Green Thumb

spa industry, eco-friendly business, environmentally friendly spa, These days it’s not enough to offer an effective product, as most spa-goers also want the products they use to be green. What does that mean exactly? Well, for starters, it means using more organic, non-genetically modified organisms (GMO), and natural ingredients. Fortunately, many product manufacturers are already onboard with this way of thinking and doing what they can to lessen their impact on the environment. “Being green is of utmost concern to Pevonia,” says Maritza Rodriguez, global vice president of marketing and communications. “Consumers are more aware every day of the necessity to conserve our earth’s resources.” That’s why sustainability has become such a buzzword in the industry. “There is an entire segment of the market that will not patronize a brand or company if they are not taking clear steps to being sustainable,” says Chase Polan, founder of Kypris, a luxurious line of holistic, high-performance skincare. Choosing the sustainable option is becoming a non-negotiable for those committed to being green. “Sourcing materials from responsible vendors, including those who follow principles of sustainability, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), is key,” says Janae Muzzy, vice president of research and development for Epicuren Discovery. “Such organizations are crucial to protecting our natural resources and environment.” The same can be said of Ecocert, an organic certification organization founded in France, and NATRUE, an international non-profit association based in Brussels that certifies natural and organic products. In addition to seeking certification from these organizations and more, many companies are incorporating a host of eco-friendly steps to make their products even healthier and preserve the wellbeing of the planet, providing spas with services and treatments that cater to the needs of their green-minded clientele.


spa industry, eco-friendly business, environmentally friendly spa, Sustainable Ingredients

Because spa-goers are more concerned than ever before about what they put in and on their bodies, ingredients are in the spotlight. Concerned about plastic waste contaminating the ocean and aware of the move to ban plastic microbeads in some states, Lifeline Skin Care opted to create a facial scrub using a healthier alternative to polyethylene beads. “Those beads are not biodegradable and impact marine life, pollute lakes and oceans, and are harmful to birds and fish,” says Linda Nelson, corporate director of education and international business. “In response to this need for biodegradable micro-particles, we discovered that we could instead use polylactic acid (PLA) micro-crystals. Polylactic acid is derived from high starch materials,  such as corn, and PLA beads are a sustainably sourced alternative to synthetic polymers.”

Nailcare, once known for its toxic chemicals, is one area that has benefitted from 3-free, 4-free, and even 5-free formulations, in which the main offending chemicals are absent from ingredient lists. Deborah Lippmann, Orly, SpaRitual, Zoya, and more are just a few of the companies focusing on more natural ingredients. “At SpaRitual, environmental and social awareness is more than a line in a mission statement; it is our mantra,” says Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual and “We are active participants in a global movement to change the way business is conducted and are constantly on the lookout for ingredients and processes that lessen our impact on the environment.”

Manufacturers who rely on fair-trade ingredients can also help minimize their impact on Mother Nature. “In order for products to be considered fair trade, they must meet a set of environmental standards, such as banning certain pesticides, reducing the amount of water used in production, and ensuring that organic waste is disposed of sustainably,” says Yulibel Lamorena, brand director for EmerginC. “When you choose fair trade, you are not only helping farmers receive better wages and working conditions, you are also helping our environment. These small producers are more likely to use traditional, sustainable, and ethical farming methods that are better for our environment compared to big factory farms, and that is what we strive to promote.” And EmerginC certainly not alone in that endeavor.

According to Szilvia Hickman, senior vice president of Szep Elet, which distributes Ilike Organic Skin Care, the company relies on no-machinery farming to lessen its impact. Instead, all of the ingredients are handpicked herbs, fruits, and vegetables and hand-processed raw materials made in small batches the day they’re harvested. “This collection and production process not only ensures the highest potency of the ingredients but also disturbs nature as little as possible,” says Hickman.

Some companies, such as Jurlique, are fortunate to have their own farms, which allow them to plant and harvest the ingredients they use. Jurlique, in fact, relies on biodynamic farming, which focuses on growing plants holistically with minimal impact to the earth. “Jurlique uses farm-grown herbs in more than 90 percent of our product lines and works with vendors to progressively improve the sustainable sourcing of purchased ingredients through vendor management programs,” says environmental officer Yoshie Obara.


