As business owners, spa owners and managers have a deep responsibility to not only be aware of what they are purchasing, but also the responsibility of ensuring they are operating their businesses to the best of their abilities—and that includes being responsible to the environment.
With the boundless green options available today, if you are not already on board or ready to get on board with the green movement, you will likely soon find yourself and your business left behind.
Environmental issues have not only parked themselves on the front doorsteps of homes and offices but have taken on an ever-growing global impact, as well. If you have not made it part of your business resolutions this year, take the time now to look at ways in which you can make changes that will positively affect or enhance the environment. From buying and selling environmentally friendly products to creating a recycling center or installing electric hand dryers, your ability to make a change, however large or small, is there. It is time to commit to making these changes every year.
Power and water
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Investigate the true environmental impact of your two largest sources of energy use: water and electricity. Contact your local water and energy suppliers to have them conduct, or help you outsource, audits on your water and energy usage. You may be surprised to learn their findings and discover ways to cut back on your energy and water bills.
In addition, wherever possible, low-flow faucets and water fixtures should be employed. Keep all your equipment clean, replace filters in a timely manner, and regularly service everything, including your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, for optimal and efficient operating.
An easy way to immediately help reduce your electrical usage is to install room occupancy sensors to control the lighting when the room is not in use. A variety of companies offer room occupancy and vacancy sensors that can be retrofitted to suit various existing rooms, and these help to dim or turn off lights when the rooms aren’t in use. Many dimmer and sensor options use minimally invasive techniques, such as radio frequencies, to detect occupancy, and also provide enough flexibility to control the level of light, allowing these systems to be used in treatment rooms, as well.
Also available are room-dimming systems that utilize LED technology to show when energy is being saved, the light glowing brighter the more energy that is saved, and eco-friendly timers that automatically shut off of fans or lights in a room after 1–30 minutes. The bottom line is, a commercial dimmer can save up to $85 per year in electricity costs compared to a regular light switch. And, off course, the more you dim, the larger the savings and the shorter the payback time.
Other energy-saving devices to consider as well include LEDs as light sources; window film to control light and heat; and daylighting, the practice of using natural light to illuminate building spaces. Becoming more popular in building specification today, daylighting reduces the need for electric lighting while providing illumination at a fraction of the cost. And with its natural, open feel, it’s a wise move to consider employing daylighting in your next construction project.
Everyone is looking for words beyond the overused terms of “green” and “environmentally friendly” to measure the environmental impact of a product, even in how people define their lifestyles and business practices. These words have been used so frequently they no longer hold the weight they first did several years ago.
Consumers want to know the product or service they are buying is authentic in its environmental claims. This is especially true given the fact that consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally and socially responsible products or services. So how do you navigate responsible purchasing, and guide your lifestyle and business practices? You arm yourself with knowledge.
Eco-labeling, or eco-branding, is at the forefront of retailing today, and its aim is to help consumers separate the products that are truly green and have real environmental or social benefits from those that are green-washed with unfounded environmental claims.
There are now several companies providing certification of green products. One of the first was the Canadian-based EcoLogo Program, which was established to provide third-party certification of environmentally preferable products while also offering a reliable online source for green certified consumer and professional products. Now managed by TerraChoice, EcoLogo is a world leader in setting standards and is a founding member of the Global EcoLabelling Network (GEN), an association of third-party environmental performance labeling organizations whose goal is to improve and promote the eco-labeling of products and services.
The U.S.-based Green Seal organization, founded in 1989, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity that provides science-based environmental certification standards to help manufacturers, purchasers and consumers make responsible choices that positively impact business behavior and improve quality of life. Since 1992, Green Seal has certified hundreds of products and services from major companies such as 3M, Benjamin Moore and Andersen Windows to meet Green Seal standards, and the number of major product categories covered by Green Seal standards has increased to more than 40, including some personal care product companies.
California certifier Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) also works directly with companies to assist them in “setting the standard for sustainability.” SCS provides eco-labeling certification for companies such as Starbucks, Home Depot and Safeway, to name a few, and it works with companies to set standards and create environmental practices that they can adhere to in order to provide a superior product and alleviate confusion for the consumer.
So, this is great news, right? Of course it is, but what do these new eco-labels mean exactly? When you are in a store and you see a bright, shiny new environmentally friendly looking logo on a product package, how can you be sure of its meaning?
Some of the most quality resources out there can be found online, such as the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site focusing on green products and greenwashing, www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/general/gen02.shtm, and EcoLabelling.org. On these sites you have the ability to not only find the meaning of the label, but with a few other clicks, you can research when the label was established, what products it is used on, its global use, and the number of products utilizing the label, as well as the standard details, length of certification, how it is audited and reviewed, verification, and the managing organization and its contact information.
Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program, established in 1992, develops, implements and administers national production, handling and labeling standards for organic agricultural products. It has certified 35,000 products and companies, and USDA Organic certification holders are also audited each year by an independent third party.
The right choice
No matter how you look at it, every business owner has tough choices to make. Whether it is the building materials you choose, the product line that you carry or the everyday items you need to run your business, you have to be vigilant to know what impact they are going to have not only today, but in the future as well.
More and more, product manufacturers are looking closer at the ingredients they use, utilizing renewable energy options to create their products, and employing responsible packaging in which to deliver them. And other spa companies are offering programs such as those that recycle polypropylene caps, collecting them and sending them to a recycler where the material is made into new caps and containers. Still other manufacturers have programs where customers return packaging to them in exchange for free product. Check with your product partners to find out about their environmental virtues, and help encourage them to continue these efforts by taking part yourself.
Everyone has the duty to ask these questions before starting a project or buying anything:
- Do I need it?
- Can I live without it?
- Can I borrow, rent or get it used?
- Is the project designed to minimize waste?
- Can it be smaller, lighter or made from fewer materials?
- Is it designed to be durable or multifunctional?
- Does it use renewable resources?
- Are the product and packaging refillable, recyclable or repairable?
- Is it made with postconsumer recycled or reclaimed materials, and if so, how much?
- It is available in a less toxic form?
- Is it available from a socially and environmentally responsible company?
- Is it made or available locally?
The most vital of these questions are at the top of the list, and the best way to use them is to strive to make them a part of your daily decision-making process. If you can answer “no” to the first question, then the second question should answer itself. If you answer “yes” to these, then the third question should be explored in depth. And so on and so on.
Seeking out additional resources on being green is always a good idea, as well. Books such as The Better World Shopping Guide: Every Dollar Makes a Difference (New Society Publishers, 2006) by Ellis Jones and Internet sites such as globalgreen.org, biggreenpurse.com, treehugger.com and worldchanging.com, as well as those noted in Green Web, are full of information that can help you educate yourself. It is time to arm yourself with the knowledge to help you make the best decisions every time.
Knowing that everyday decisions regarding what you purchase, use and ultimately throw away affects generations to come, you need to not only ask yourself the aforementioned questions, but also become familiar with the green terminology that has evolved in the past several years. Everyone must be responsible enough to research and explore every option, because when you are well-educated about the choices, your decision-making processes become second nature.