Kenneth Kahn

Kenneth Kahn of the  Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians

When individuals set aside their own interests for the betterment of a team, goals can be accomplished and greatness can be achieved.

I’ve witnessed our own team members at the Chumash Casino Resort set a goal, convince others to make the changes necessary to achieve that goal, and reap the benefits in the form of widespread recognition and a sense of accomplishment.

Recently, Green Business Certification Inc., a global company, named the Chumash Casino Resort as the first gaming property on the planet to earn the TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste Award, and we were certified at the Silver level, which has been achieved by just 10 other entities in the United States.

The award is the culmination of years of hard work as our Facilities Department embarked on the lofty goal of diverting 90 percent of the casino’s waste stream from local landfills. Our team sought out innovative recycling programs, formed community partnerships and cultivated cooperation throughout our property to reach its goal.

Since receiving the TRUE Zero Waste Award, we’ve received press enquiries from publications as far away as the U.K., and we’ve been contacted by local businesses for insight on how they can become a zero-waste property.

To be recognized in such a way has made our tribe incredibly proud. I like to think of Native Americans as being the first environmentalists, so for our enterprise to embrace our tribe’s values and place a high priority on protecting the land is greatly appreciated by the tribal community.

Now our ambitious Facilities Department is taking aim at effecting change throughout Indian Country.

I’m proud to announce that the Chumash Casino Resort facilities Executive Director Greg Lowe and Custodial Services Manager Mark Funkhouser have started the Native American Sustainable Facility Association (NASFA) to help other casinos get on the path to zero waste.

NASFA’s stated mission is “to provide a forum for professionals in casino operations and tribal leadership to explore environmentally sound ideas and review best practices in the areas of sustainability and waste stream reduction at gaming facilities and Indian reservations.”

This will give our team an opportunity to share elements of the Chumash Casino Resort’s journey with other properties and possibly learn from one another about the most effective ways to reduce waste.

Reaching a 90-percent waste-diversion rate and earning an international award is phenomenal, but assuming a leadership role and sharing expertise with other gaming properties for the greater good takes this mission to a whole other level.

Our journey to zero waste certification has changed the way we do business, and we hope to help others achieve the same result. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing what programs our casino’s zero-waste champions will come up with next to achieve their next goal — reaching a 95 percent waste-diversion rate by 2024.

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Kenneth Kahn is tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.