Lou DeFeo, director of facilities at Caesars Entertainment Atlantic City, shows the food-waste recycling at Harrah's Resort as part of the company's conservation program Wednesday. A pig farmer takes the food waste.

Edward Lea

Most people probably think the only “green” that casinos care about is cash.

But the industry often associated with conspicuous consumption, not conservation, is proving to be a leader in eco-friendly programs, according to its national trade group.

The American Gaming Association has compiled a report,— titled “All in for the Environment” — that showcases the green initiatives implemented by nine top companies in the casino business.

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Two of those companies, Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp., own Atlantic City casinos. Caesars, in particular, has been nationally recognized by the government for its conservation efforts.

“We started going green before it was the ‘in’ thing,” said Lou DeFeo, director of facilities for three of the four Caesars Entertainment casinos in Atlantic City.

Crammed with statistics, the AGA report details how the casino industry has reduced waste, conserved water and saved on energy. In the process, the casino companies have helped their bottom line, too.

“Their recycling and conservation efforts have not only had a positive impact on the environment, but they have also streamlined and cut costs for their businesses,” AGA President Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. said in a statement.

DeFeo said conservation programs have saved millions of dollars for the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos in Atlantic City owned by Caesars Entertainment. The company did not release exact figures.

“You’re not just being a good steward for the environment. It makes economic sense as well,” said DeFeo, who heads Caesars Entertainment’s CodeGreen conservation efforts in Atlantic City.

Overall, the companies cited in the AGA report combined to recycle almost 68,000 tons of material in the past 12 months, the equivalent of what about 100,000 U.S. households recycled within the same period.

Their recycling programs include cardboard, paper products, plastic, glass, batteries, toner cartridges, food waste and fluorescent light bulbs. They also recycle soap, polystyrene foam, scrap metals, aluminum, waste oils and construction materials.

DeFeo said a local pig farmer takes the food scraps from Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City casinos.

Water and energy conservation are other big parts of the gambling industry’s environmental initiatives, the AGA said. The association noted that the nine companies it surveyed collectively saved about 191 million kilowatt hours and more than 750 million gallons of water in the past year.

The report concluded, “Whether through recycling and waste minimization or energy and water conservation, the environmental sustainability programs in the commercial gaming industry are some of the most progressive and forward-looking of any sector in the U.S. today.”

In 2008, Caesars Entertainment, then known as Harrah’s Entertainment, became the first casino company in the country to win the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s highest award for green programs.

DeFeo said that in 2006, the company began searching for innovative and creative ways to save on energy use and water consumption. Last year, Caesars Entertainment took another step by enrolling all of its Atlantic City casinos into a single-stream recycling program, administered by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, for cardboard, paper and glass. As a result, they recycled nearly 3,000 tons of material last year, DeFeo said.

And there were savings in other areas for Caesars’ Atlantic City properties in 2012: Electricity consumption was down 14 percent, natural gas use was down 15 percent, water consumption was down 4 percent and the amount of trash was down 8 percent, DeFeo said.

When Caesars’ predecessor, Harrah’s Entertainment, received the EPA award, it was cited for using energy-efficient lighting, nontoxic cleaning chemicals, energy-saving thermostats and eco-friendly refrigerants. The company was also lauded for having better heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

DeFeo said that even the company’s housekeeping staff gets involved. When housekeepers clean the guest rooms, they are supposed to shut off all appliances, turn down the thermostats, check for leaky faucets and leave on only one light.

To further save on electricity, most of the decorative exterior and marquee lights for the Caesars casinos in Atlantic City are turned off each night at 2 a.m., DeFeo said. The Caesars casinos also dim their lights in observance of the World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Day event.

The company’s CodeGreen at Home program rewards casino employees for supporting the environment. One Atlantic City casino employee received points, redeemable for prizes, for installing solar panels on his home, DeFeo said.

Hoping to get local children involved in environmental conservation, Caesars Entertainment took 60 students from Atlantic City’s New York Avenue School to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge last year on the National Park Trust’s Kids to Parks Day. The company will sponsor a similar outing for more schoolchildren this May, DeFeo said.

Other Atlantic City casinos either did not return messages seeking comment about their environmental programs or declined to discuss them.

The American Gaming Association report recognized Boyd Gaming, parent company of Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, for its conservation efforts in Las Vegas. There, Boyd operates a laundry facility for nine casinos to save electricity, water, natural gas and detergent.

The Boyd laundry uses 27 percent less electricity and 47 percent less natural gas, reducing its carbon output by 40 percent, according to the report. It saves 22 million gallons of water per year.

In 2009, Boyd’s cleaning facility earned its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, becoming the first and only laundry in the country to win that distinction, the AGA reported.

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