“Going green” has its ups and downs, and those two simple words can scare people away. The ups include a cleaner environment, stronger communities and lower expenses over time. The downs are the initial expenses—and the time it takes to think through and change some habits.
All of us want to make a great impression on clients and employees entering our spa. One way to do that is to create a “Green Mission” statement to post on your Web site and display on your walls.
Here are some tips to get started.
• Place live plants in your spa. This not only improves its visual appeal, but creates fresh oxygen that can improve productivity.
• Place recycling bins around your spa, decorate them to suit your décor and make sure they are easily accessible.
• Use recycled paper for menus, and pay bills online to reduce paper waste.
Sustainability is a great word to add to your business vocabulary. Just as our work helps to replenish our clients’ bodies and souls, we can help replenish the resources we use—and that our world depends on. This goes for your spa products, too. If you do retail, talk to your vendors and encourage them to use earth-friendly, biodegradable packaging. Save the packing materials your products arrive in and recycle them when you ship products out. As a retailer, provide reusable shopping bags for your clients. Use a unique, beautiful or fun design, so that they want to use your bags wherever they go.
Water and energy use
Use long-lasting compact fluorescent light bulbs, which come in all shapes and sizes to fit almost any light fixture. Ambiance is very important to the spa industry, but don’t let the word fluorescent scare you away; these bulbs are available in soft, warm white light, just like traditional incandescent bulbs.
Lower your energy use even more by replacing old appliances, such as air conditioners and air purifiers, with Energy Star rated models. Put timers on lights in public areas, and encourage your staff to turn off lights and equipment that is not being used. Small actions can create big results.
Purchase low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets to really reduce your water footprint. Don’t want to replace your toilets? By putting a gallon jug filled with sand, stones or water in the toilet tank, you will use one less gallon of water per flush.
If you offer your clients water and tea, replace bottled water with a filtration system for your tap, which will give you fresh, clean drinking water without contributing to the mountains of plastic waste polluting our oceans and choking our landfills.
Spa products and laundry
Again, think sustainability. When purchasing spa products, read carefully and ask questions. Learn what your products contain and where they come from. For example, chemical preservatives use lots of energy to produce, but there are many natural preservatives on the market.
Consider how far the product has to travel to your spa. Transportation is extremely energy-expensive. Look for local manufacturers. Buying products made closer to home saves the energy that it costs to ship other items thousands of miles, reducing your spa’s carbon footprint. And buying locally can be a great way to support your community’s economy.
Be efficient with the products you use, avoid overuse and other forms of waste. Portion out lotions and oils to get the greatest and most efficient use from them.
Laundry is very important to hygiene in our industry, but we can still take into account that when we use bleach and other harsh chemicals, they wind up in our water ways. By using natural, biodegradable laundry and cleaning products, we can make our practices greener still. If you have your own laundry facilities, energy-efficient machines will save a tremendous amount of energy, as well as money, over time. If your go this route, be sure to investigate what rebates, tax deductions or other incentives are available before purchasing new appliances.
Finally, there are many organizations to help you further your journey, starting with the Green Spa Network (www.greenspanetwork.org). Get an environmental audit for you spa to help you figure out where you waste and how you can save. If you are building a spa, contact Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) to learn how to build it green. Educate yourself and those around you.
Foremost, when making the commitment to green your spa, take your time. A complete greening doesn’t have to happen overnight. Working within the spa industry, we help to create connections between body, mind and spirit; connecting what we do to the environment is a natural addition to that equation. It’s about healing ourselves, our communities and our world.
Laura Schaedel is a certified massage therapist who has been practicing for more than 10 years. She also has a deep interest in environmental sustainability.