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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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Knowing your vendors and their ethics is key to expressing your own wellness values, says Grodjesk. But sitting down with a mystifying matrix of ingredients can sometimes turn out to be more problematic than useful. Terms like “natural” and “organic” are hazy at best, so the Green Spa Network recommends avoiding products that contain any synthetic fragrances, artificial colors and dyes, and formaldehyde-derived ingredients.

But don’t stop at the product itself, Severson adds. A sincere approach to environmental wellness such as Sundara’s goes beyond the product and considers the presentation—what’s involved in the packaging? Is it excessive? Recyclable? Does it force the consumer to just throw it away, or is it easy for buyers to reuse or compost?

Awareness of a product’s history has implications that range beyond the fields and streams it came from. Production today is all too often plagued by the unmediated and hard to monitor fragmentation of labor, and operators such as Severson shrewdly question whether a company’s manufacturing methods are attuned to broader wellness ideals. Osmosis, too, is making concerns about labor conditions and social responsibility a spotlight issue by revamping its gift shop with a new fair trade focus. So, after a weekend of psychic and physical balance, Osmosis shoppers can continue to breathe easy knowing the souvenirs they purchase are in sync with values of social wellness and accountability.

Keep questioning

Little changes make big differences, but it’s not all cut and dried when it comes to prioritizing issues that capture your spa’s spirit of wellness. Some issues trump others, and prioritizing isn’t always a clear process. Recently, Osmosis’ green team investigated new spa bed linen options. They eliminated bamboo fiber, a natural product that eats up fuel because it has to be shipped across the globe from China.

After considering organic and regular cotton, they settled on a polyester-based microfiber sheet that is remarkably energy-efficient in the laundry room. This material typically lasts 300 wash cycles, according to Robert Mishkin, a representative of microfiber sheet manufacturer Comphy Inc. While cotton is a more natural fiber than the formaldehyde-based polyester used in microfiber, Mishkin advocates evaluating every product’s total environmental impact. Some natural products require excessive amounts of land and energy resources to produce and maintain, and to encapsulate a wellness attitude that is truly holistic, you must consider every angle of how the item’s life affects the planet. Microfiber is a good option from this point of view, Mishkin says.