I know most people on Earth believe that “little green men” don’t really exist. But after meeting Jeff Jackson, touring MGM Grand Detroit and learning about the casino’s recycling program, I’m beginning to think they’re real, although perhaps they’re not so “little.” Jackson, who has taken the casino’s recycling program to the next level, serves as the vice president of facilities and has worked there for 10 years.
His passion for green business practices and his desire to make a positive impact on Detroit’s environmental landscape comes through in his leadership at the casino. Before MGM, Jackson had a long track record of eco-friendly leadership experience.
“Previously, I worked for Ritz-Carlton all over the world, including Korea, Hong Kong, New York, Sydney, Florida and Germany,” says Jackson, who has spent 21 years in the hospitality industry, with much of that time focused on process improvement. “I was born and raised on a farm in Michigan, so I think I’ve always been very aware of the environment.”
Jackson’s emphasis on developing green initiatives fit well with the corporate culture at MGM Grand Detroit as one of the company’s goals is to promote sustainability through Touching Communities, Touching LivesTM, MGM’s corporate social responsibility program.
Making a Big Impact
Touching the Detroit community is something he has certainly done! Jackson, who manages six employees dedicated to recycling, has expanded the casino’s program under his leadership. This year alone, the casino recycled 499,500 pounds of material and is on track to surpass its 2016 recycling goals.
“Less than 2% of all materials in Detroit were recycled last year, so there’s a lot of work to do in the area,” he says. “Michigan recycles around 15% of materials, and the national recycling average is about 34%.”
During my tour of the casino’s green facilities, Jackson walked our group around to see the special machinery, the bin sorting and the daily process flow it goes through to promote recycling. It was apparent that Jackson has thought about every minute detail of operations to get as close to zero waste as possible. He has expanded recycling to include computers, glass, paint and all metal material.
Under Jackson’s leadership, MGM Grand Detroit projects that 16% of all recycled materials in Detroit will come from the casino’s program. This remarkable statistic shows the environmental impact that just one leader can make in a community. And according to Jackson, he’s not done making strides toward making MGM Grand Detroit even greener.
“I’m not even close to being satisfied yet,” he admits. “I want to increase our recycling program to do more with light bulb usage. I’m trying to look at every single material we use here.”
Jackson, who participates in the Michigan Recycling Coalition, says he wished more businesses knew that recycling a product costs less than throwing it away in a landfill. MGM’s recycling program has saved the equivalent of 10,643 gallons of gas this year alone.
“Green efforts have to come from the top of an organization, and you should expect that leaders want to see a return on investment,” he explained. “I worked with our operational committee as well as our finance team to make decisions that make sense for the organization.”
More than 150,000 people visit MGM per week, and the green tours give Detroiters and businesses a window into what it takes to run a strong recycling program and, more importantly, how impactful these programs can be.
“I never turn down a chance to talk about our recycling program and how we do what we do here,” Jackson said. “We have about 80 bins on our casino floor for our guests. We also manage a bin for food composting and one for trash in addition to the recycling bins behind the scenes.”
MGM also partners with the group Keep Growing Detroit to run a greenhouse, the MGM Grand Detroit Plum Street Market Garden, which is located across the street from the property’s parking structure. Last year, more than 400,000 seedlings were produced there, and produce grown in the greenhouse is sold in Eastern Market.
When asked what Detroit-area businesses can do to “green” their operations, Jackson had one simple piece of advice.
“They just have to jump in and start, even if it means just putting recycling containers around their office,” he says. “Recycling has to be something that employees feel a part of. You have to break the old ways of operating.”
To schedule a tour of MGM’s recycling program, email Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.