The profession of massage is all about health and wellness—so running a green business makes good sense. Here, learn fun and easy ways to support the environment while supporting your clients’ health—and the health of your practice.
It’s no secret that global warming is having an effect on the planet—and it’s also no secret that healthy environmental habits, or “green” practices, are quickly making their way into business culture.
“The urgency has changed,” National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Communications Director Alex Kennaugh told MASSAGE Magazine. “People are becoming more awake, or attuned, to the fact that we really do have a great influence on our environment.”
Massage therapists are in a position to serve as frontline educators when it comes to planting the seeds of green consciousness with clients—and as consumers become more savvy about the environment, running a green practice makes good business sense as well.
Most of all, acting in an environmentally friendly way means living in balance with the environment, thereby helping ensure there will be an environment for generations to come.
Your actions matter
According to the NRDC, a nonprofit environmental-protection organization with 1.2 million members, “Each year scientists learn more about how global warming is affecting the planet, and many agree that certain consequences are likely to occur if current trends continue.”
Among these consequences: melting glaciers, severe droughts and water shortages; rising sea levels leading to coastal flooding; more intense hurricanes; forests, farms and cities facing new pests and more mosquito-borne diseases; and disruption of habitats, such as coral reefs and alpine meadows, that may drive many plant and animal species to extinction.
Fostering positive change on a global scale may seem overwhelming—but the good news is that small changes made today could add up to positive results in the future. From the massage products you buy (and where you buy them), to what you eat, to the choices you make in recycling and transportation, your actions matter.
The greening of business
Consumers expect to double their spending on green products and services in the next year, totaling an estimated $500 billion annually, or $43 billion per month, according to findings from the 2007 ImagePower Green Brands Survey, reported by www.environmentalleader.com. Businesses are responding to this demand by operating in greener ways and offering more green products and services.
“‘Green’ is just is a more engaging term for environmental issues,” explained Kennaugh. “The word ‘environment’ is politicized, and ‘green’ is a way for people to feel like they can contribute to environmental preservation and protection without thinking they have to eat broccoli or wear a hair shirt. It’s a more acceptable term.”
By being mindful of small, everyday changes, massage therapists can be green in both their business and personal lives, said Kennaugh, who is developing the NRDC’s new green-lifestyle Web site, Simple Steps.
“You can’t say, ‘I should only do one thing,’ and you can’t say, ‘I should do everything,’” she said. “Just add simple steps in, one by one. Slowly, it builds on itself.”
Massage therapist Maryanne Gilbert of Golden, Colorado, for example, uses e-mail to correspond with clients, rather than regular (paper) mail, while Nancy Sheehan, a massage therapist in Cranberry, New Jersey, always brings her own bags to the grocery store and makes a point of biking and walking, instead of driving, whenever possible.
Massage therapist Jody Hutchinson of Pacific Grove, California, recycles—glass, paper, metals, plastic bags, containers and cardboard—at both his massage office and home, while massage practitioner Christine Vander Bloomen of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, purchased stemware to use to serve water to clients.
“Previously, I was using Styrofoam cups,” she said. “I figure I was spending nearly $25 per year on cups I would throw away. The stemware cost me only 50 cents apiece, and I will be able to use them over and over and over—and I also like the presentation of the stemware much better than a throwaway cup.” (For more ideas, see “10 Ways to Be Green Now,” page 74.)
Beyond small steps
Once you have gotten used to sowing small seeds—things such as using a travel mug instead of paper coffee cups every day, eating locally grown organic food whenever possible and switching out your incandescent lightbulbs with more energy-efficient bulbs—you may want to plant some habits a bit deeper, as many massage therapists and businesses that serve the massage industry are doing.
Seventh Generation, a maker of environmentally safe cleaning products, for example, plans to achieve carbon-neutral status. “We have determined our carbon footprint in order to offset our impacts,” said company spokesperson Chrystie Heimert. “But offsetting is not enough. We are designing a five-year plan to significantly reduce our carbon emissions.” (See “Fast Fact: Carbon Offsetting,” this page.)
Pangea Organics, an organic body-care company, has a 100-percent wind-powered manufacturing and office facility, where the walls are painted with paint low in volatile organic compounds (i.e., it’s less toxic) and the carpet is made of recycled plastic, said founder and CEO Joshua Onysko.
For massage therapist Sheryl Rapée-Adams, who runs a massage practice with her husband, Chris Adams, in Rutland, Vermont, choosing to purchase green products and services reflects her commitment to a healthy environment.
“For example, buying organic massage oil is a measurable economic vote for crops grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, leaving the Earth healthier for future crops, not depleted,” she said.
“Cotton sheets are another great example,” she added. “One study estimates that cotton uses about 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and over 10 percent of the world’s pesticides. So when we choose organic cotton, or modal sheets made from beech, we not only expose ourselves and our clients to healthier materials, but we contribute to healthier production for the Earth.”
Health on a larger scale
As health-care providers, massage therapists are in a position to make choices that benefit the environment and their clients’ health at the same time.
“We should all be concerned with using green products to protect the health of the planet and its inhabitants,” said Stewart Griffith, owner of TouchAmerica, a massage-and-spa table company that follows green practices. “For a massage therapist, whose purpose is healing, approaching [his or her] clients with a consciousness based on healing properties will be reflected in [his or her] work.”
According to Shel Pink, founder and vice president of SpaRitual, a bodycare company whose products are made with vegan ingredients, there’s no point in using products that have ingredients that are potentially harmful to both the environment and clients’ and therapists’ bodies.