Eco-friendly Packaging

Another important way companies can lessen their impact on the environment is by being mindful of how they package their products. Of course, they must take into consideration how to best protect and extend the shelf life of their products, especially when they incorporate natural ingredients. However, there are better options these days that make it easier to be green. For example, Ilike Organic Skin Care uses plant-starch-based packing peanuts and temperature-controlling coolers. “Instead of polystyrene coolers and packing peanuts, which are almost always single-use items that are disposed of as soon as a package is received, the use of plant-starch alternatives results in a zero-percent landfill contribution,” says Hickman.

According to Muzzy, the folks at Epicuren believe that less is more. In addition to using the simplest packaging and least amount of material needed, the company also uses post-recycled and recyclable plastics, water-based inks on all paper products, and the most Earth-friendly choice of those available. Although it tries to avoid the use of boxes, unless required for regulatory requirements, when necessary, it uses those made of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) material. EmerginC also relies on product boxes printed on FSC and sustainable forest-initiative certified paperboard with non-toxic vegetable ink.

EmerginC is also in the process of moving from plastic to glass bottles and jars for most of its creams and serums. “Using glass rather than plastic significantly reduces landfill, and it also saves energy on plastic’s inefficient recycling process,” says Lamorena. “We will also be moving to biodegradable caps, and where we do use plastic, we have begun incorporating post-consumer recycled plastics.” Kypris is another product manufacturer that packages its products in glass, thereby limiting its use of plastics. “This is good for our consumers, as plastics tend to leech into product and end up on the skin,” says Polan.

Another way to cut down on packaging is by not only encouraging customers to recycle but also making it easier for them to do so. Salt of the Earth, a home-grown bath and body company, introduced its True Recycling initiative to change the way backbar goods in spas are used. Instead of throwing away or even recycling the six-ounce product jars, the company asks customers to reuse them with easy-to-use backbar refill pouches, which use 30 percent less plastic than traditional plastic jugs. “When spas have a Salt of the Earth Blend Bar Mix Station, returning guests bring back their empty jars for a refill and a discount,” says owner and chief care officer Paul Heslop. “This is our way and now their way of helping our earth stay clean.”


Healthy Headquarters

Although most spa-goers prefer green products over the alternative, it’s also nice to support companies that apply that same eco-friendly philosophy to their home bases. EmerginC, for example, has invited three feathered friends to share its Brooklyn headquarters. The chickens, which reside on the roof, produce a safer and healthier alternative to factory-farmed eggs. “They are also hard-working gardeners,” says Lamorena. “We have a rooftop garden, and not only do the chickens provide fertilizer but, once we harvest all the vegetables, they also eat all the unwanted weeds. We grow a great variety of vegetables, such as mixed lettuce and arugula from our EmerginCeeds planting program, artichokes, beets, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes—everything you need for a delicious and sustainable lunchtime salad.” The office also runs on 100 percent wind power and incorporates other sustainable design elements, such as reclaimed wood office doors and a big skylight on the main floor.

Helping to minimize energy consumption, skylights also feature prominently at the headquarters for Salt of the Earth. Located in Salt Lake City, the eco-friendly custom-blending factory relies on recycled storage cargo containers and highly sustainable materials. “I designed the headquarters using reclaimed shipping containers and reclaimed wood throughout the design and building,” says Heslop.

In Oy-Mittelberg, Germany, Amala and Primavera products are produced in the brands’ state-of-the-art carbon-neutral headquarters and laboratory. Incorporating sustainable building practices, the company’s home base features a honey-combed designed roof, which saved 20 percent on concrete and steel, and relies on rainwater tanks to help cool the building in the summer months and an infrared system and solar power for heat. Even though most manufacturers may not be in a position to build their own sustainable headquarters, it’s certainly something for which to strive. In the meantime, there are plenty of manageable steps they can take, such as using biodegradable cleaning supplies, choosing suppliers with green practices, recycling, and more.  


Philanthropic Pursuits

While there are numerous advantages to going green, many companies take it a step further and put their money where there hearts are. Jurlique, for example, has a long-standing commitment to the environment and demonstrates that by planting trees to help increase biodiversity and reduce its carbon footprint. According to Obara, in the last three years, more than 350 Jurlique staff members planted more than 4,000 trees, which in terms of removing carbon from the environment (also known as sequestering), is equivalent to taking 138 cars off the road. “The main goal of this event was to enhance environmental awareness among staff and people who joined, as well as contribute to carbon sequestering,” says Obara. “We believe that everyone can make a difference to help protect our environment, and we look forward to planting more trees in the future.”

