December 4th 2003 was a landmark day for the spa industry. Northern California spa leaders gathered at Osmosis Spa in rustic Freestone California to discuss the development of standards to improve our track record with the environment. Hosted by Osmosis owner Michael Stusser in the spa's corporate offices, the event featured a delicious sushi lunch sponsored by SpaTrade.

A dozen committed spa professionals attended the event, including Larry Dean and Loma Alexander, who spearheaded the Healing the Waters Project, and representatives from Auberge Resorts, Fairmont Hotels, Tara Spa Therapy, and SpaTrade. "Northern California has always been a hotbed for environmental issues, so it is no surprise that this movement would take root here," said Nancy Griffin, SpaTrade's CEO "Water was as precious as gold during the droughts in the early 80's," said Griffin, who grew up in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. "Wasting water was a mortal sin."

The Healing the Waters project was born out of a conversation between several industry leaders, including representatives from hotel companies Auberge Resorts and Fairmont Hotels, after matriarch Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta and The Golden Door, issued a wake up call to the spa industry at the 2002 ISPA conference that really hit home: "The spa industry has an ethical responsibility to protect the environment, and we are in an ideal position to truly make a difference."

"As the guardians of the healing waters, we are in a natural leadership position to rise to the challenge," said Larry Dean, one of Healing Waters' founders. "First, water is at the heart of our livelihood and serves our interest for the future of our industry. Secondly, we have been given stewardship of the sites through out the world where these waters flow. This is a sacred trust we have inherited. Finally, we have unique access to some of the most important people in the world, who come to us for our services."

Tracy Herk, corporate spa director of Auberge Resorts, based in Mill Valley, California, has been active in the sustainable spa movement for the past year. "All our properties are located in beautiful and unique destinations," said "It is part of my job to become educated on ways to protect the properties, so we are giving back to the land, rather than taking away." Tara Grodjesk of Tara Spa Therapy invited sustainable building expert Richard Zimmerman to create a vision on the future, and led a brainstorming session on the purpose of the organization.

The Healing the Waters Project will be developing sustainable guidelines that will be presented at upcoming spa industry events. Also in discussion is an award for sustainable spas. For more information, email [email protected]