“Green” and “spa” are two buzz-worthy terms used in marketing today, but how can we prevent these trends from turning into fads?

Eco-minded living, an effort that started in the late ’60s and early ’70s, came to a screeching halt in the ’80s and ’90s. It started to make a comeback at the turn of the 21st century with a tipping point in 2007. Spas can either be at the heart of the green movement, or learn a lesson from it.

The industries are related and they do overlap—but not entirely. For instance, the spa industry can raise awareness about not harming nature as you nurture yourself. However, spas tend to consume a lot of water, and like many other businesses, spas are concerned with the planet. The spa community can be more committed to environmental and social responsibility.

“Education is the greenest service a spa can sell,” said Mark Dauenhauer, spa director and massage therapist at Naturopathica Spa in East Hampton, New York. “At Naturopathica, we don’t just educate the client on the table. We educate them with eco-statements at the front desk, in the bathroom, through the halls and in our product line. It’s important for spa owners, directors and massage therapists to understand that greening is not something that is going to happen overnight; it’s a process. You keep finding corners to green and ways of cutting what you’re consuming.”

The ticket to long-term healthy living for the body and environment may be in ease of use. Like nutrition, if you make it too complicated for people to adopt, they may reject it. Spas can help us return to “biophilia” — humans’ attraction to the natural world.

According to Kimberley Matheson-Shedrick, president and owner of Natural Resources Spa Consulting Inc. (NRi), “Eco spas are providing visitors with a serene, ‘green’ spa experience. These environmentally friendly destinations believe that personal health begins with global health—a belief that extends to the way they create spa products, wash dishes, light their rooms and process wastewater. A growing number of traditional spas are hopping on the eco-spa bandwagon—from both an operational and marketing standpoint.”

NRi has been asked to create green treatments to inspire an earth-friendly environment. For example, Cuisinart Hydroponic Culture is fed through its own hydroponic farm containing two lettuce ponds and a bato bucket system for vine crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants. A-frames are used for herbs and lettuce, maximizing the number of plants in an area. Raised beds contain herbs, lettuce and peppers, and plant towers are used for bok choy and various herbs.

As wellness and sustainability become a way of life, spas are becoming an outlet for the entire family. Boomers are seeking age management, Generation X-ers are seeking refuge from careers and new families, and Gen Y is taking notice and preventative measures.

People are becoming very aware of the environment and mindful of their effects of it. In fact, many spas are now becoming part of the Green Spa Network, where spas pay monthly membership fees and have planned annual workshops.

As the green issue heats ups, what modalities could a spa add to its menu or inventory to make it more eco-conscious?

“Use certified-organic essential oils blended with sustainable plant-based, organic-massage oil and incorporate into all massage treatments and other spa-body services,” said Pamela Busiek, president and CEO of CBI Laboratories Inc. “Just by incorporating these treatments/products, this is a definite start in adding cost-effective—not to mention the most profitable in green services—massage!”

According to Jen Morgan, founder of the Jen Morgan Company, a high-end spa-product retailer, “It is so important to select organic-product lines with a charitable component. More and more organic-spa lines are giving back to causes that support the environment.”
When choosing a product line, owners and spa directors take packaging into serious consideration and make sure it is biodegradable. Energy conservation through lighting, cooling and heating systems and products are high priorities.
“Use less and source locally,” said Megan Davis, owner of Hugh Beauty Sales. “Finding sustainable materials like bamboo is great, but when you can’t find them, try to use local-made materials instead. Also, keep laundry to a minimum by using less towels and sheets.”

Some spas use bowls instead of pedicure chairs and choose appliances with energy-star labels as well as organic-cleaning products. Mindful spas are also offering recyclable bags to guests who make purchases.

“If a particular treatment uses less water or sustainable products have a symbol next to the service with a footnote on the spa menu so eco-conscious guests know about it,” suggests Davis.

Before buying retail products, check them out. “Research claims a bit, and don’t be afraid to ask questions,” said Davis. “Find out how and why they consider themselves green. Is it minimal packaging, nontoxic dyes, biodegradable?”

Popular spa lines are cleaning up their product lines with an eye on the environment. For example, emerginC has reformulated each product and revamped its packaging, making it one of the first cosmeceutical lines to remove all parabens and reduce petrochemicals. The new collection is now packaged in environmentally conscious paper that employs a printing process using vegetable-based ink.

“As the consumer demand for organic products rises, today’s beauty industry retains a reverence for going green. Yet, the process of reformulating and greening a skin-care line is not easy,” said Ian Lirenman, owner of emerginC skin care. “Hard truths and challenges have shown up along the way, but as a personally eco-conscious consumer, the choice is clear that simplifying and cleaning up is the right path.”

Six P’s of Greening Your Retail
Purity—Don’t just slap “green” on your labels and start selling them as environmental beauty. “Green washing” is becoming a public-relations nightmare. Products need to be authentic and consistent. It is better to not be green and be honest than say you are green and be found out. In fact, understate your green quotient and get involved with green causes and charities while you make a smooth transition.
Proven—Products don’t need to be entirely sustainable, but only make claims you can substantiate. Any effort to be environmentally conscious will be appreciated by an eco-conscious consumer. And everyone knows it is a process and can’t happen overnight. Many manufacturers think “greening” their products is a marketing ploy, but for hard-core green consumers, this is deceptive and they will out you.
Packaging—Recyclable packaging doesn’t make beauty products green. In fact, no packaging is as green as it gets.
Pricing—Green shoppers are willing to pay a premium for better products, but you can’t fool them by hiking the price because they are green. The big question is: Will mainstream consumers be willing to pay extra for green products? No one is against green, but not everyone might be willing to pay for it.
Promotions—Green is a hot topic right now and can be used to create promotions for your product line. But green alone is not enough. A cause-related marketing campaign will get attention and make a difference.
Perception—While we want green, the perception is that green products are not as effective as more medically based lines. The good news is that is changing, and with more research someday, it may be that natural products are the most efficacious. However, for products whose positioning is all about effectiveness, going green may confuse, if not turn off, your customers.

Nancy Trent is the owner and founder of Trent & Company, Inc., a global marketing communications firm specializing in healthy lifestyles. She can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at nancy@trentandcompany.com. You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.