LAS VEGAS – The popular image of this desert gambling mecca is that of indulgence and indiscriminate consumption. Words that rarely come to mind: Conservation. Sustainability. Green.

Yet it’s the famous Las Vegas Strip that’s modeling eco-friendly practices.

In Nevada, plans are underway to build more than 100 million square feet of new construction to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.

More than half of that involves casino-resort projects on and around the Las Vegas Strip, not including the 8.3 million square feet of the 7-month-old, $1.9 billion Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, which, in May, was designated the nation’s largest LEED-certified building.

The scale of the Vegas projects, as well as the promise of 40 million tourists a year using and learning from these buildings, has excited Brendan Owens, the council’s vice president for LEED certification.

“There’s only so many places where projects like these can happen,” he says. “Las Vegas can serve as a bellwether for mainstream companies and organizations that are not necessarily focused on the environment to say, ‘You know what? These guys are doing it, so can we.’ “

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