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Spa Trends and Traditions

By Nancy Griffin

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The Spa Industry: A New Voice for Environmental Change

Last year, the FOX-TV characters The Simpsons visited a spa. Marge Simpson received a great "turtle" massage where the therapist used a live turtle in a technique similar to hot stone massage. When the treatment was over, the turtle was thrown into a bin labeled "used turtles." I had to ask myself what the writers of The Simpsons were saying about our industry. Are we known for wasting resources? I decided it was time to clean up our act, focus on resource conservation and market environmentally friendly products and services. Spas are, above all, promoters of health, and our personal health depends on the health of the earth.

The Healing the Waters Project

Several industry leaders started a "conversation" about the greening of the spa industry following the 2002 ISPA conference, where Golden Door founder Deborah Szekely issued a wake-up call to the industry. The result was a call for action known as the "Healing the Waters" project, in which members view spa operators as unique agents of change in the environmental movement. Consider the words of "Healing the Waters" member Larry Dean:

"As the guardians of the healing waters, we are in a natural leader-ship position to rise to the challenge. First, it 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 sacred sites throughout the world where these waters flow. This is a sacred trust we have inherited. Finally, we are organized and have a unique access to some of the most important people in the world, who come to us for our services. The spa industry has the opportunity to make a commitment to organize ourselves in such a way that we are totally sustainable and environmentally conscious of every aspect of our operations and to make the necessary upgrades to our systems whenever possible. We can then use our position to communicate what we stand for and explain why we are moving in this direction. By calling attention to the problem and demonstrating solutions, we will inspire others to follow our example and take actions that heal the waters of the world."

Sustainable Spas

Eva Jensch of Spa Concepts International has been a proponent of the sustainable spa movement for more than two decades. "True, deep down 'in your bones' relaxation and optimal health can be brought about through the use of the natural minerals, plants, light, water and air," she said. "By nurturing these elements in your surroundings, you can help the elements nurture the body, mind and soul. We are constantly trying to detoxify our systems; maybe we should start with what is causing the toxic buildup in the first place." Jensch offers the following tips to improve the environmental consciousness of your spas:

  • Change your purchasing habits. Purchase unbleached, 100 percent recycled paper products. Reduce packaging and the amount of plastic you use. Avoid using disposable razors, cotton swabs with plastic sticks, plastic retail bags and Styrofoam cups. Buy in bulk whenever possible, and look for products in reusable and recyclable containers.
  • Create a recycling program in your spa. Every ton of paper we recycle saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 4,100 kilowatts of electricity. Minimize packaging and purchase items in recyclable glass.
  • Use nontoxic cleaners made with natural coconut oils or citrus rind, and avoid products with petrochemicals, phosphates and labels with the words "caution," "danger," and "harmful if swallowed."
  • Install low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and toilet dams. Install water purifiers rather than purchase bottled water.
  • Educate your guests on environmentally sound principles and the actions you have taken to adhere to them.

There is a whole web of environmental interaction to create a healthy planet.

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