell grad with a degree in design and environmental analysis. The trick: Building design is one thing, but green buildings require green minds inside them - every day. "A structure stands for decades, but it's how you operate it every day that counts," she says. In other words, sure, CityCenter is dazzling to the eye, but the buildings are only as sustainable as what you do inside it - cleaning supplies purchased, food prepared, waste recycled. And what a souvenir for tourists: lessons from eco-conscious luxury hotels. "With our city's many visitors, we have an opportunity to educate employees and guests as well as reach out to the larger community."

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