Green practices are definitely coming of age in the spa industry. The wellness market is booming and clients are seeking real, authentic experiences from sustainability-minded companies. Spas are making a difference in their own unique way by stepping up their conscious practices and saving money in the process.
Check out these inspirational ideas and tips that truly embrace sustainability. Giving mindful attention to practices, such as resource use and purchasing, can help a spa’s bottom line and increase employee morale, client relations and branding. Tapping into the wellness lifestyle theme benefits businesses in many ways. Jill Seppa, owner of Koru Eco Spa in Block Island, Rhode Island, says, “I encourage other business owners to be as green as possible. It is more cost-effective than you think, and it’s up to [spas] to set the bar and lead by example.”
Energy conservation is a major focus of green practices, because of the direct cost savings. All spas showcased in this article noted that they use energy-efficient lightbulbs and appliances. Koru Eco Spa is a member of a carbon offset program. Strong House Spa in Quechee, Vermont, switched to LED lighting, and added motion sensors and a new furnace. Anjou Spa in downtown Bend, Oregon, uses “smart” appliances, efficient lighting and nontoxic cotton insulation in the walls. Special towels and robes are chosen to reduce drying time.
A progressive project by Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort in Desert Hot Springs, California, will make it the first carbon-neutral resort in North America. Its CEO, Kevin Kelly, believes in prioritizing planetary wellness alongside personal health and wellness. “A spa cannot call itself a leader in wellness without also being committed to sustainability,” he says. Supporting the location’s goal of net zero energy consumption, new hot water heaters and windows were installed. Two Bunch Palms shows that you can deliver a luxury experience within a carbon-neutral environment.
The property will also feature a 550-kW photovoltaic (PV) system, which will offset 100% of its electric power consumption. Through a 21-year power purchase agreement, the resort brings its solar dreams to life without a huge upfront investment. The savings from the electric bill will be used for renovations.
Smart water use
The spa industry depends on affordable, clean water, which is a valuable resource. Most spas know the value of water-efficient appliances, low-flow and dual-flush toilets, aerators and filtered water. Harmony Eco Spa Boutique in Coral Springs, Florida, conserves even more by offering clients water in smaller cups and then saving any unconsumed water to water the plants. Another resourceful practice that Koru Eco Spa uses is to contain water run-off in a rain barrel for gardens.
Jivana Holistic Spa in Burlington, Vermont, has a sign in the shower asking clients to support the facility’s “green spa water-saving philosophy,” both saving water and creating mindfulness. A creative idea by The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana, provides clients with refillable canteens instead of bottled water. The spa also uses low-flow fixtures and xeriscaping—drought-tolerant landscaping. Anjou Spa reduces water use by using Energy Star-rated appliances, fixtures and tankless water heaters.
Products and retailing
Green spas usually offer natural, organic products featuring chemical-free ingredients, both for health reasons and to keep up with the huge client demand. Beware of greenwashing, though. Natural does not mean you are all of a sudden “green.” Most green spas use natural nail and hair care products.
Anjou Spa uses products that do not contain parabens, sulfates or petro chemicals. Its team members are choosy about healthy products and packaging. Lindsey Robinson, spa director and esthetician at Anjou, emphasizes: “Our clients can count on us for that.” Anjou Spa also partners with other local sustainable businesses.
Continually setting the standard for sustainability, Strong House Spa has been building green and using organic products since 1994, and is a member of the Vermont Business for Environmental Partnership. Spa management members only purchase organic products from companies that use sustainable packaging and practices.
Koru Eco Spa purchases in bulk amounts and uses local honey in treatments. Harmony Eco Spa Boutique specifically uses “vegan, natural and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic products.” Treatments at Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort comprise of wild-harvested desert plants and products with green formulations.
Laura Russell-Nygard, spa and wellness manager for Spa Town at Paws Up, says that one of the most sustainable practices she has implemented is, “... making our organic scrubs for our Signature Body Bars from scratch.” The spa supports local vendors and hand-picks indigenous flowers and herbs on the ranch. A variety of treatments are fun and creatively named, such as Moosedrool treatments for kids—you can’t get any more natural than that!
Purchasing and waste-reduction
Conscientious purchasing and recycling saves resources and reduces waste. Spas are looking for reduced packaging and greener choices. Anjou Spa recycles everything possible in the spa. It utilizes reusable bags, supports local vendors and buys from environmentally friendly companies that offer biodegradable packaging.
Harmony Eco Spa Boutique sought out suppliers that had sustainability plans. For packaging, owner Silvia Bolt made sure most of the product bottles and jars were made with recycled post-consumer resin. Boxes are made with 100% recycled paper. Bolt encourages her clients to bring in their empty beauty products to recycle or upcycle, and offers them discounts on eco-friendly products. Retail bags and marketing materials are made from recycled material or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper.
Other practices highlighted by these innovative spas include purchasing only what is needed on an as-needed basis; recycling containers; buying post-consumer paper; and composting paper goods. Spa Town at Paws Up is working toward zero-waste. Linens are another purchasing consideration, and Koru Eco Spa uses uniforms made with organic material. Additionally, reclaimed wood furniture is one of the best design features in Koru Eco Spa. Strong House also has a cosmetic recycling program. In the past, a recycling company for Strong House upcycled cleansers to wash vehicles, which is a clever, unique idea.
Indoor air quality and green materials
Healthy air quality is affected by many factors, such as chemical services and building materials. Many spas use nontoxic, water-based cleaning products. A chemical-free environment is important to Anjou Spa, and it maintains proper ventilation, has bamboo floors and uses low-volatile organic compound (VOC) paint for a healthier atmosphere.