“If there is a safer yet effective alternative to a particular ‘hot-button’ ingredient, then it should be utilized,” she said.
Products used within the session room should be environmentally safe as well, said Monica Pasinato-Forchielli, co-owner of One Planet, One Solution, a green spa-products and services company. “As health practitioners, we are trying to improve health and wellness of the clients. Having them lie in a room that has been sprayed with a chemical is completely hypocritical.
“Using green products not only is better for your client, but the positive effects extend to the therapist … and finally to the planet,” she added.
Transportation choices can also make a difference. Massage therapist Barbara Young of Escondido, California, loves her recently purchased Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle, which she uses for massage out-calls. Hutchinson drives a compact car that gets 28 to 36 miles to the gallon, and he has arranged to wash his massage linens and do his shopping on his route between home and work, to cut down on side trips.
Rapée-Adams says she and her husband-partner adhere to the “natural is better” philosophy in their practice.
“Everything we offer to clients is natural and, to the extent possible, local. We never give out promotional gewgaws, disposable items or junk food,” she said.
Good for the Earth, good
for your practice
The people who book massage sessions on a regular basis—those consumers referred to by marketers as “cultural creatives”—are oftentimes the very people who are fueling the green trend. That means they may notice how green your practice is and even choose where to get a massage based on how green a practice is.
“According to the 2006 Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability Consumer Trends Database, 80 percent of consumers agree that it is important for companies to be mindful of their impact on the environment and society,” explained Pink.
Another recent study found that more than 84 percent of respondents believe “it is a moral obligation” to care for the environment, while 86 percent already participate in at least one green activity, such as conserving energy at home, recycling, driving a fuel-efficient car, buying recycled products or picking up litter. The study was conducted by Insight Research Group in partnership with HGTV and the NRDC, as reported by LOHAS Weekly.
Whether your clients are knowledgeable about green issues or not, you can serve as an example of holistic health in how you treat the environment.
“Chris and I have noticed that clients use us as wellness examples,” Rapée-Adams said. “When we abstain from bottled water and offer only organic fruit at the holidays, clients notice this and sometimes ask about it.
“Helping raise clients’ awareness and possibly impacting clients’ behavior is a tremendously rewarding thought,” she added. “Clients have told me, ‘Did you know that you go shopping with me? I picked up an artificially scented room freshener, and it was like you were on my shoulder asking if I really wanted to choose that. And I didn’t buy it.’ Hearing [that] makes me feel really good.”
From a business standpoint, there’s no reason you can’t promote the greenness of your massage practice to existing and potential clients. Sheehan is working on a new page for her Web site that will list all the things she’s doing—buying recycled toilet paper, encouraging clients to bring their own cups and using cloth towels instead of paper towels.
Promoting one’s green habits can help grow a businessperson’s reputation in the community, Kennaugh said. “It’s showing where your values are—being supportive and recognizing that you’re a part of the community and that you don’t want to drain resources or create pollution. For me, as a consumer, it would certainly influence my decisions.”
Some cities and counties offer green certification to businesses that meet certain environmental standards. If you obtain this certification, send a press release to your local newspaper(s), mention it on your Web site and hang the framed certificate in your office.
The green efforts of Pangea, the company with the wind-powered facility, were recognized in 190 publications, and on nine television shows and two radio programs in 2007 alone. The company also received 16 awards for product performance, leadership and environmental and social responsibility.
But beware of “green washing,” or making your business sound greener than it really is.
“There’s some criticism of companies who might be going green, but only at the tip of the iceberg—so how credible is their claim to be green if the other products or services they’re doing are generating as much or more chemicals into our waste stream?” said Kennaugh. “I think when it’s used to exploit the consumers’ interest in this, it’s inappropriate.”
You have the power
In large part, the power to harvest a healthy environment lives in your wallet.
“With a little bit more effort on the front end, in terms of finding products that make a difference, you can have a tremendous effect on the back end, in terms of the production,” explained Diane MacEachern, founder of www.biggreenpurse.com, a Web site focused on female consumers and the environment, and author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World.
One tangible example of consumer demand affecting production lies in hybrid vehicles, MacEachern added. In 1999 there were no hybrid vehicles on the market, she said, while in 2007 more than 300,000 hybrid vehicles were sold.
Beyond purchasing power, being aware of environmental issues, contacting elected officials when you think things should be done differently and, of course, voting, are all ways you can exercise green power.
“It is very important for citizens to be active participants in this process,” Kennaugh said. “It’s our government—and the key to a lot of this green living is the action component.
“It’s great to do individual choices and make some changes in your house and even in your business,” she added, “but at some level you can do no more, and we need the action of the government to make sure the standards are in place, that the laws are in place and they get enforced, and that there’s funding for the agencies charged with protecting our health and our environment.”
A life in balance
The profession of massage is about health and wellness, so it makes sense that massage therapists focus on the health of the environment, “which has a direct impact on the health of all living beings,” explained Marc Zollicoffer, global educator in massage and spa for Aveda, a green salon and body-care company.
But, again, being green means living in balance—within your life and massage practice, with your clients and with your home, the Earth.
“At some point the pendulum swings, and you say, ‘I have to have some balance in my life,’” Kennaugh said. “That’s always been a core concern, or core value, for a lot of people. I just think they’re realizing the environment isn’t a fringe issue.”
Visit www.massagemag.com for MASSAGE Magazine Editors’ List of 25 Best Green Web Sites.