EmerginC and Éminence Organic Skin Care also participate in their own tree-planting programs. “We also have an industry-first bee habitat program called EmerginBees,” says Lamorena. “Through this initiative, we provide seed bombs—clay compost balls containing milkweed seeds—with every order to help create a viable habitat for bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds. We recently partnered with Miraval Resort & Spa to provide EmerginBees seed bombs to every guest in conjunction with their own bee sustainability programs.” 

Supporting eco-minded organizations is another way product manufacturers show their commitment. No stranger to sustainable causes, Aveda donates 100 percent of the purchase price of its signature limited-edition Light the Way Candles as part of its Earth Month efforts to Global Greengrants Fund, a non-profit organization that funnels high-impact grants to grassroots groups working to solve environmental issues around the world. The company has raised $9 million through sales of the candle since 2006. It’s just one of the many ways Aveda does its part to protect and preserve the planet.

Ilike Organic Skin Care partners with World Land Trust-U.S., an international conservation charity that protects the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats by creating reserves and giving permanent protection to habitats and wildlife. According to Hickman, the company donates a portion of proceeds from a variety of campaigns hosted throughout the year. Pevonia, too, contributes to numerous environmental conservation organizations, such as the Arbor Day Foundation, Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, and more. Like many eco-friendly companies, it’s part of Epicuren’s mission to support non-profit causes through product donations and event participation. “Each staff member is also given paid days off each year to volunteer at organizations they hold dear to their hearts,” says Muzzy. “These include amazing environmental organizations, such as the Surfrider Foundation and local recycling programs.”

For others, it’s about giving back to those who help support their mission. “Amala’s commitment to its fair-trade growers and their communities extends beyond its commitment to effective organic skincare,” says Joi Ruud, global marketing director for Amala. According to her, it’s thanks to the farmers who produce the ingredients that Amala uses that makes it possible for the company to do what it does. “Amala invests 5 percent of its total profits into its farmers’ businesses and communities each year, and we also invest our time, working alongside the farmers as they grow their plants and grow their businesses,” says Ruud. “The collaboration allows us to contribute to the regeneration of the land, betterment of the community, and success of the farm.” 


Cost-Benefit Ratio

There is no question that there are numerous benefits associated with being green. Unfortunately, in some cases, there are also additional costs, which can sometimes result in a higher price point for products. According to Hickman, recycled and recyclable materials typically cost more, although it can vary based on the item. “Copy paper can cost more than 40 percent more if 100 percent recycled material is purchased versus all-virgin wood material,” she says. “Packing peanuts that are plant-starch-based and dissolve in water cost about the same as polystyrene peanuts. But plan on 10 to 20 percent higher costs overall if you switch the majority of your materials over to recycled with the actual percentage dependent on your use of different materials.” Hickman also notes that organic raw materials and organic farming is 20 to 40 percent more expensive than conventional methods and materials, and that isn’t even taking into account the costs associated with obtaining organic certifications. 

Luckily, most manufacturers and clients find that the benefits far outweigh the costs. “We pay a higher fixed price for our organic, fairly traded plant ingredients,” says Ruud. “We see added value in these raw materials in that the plants are healthier and more effective. At the same time, we save money by being more efficient via our carbon-neutral headquarters.” Times are also changing in that consumers are now demanding more accountability from manufacturers. “There’s no denying that being green costs more,” says Muzzy. “However, as far as we’re concerned, it’s just the cost of responsible business. Hopefully, one day, the world will catch up, and being green will be the most cost-effective way to live and do business.”

Learn how one company is encouraging its employees to embrace the environment and go green.

Jurlique features a Green Team, a group of volunteers who intitiates environmental events, such as Tree Planting Day and Waste Management Training, and ongoing employee education to develop environmental awareness in individual staff members. Says environmental officer Yoshie Obara, "Thanks to the Green Team, Jurlique employees are continuously committed to sustainable practices and nourishing the earth."