Chumash Casino Resort - Case Study

By Vanessa Simpson
3 min read

Let us look at a case study example, The Chumash Casino Resort (CCR), nestled in the heart of Santa Ynez, California, isn't just a destination for entertainment – it's an exemplar of sustainable practices in its industry. 

CCR managed to divert 90.94% of its waste from landfill and in 2019 became the first casino in the world to earn TRUE© (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification from Green Business Certification Inc. Let’s take a look at their journey and how they achieved this. 

The resort started its journey in 2006 by outsourcing its waste management and implementing simple initiatives like a color-coded bagging system and pre-sorting waste in all areas of the business. Over the next couple of years green waste was diverted from their main stream and was sent out to Engel & Grey, Inc. for composting. Engel & Grey, Inc.  also collected the dry solids from the casino wastewater treatment plant for recycling. The resort started looking to start programs based on their ROI or return on investment. Projects such as Tribal Casino Pollution Prevention (P2) were started and an intensive assessment of the properties energy and waste was conducted. The Tribal Casino Pollution Prevention project was completed within a year and with the finding of the study they implemented the first internal waste stream separation program and had their first dedicated waste stream employee. 

Over the next few years, food waste recycling programs were formed and a partnership with “Clean the World” was also formed, collecting unused hotel toiletries and soaps distributed to developing nations, disaster areas and places in need. In 2013, the Resort set goals to reach “zero waste” by 2019. The following year they eliminated ice from the waste stream and formed a partnership with the TerraCycle Cigarette Waste Brigade to recycle cigarette butts into ashtrays and benches. CCR also partnered with Pork Palace to divert food scraps and cigarettes from waste. 

After its expansion in 2015, the resort implemented double sorting for dry goods, open-top food bins for pre-consumer food and yellow bins for post-consumer food officially forming the Chumash Green Team. During this time CCR’s total waste stream went from 7.2 million pounds to 3.2 million pounds per year in 2018, and recycling went from 6% to 90% between 2004 - 2018. CCR was recognized by the EPA for diverting 2.9 million pounds of waste, which represented more than 90% of its overall waste stream from local landfills. 

These efforts to reach zero waste culminated in CCR becoming the first casino in the world to earn TRUE© (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification from Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). By 2021 they had diverted 93% of waste from landfill through reduction, recycling, reuse, and their “Close–the-loop” initiative with local and national vendors that helped organise and recycle many difficult waste streams. 

Through a partnership with Dart Container Corporation and TerraCycle, cigarette waste was shredded and separated into plastics, papers and organics. LA Fibres produced carpet cushion products made from the casino’s post-consumer carpet material. Textile Waste Solutions took used uniforms and shipped overseas to clothe the poor in developing nations or processed locally for shop rags. 

Today, CCR is striving to improve its TRUE certification and become certified at the platinum level. The resort is a leading light in terms of sustainability and an excellent example of how organizations can improve their environmental impact and sustainability efforts without compromising their return on investment.