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Shades of Green

Christa Hillstrom December 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
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Editor's Note: Click here for documents that will help your business go green.

Weaving through the serene meditation garden upon arrival at Sonoma Valley, California’s Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, it’s hard to tell the landscape, carefully sculpted and designed to promote balance and connection between individuals and their environment, was once a musty junkyard. Or that the open, eco-friendly design was partially constructed of driftwood harvested from the sea. It’s not immediately obvious, but as underlying social tectonics increasingly shift in the direction of individual and environmental balance, spas like Osmosis are looking for new ways to express long-held values of harmony and wellness.

If you ask Joan Southon, this award-winning retreat’s general manager, the spa-goer profile is coming full circle. A few years ago there were as many guests gabbing on cell phones in spa lobbies as those looking for a quieter kind of communion, but spa consumer behavior and attitudes are changing, Southon notes, harkening back to an ethos treasured by spa creators from the beginning.

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What Consumers Want

Consumers are increasingly grasping the connection between personal wellness and global wellness. Today Americans are concerned not just about high gas prices, but also about the oceanic impact of offshore drilling; not just about American troops in Iraq, but also the humanitarian calling of Darfur.

Spa-goers are paying more attention to the global impact of what they’re putting in their bodies and where they’re spending their money. The Green Spa Network (GSN) publishes a tip sheet on what to look for in a green spa for those shopping for a facility that fits with their wellness values.

For starters, questions that customers are encouraged to ask include:

  • Is the spa’s commitment to greening clear in the signage and literature, and on the Web site?


  • Are there containers for recycling placed around the spa?


  • Do products include natural and organic ingredients?


  • Is the desk attendant able to communicate the spa’s green philosophy easily, or is there an awkward silence?


  • Does the space make use of natural light to reduce energy spending?


  • What is the feel of the spa? Does it feel respectful of the environment it occupies, such as using plants and natural scents rather than overwhelming perfumes?

Consumers may not always realize what a complex process greening a spa is, but the GSN offers training and eco-assessments to help you evaluate your specific strengths and challenges while boosting you toward your wellness goals. Discuss with your staff more ways your spa could go green, and then check out online resources, such as, to learn more about how to implement your ideas.

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