Published on December 17th, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans1
People Meet Planet at Eco Spa Retreats
Caring for your body and the earth are two things that go hand-in-hand at a growing number of day spas around the country.
Eco-friendly rejuvenation is the theme at these healing retreat centers that pledge themselves not only to ecologically sensitive business practices, but also to educating the spa industry about its impact on the earth.
Characterized by a commitment to natural health care and global concern, the green day spa movement utilizes low-impact facilities and sustainable products for traditional spa treatments, such as massage, facials, hydrotherapy, and aromatherapy. At these eco-spas, a nurturing massage or a luxurious soak benefits the individual and the environment, making the leisure of a spa experience a positive experience for all, rather than a guilty pleasure.
Spearheading the green spa movement is long-time eco-maverick Michael Stusser, who leads the Green Spa Network (GSN) and owns Osmosis Day Spa in Sonoma County, California. Stusser’s environmental credits include being part of the team that built the innovative Agroecology Program and The Farallones Institute (now the OAEC, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center). Stusser coupled the knowledge he gained at these organizations with his long-time Zen Meditation practice to create Osmosis nearly 20 years ago.
Osmosis serves as the green spa movement’s flagship spa and is the sole facility in North America to feature cedar enzyme baths like those found in Japan. The spa is currently midway through a complete ecological make-over to translate every aspect of its operations to ultra earth-friendly.
With the Green Spa Network, Stusser is on a mission to support his spa industry peers to encourage each other in making similar transformations to low impact operations. The GSN actively challenges spa owners to deepen their commitment to green practices, community activism, and peer collaboration.
The network is a natural collaboration effort by concerned spa industry professionals who meet regularly to investigate lessening the environmental impact of their organizations. The group, self-named "Healing the Waters," fueled the formation of an International Spa Association task force in 2004 to further promote and investigate sustainable, green issues in the field. Not surprisingly, the task force discovered widespread industry interest to "go green." Consider the impact:
- Already, six prominent spas are on board as Green Spa Network Seed Spas. By signing on as members, these spas open their facilities up to what’s known as a "Green Audit."
- After planning and committing to a course of action for change, participants interact at a monthly teleconference to share their findings with fellow members.
- GSN seed members incorporate principles of low energy use and reduced waste, recycling programs, use of natural products, and community outreach education programs.
- Many seed spas offer environmental info and tips to their clients and communities, in addition to a full menu of spa services that are both traditional and green.
Already, the expertise being shared across the network’s membership is dynamic and varied. Seed Spa member Naturopathica specializes in natural botanical skincare products free of synthetic solvents, petroleum, thickeners, and emulsifiers. Naturopathica is committed to educating people about natural health and health care—the company not only places its line of natural products in as many places as possible, it has also started its own partnership program with other eco-minded businesses.
Another Green Spa Network member, Natural Body, is a spa chain headquartered in Georgia that also goes beyond implementing green spa practices for its own operations. The company recently collaborated with Earth Share, a national network of nonprofit environmental and conservation organizations, and now serves as a drop off site for used cell phone recycling.
GSN’s agenda for positive environmental change is ambitious—they’ve already conducted surveys of more than 300 spas and healing retreats. The ultimate goal to is "promote the natural connections between personal well being, economic sustainability and the health of the planet."
Future plans include:
- Publishing—their experiences and findings will be published in a handbook for industry use.
- Producing a Green Spa Starter Kit.
- Creating internships for Green MBS students.
- Implementing a green spa field trip program.
Whether you’re a spa owner or a visitor who would like to suggest some environmental practices for your favorite spa hot spot, here are some great tips to green the spa experience:
- Use vegan skincare products made from natural, organic, and botanical ingredients.
- Investigate non-wax based hair removal techniques such as threading.
- Get creative with well-researched organic and compostable treatment options, like Stusser’s detoxifying cedar enzyme bath.
- Stock water coolers with biodegradable cups.
- Place recycling bins near the cooler.
- Stock restrooms with biodegradable soap and toilet tissue made from recycled paper.
- Source furniture and building materials from small, locally-owned businesses or craftspeople and vendors who engage in fair trade practices.
- If installing carpet, use those made from natural fibers like wool, silk, and jute.
- If installing wood floors, use bamboo, reclaimed wood, or wood harvested from forests managed for sustainability.
- Only use non-toxic paints, adhesives, and cleaning solutions whenever possible.
- Buy in bulk to avoid excess package and shipping.
- Compost food scraps and other biodegradable garbage.
- Install energy efficient lighting.
- Install hand dryers to cut down on paper use.
- Install water-saving devices on faucets and toilets.
- Encourage staff carpooling or use of public transportation.
- Plant native plants on spa grounds and/or those that require little water to sustain.