Spas are in the business of helping people live healthier lives. It stands to reason then that adopting eco-friendly strategies for your spa is yet another way to practice what you preach. While that should be motive enough, there are also the added cost-cutting benefits that come from employing energy-efficient features, water-recycling systems, and more. Whatever the reasoning—health or wealth—there has never been a better time to go green. While spas built from the ground up to be LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) do have an advantage, there are plenty of other ways you can make your spa a healthier place while also cutting costs and reducing waste. In fact, many spas are doing so in ways that are truly groundbreaking, so learn from their successes on how easy and rewarding it is to be green.
Modest green measures can make a big difference to your bottom line, especially as it relates to energy and water conservation. According to Travis Anderson, spa director at Lantana Spa at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort (TX), the simple act of reviewing treatment protocols and decreasing the number of towels used in some services reduced the spa’s laundry costs by thousands of dollars. Kayantá Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun (Mexico) relies on eco-friendly bamboo linens, which require less water to wash.
Maggie Wagner, senior director of spas at Travaasa Experiential Resorts (Austin, TX and Maui, HI), encourages staff members to conserve energy by unplugging hot stone heaters, lamps, and coffee makers at the end of the day. Energy efficiency is also a priority at Hyatt at Olive 8’s LEED-certified Elaia Spa (Seattle), which features LED lights throughout the facility. The efficient lighting, however, doesn’t keep the staff from finding additional ways to reduce energy usage. “We have a one-hour period each day in which the lights are turned off in our 24-hour fitness facility, and the natural light coming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows allows our guests to work out,” says spa director Adam Estrella.
Reducing its carbon footprint has always been a priority at Complexions Spa for Beauty & Wellness (Albany, NY). In fact, the spa was the first in the country to receive Gold LEED certification for new construction in 2009. According to owner Denise Dubois, the spa saves more than $10,600 annually on its utility bills, thanks to a variety of energy-efficient measures, such as using motion-controlled light sensors to automatically turn off lights when a room is not in use. “The greenhouse gas savings is estimated to be 56 tons annually—the equivalent of the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly seven homes for one year,” says Dubois.
Choose Eco-Friendly Products
More than just a passing trend, the green movement has had a profound impact on the development of spa products. “The best practice we have for our spa is utilizing only organic or natural product lines for all of our spa treatments,” says Estrella. “Not only does it offer better benefits for our guests and therapists, but also the everlasting effect on the land from the agricultural process used is truly the ultimate win.” Eco-focused brands continually strive to reduce their impact on the environment by relying on sustainable farming and green practices.
Sage Springs Club & Spa at Sunriver Resort (OR) is also dedicated to purchasing organic and locally made products to further reduce its carbon footprint. “Roughly 90 percent of our products are handcrafted and locally farmed, which means no shipping footprint,” says spa operations manager Tifany LeGuyonne. According to her, the spa’s choice of skincare line has had the greatest impact on its bottom line. “Our ability to source a line that is not only organic but also affordable with no shipping costs means we can maintain our profit margins while supporting local farmers,” she says.
Not limited to health and beauty lines, green manufacturing practices can also apply to any items your spa retails. Hotel Terra’s Chill Spa (Jackson Hole, WY), for example, looks to partner with an array of vendors that share its green philosophy, such as Alō Yoga clothing, which features a solar-powered design house. “By supporting vendors who have the same passion and drive for green initiatives, we can make a difference,” says spa manager Sara Dolentz.
Product packaging is another area in which your spa can make a change for the better by teaming up with product companies that use recycled and eco-friendly packing materials. “Even though we recycle most of the packaging the products arrive in, it remains too high,” says Estrella. That’s one of the reasons St. Julien Hotel & Spa (Boulder, CO) created a hotel-wide initiative to reduce and eliminate package waste by using only compostable or recyclable packaging.
According to Roberto Arjona, chief executive of Rancho La Puerta (Tecate, Mexico) and president of the Green Spa Network, there is much room for improvement in terms of product packaging, working with local green companies, incorporating more organic and biodegradable products, and relying on more recycled and repurposed materials. “Across the industry, I think the area in which spas have the hardest time transitioning to truly green practices is the packaging of the products we use,” says LeGuyone. “I think the next step is transitioning to biodegradable packaging across the board.”
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
When The Spa at Laguna Cliffs at Marriott Resort & Spa (Dana Point, CA) needed a bit of an update, it was deemed the perfect time for a “green-ovation.” “We saw an opportunity to update the brand and look of the spa, but we didn’t necessarily need a top-to-bottom renovation,” says spa director Jessica Timberlake. “After several hours of meetings with designers, we selected a design partner with a great vision for repurposing our existing elements.” Instead of purchasing 70 new lockers, the spa opted to relaminate its current lockers. Existing glass display shelves were frosted to create a new look without producing waste. The spa also incorporated some upcycled art pieces, installations of reclaimed wood to add texture and warmth. “Design bids are a spa director’s best friend when presenting ideas to ownership,” says Timberlake. “Because we selected to work with a creative designer, we shaved 30 percent off the renovation cost, which was less expensive than if we were to purchase all new items.”
Ongoing recycling efforts are another way to reduce waste. “We have always had a paper and cardboard recycling program, but last year, we partnered with a local charity that collects recyclable plastic containers,” says Anderson. “I am amazed by how much plastic we no longer throw away.” At Sage Springs Club & Spa, old linens are upcycled into cleaning rags or donated to local animal shelters. The opportunities to do good are endless.
One of the most innovative initiatives launched at Rancho La Puerta involved replacing garbage bags with reusable containers throughout the property. The spa now reuses buckets originally utilized for food delivery. The spa also offers an employee-based recycling program in which staff members bring their recycling to work. When looking for ways to reduce waste, remember that involving your staff and clientele has the added benefit of raising awareness and instilling a positive feeling about your spa and its green philosophy.
While there are many ways to make your spa more sustainable, you needn’t stop there. The folks at Calistoga Ranch (CA) certainly didn’t when they came up with the idea of helping to rebuild the honey bee population in Napa Valley and educate guests about the benefits of bees and their honey. “The comprehensive ‘Bee Well’ program not only includes eco-luxe honey-infused spa treatments but also a mobile observation beehive that is showcased when prearranged for guests to enjoy during weekly tours,” says general manager Coni Thornburg. “The bee population at Calistoga Ranch has now grown to five hives, with up to 30,000 bees per hive.” Other spas and product companies give back by planting trees and donating to green causes.
Just know that whatever your spa is able to do to make strides along the path to sustainability is definitely a step in the right direction. “Maintaining a green business is a journey not a destination, and there will continually be areas where newer practices can be taken into consideration,” says Dubois. The key is to keep looking for ways in which to green your spa. “What we have found at Chill Spa is that green is not a trend, it is a growing awareness,” says Dolentz. “By making eco-conscious decisions in purchasing, collaborating with green vendors, and continuing with energy-efficient systems, we are making a statement to our spa guests that we have a moral investment in the environment.”