For Harmony Organic Spa’s renovation, existing wood and materials were reclaimed, some materials were recycled and upcycled, and zero-VOC paint was used. The facility avoids toxic cleaners, has real indoor plants and uses air-purifying equipment. Linens and robes, laundry products and cleaners, and even fruit, teas and coffee, are organic or “green-friendly.” Harmony’s team members learn about chemical toxin awareness and eco-friendly practices as part of their educational classes. Beyond the standard green practices, a tree is planted for every service performed at this spa.
Other notable air-quality measures are practiced at Jivana Holistic Spa, which uses a centralized air-filtration system, organic soy candles and essential oil diffusers. Strong House Spa maintains air filters regularly and infuses organic essential oils into the air for relaxation. Koru Eco Spa’s owner, Seppa, says, “We pride ourselves in having the cleanest-smelling nail services because we use ‘5-free’ products—free of the five main toxins found in many nail products—toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor.”
One of the ultimate fresh air green spa settings is at Spa Town at Paws Up. The very unique Spa Town offers impressive outdoor tents providing clients the opportunity to enjoy treatments within nature. This gives a whole new meaning to pop-up spas and “glamping!”
Paws Up has welcome tents with full baths and showers, while treatment tents have sinks and views. Mother Nature provides the music with birds, wind and flowing water. Timber is also used on the property and is made into sustainable products.
Staff, client and community care
Part of the triple bottom line approach in sustainable business operations is social equity and taking care of people. One of the major staff benefits is working in a healthy, nontoxic environment. Spas, such as Strong House, provide generous benefits in addition to all of the other spa perks.
Community efforts from Harmony Eco Spa Boutique include donating services to local charities, school fundraisers and wellness facilities. This spa participates in local green market and wellness events in the community. Koru Eco Spa also embraces the responsible practices of recycling education and donations to local conservation groups and sports teams.
Sheila Arman, co-owner of Strong House, says the spa team “... tries to focus on the last bastion of sustainability, which is the mind/body component, through our work.” The most sustainable practice central to this spa’s vision is working to bring the concept of mind/body sustainability. Strong House Spa works with the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to provide $2,500 in services per year for their patients. The spa also builds trails and teaches Nordic walking, a type of fitness walking featuring the use of specially designed poles.
One aspect of being a sustainable spa is making it accessible to everyone. Robinson, Anjou’s spa director, has a great idea in line with today’s spa needs by offering a “ ... membership that caters to locals and makes the spa more affordable.” Anjou Spa also partners with an environmental center, and makes monthly donations to local causes and charities.
Some of the most notable practices these featured spas have implemented go beyond the conventional green efforts. Cathie Hansen-Barre, owner at Jivana Holistic Spa, purchased a Toyota Prius V last year, used almost exclusively for the spa. “I am most excited about getting staff on board about what it means to be green, setting an example and seeing them follow through,” she explains.
From the beginning, Harmony Eco Spa Boutique began to make contributions to Trees for the Future by planting a tree for every service performed. The goal is 10,000 trees per year. One of the most exciting efforts Harmony recently implemented is a monthly Green Contest to encourage clients to be more involved and inspired. They are encouraged to submit an idea of what they do to help the environment with the potential of receiving spa gifts. The spa has been able to implement some of these ideas into its practice, as well as to inspire new eco-friendly spa industry ventures in the area.
Sharing words of wisdom
Strong House’s Armen advises others: “Start somewhere and keep at it. Create a mission for your environmental policy, and let that guide you as you move forward.” Hansen-Barre from Jivana says: “As much as is possible, hire staff who believe in protecting the environment and know the value of a nontoxic, natural spa.”
Bolt of Harmony Eco Spa Boutique shares her words of wisdom for other spas: “Joining an association that specializes in sustainability is highly recommended to receive expert advice. Then create a strategic sustainability plan and put together a green management job description. If you do renovations or are taking over an existing location, see what can be used for the new design. It is helpful to research and understand what materials we are using to help lower our carbon footprint. Learning to be green at your business will translate to being green at home and inspiring others, thus creating a green way of life.”
Impressive outdoor tents offer clients the opportunity to enjoy treatments within nature at Spa Town at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, MT.
A progressive project by Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort in Desert Hot Springs, CA, will make it the first carbon-neutral resort in North America.
Hansen-Barre, owner of Jivana Holistic Spa in Burlington, VT, says: “As much as is possible, hire staff who believe in protecting the environment and know the value of a nontoxic, natural spa.”
Strong House Spa in Quechee, VT, has been building green and using organic products since 1994, and is a member of the Vermont Business for Environmental Partnership.
Anjou Spa in Bend, OR, uses “smart” appliances, efficient lighting and nontoxic cotton insulation in the walls.
Reclaimed wood furniture is one of the best design features in Koru Eco Spa in Block Island, RI.
Harmony Eco Spa Boutique in Coral Springs, FL, conserves by offering clients water in smaller cups and then saving any unconsumed water to water the plants.
Shelley Lotz has more than 25 years of experience in the spa, wellness and beauty industries as an esthetician, educator and business owner. Her new book is Green Spas and Salons: How to Make Your Business Truly Sustainable. She is a major contributing author of Milady’s Standard Esthetics Fundamentals, a textbook for esthetic students. She started an institute of esthetics and is a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. Lotz is a consultant and avid travel explorer.