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Shades of Green

By: Christa Hillstrom
Posted: November 25, 2008, from the December 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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The Green Spa Network (GSN) is trying to raise awareness that becoming a greener business is a complex process without a final destination. There is no fixed end point or medal awarded for achieving environmental friendliness. It’s less about a final result and more about a value system, expressing a philosophy that infuses all of the spa’s operations.

“There’s always something more you can do,” says Tara Grodjesk, a founding board member of GSN. “There’s a spectrum of green, you never stop becoming more and more sustainable.” The network has set up guidelines for transformation so no spa has to reinvent the wheel, particularly as it’s easy to get mired in confusion about the authenticity of organic labeling or the effectiveness of energy-saving synthetic fabrics. But whether you’re re-examining your product ingredients or converting to a solar-powered facility, there is always a place to start.

Some spas, including Osmosis, have initiated in-house green teams to jump start the process. Osmosis developed an employee handbook outlining a green code of conduct that promotes small, easy-to-make changes that can have a big impact, from encouraging guests to recycle and reduce water usage, to turning off lights in areas that aren’t being used.

But it’s not a set of rules being enforced on people escaping the daily grind, Southon says. Instead, they’re inviting guests to participate in their own holistic pursuit of wellness by helping them give back to the environment. “The whole concept of healthy people, healthy planet—we all know that we have to make changes,” she reflects. “And our customers believe this, too.”

Baby steps

One greening initiative where spas wield incredible green leverage is in selecting products and equipment. Nikki Severson, manager of Sundara Inn and Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, sifts through product samples on a weekly basis. “When we’re sampling any product from a company, we’re also sampling the company itself,” she explains. “We’re finding out what their green philosophy is and how the product was produced.”