Green Spas Aren’t a Trend—They’re a Movement: Easy and Accessible Ways to Practice Sustainability at Your Spa
Article by our founder, Danielle Conte, for ISPA's Pulse Magazine

Now more than ever, spa guests are considering the sustainability of their wellness routines. Environmental wellness is top-of-mind as we make decisions regarding the practices that support our mental and physical health. But as many spas are doing everything they can to stay afloat, the time and financial commitment of “going green” and overhauling your business may be enough to make you write off the initiative completely.

The good news? Every step toward sustainability counts. If you’re unable to invest in renewable wood furniture, solar panels or pursue a coveted LEED Green Building Certification, you can get creative and start small using the tools below.

Start with Simple, Sustainable Wins
Recycling, composting and saying goodbye to plastics are accessible ways to reduce your waste. Place recycling bins in common areas and print marketing materials on recycled paper. You can even send guests home with a reusable tote that’ll make for a memorable experience, automatically reducing waste while also advertising your business.

Looking to reduce your paper usage? Replace printed intake forms with a tablet for guests to fill out upon arrival. Still handing out paper cups? Offer guests water in recycled paper cups or supply reusable containers.

We’re not going for perfection here. Ultimately, paper waste is unavoidable, so using plant-based or recycled paper products is key. And don’t forget about composting—tea bags, napkins, wood tester sticks and organic waste can all be placed in a sustainable steel compost bin.

Support Local Food Suppliers
Healthy food is nearly synonymous with the spa experience, and by sourcing a large percentage of organic and local fruits, vegetables, juices and teas, you’re contributing to the local economy. If you want to take local sourcing a step further, you can also make a commitment to ordering local supplies, herbs and oils. You can even consider starting an on-site garden, which will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing reliance on food shipped over long distances.

All these approaches support a responsible food and beverage program, helping you reduce your impact on the environment while also saving money along the way. Here’s a fun fact to seal the deal: Soil farmed organically has been shown to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, reversing climate change and utilizing that carbon to feed the plants.

Packaging: the Tip of the Sustainability Iceberg
When thinking about what retail products to bring into your spa, it’s important to think beyond the ingredient deck. Get to know the product’s manufacturing process and shipping implications. From a sustainability perspective, beauty packaging is tricky because it’s often composed of a mixture of metal, glass, plastic and sometimes paper. What’s more, these items are not very reusable, as these mixed materials mean there’s no real way to recycle them.

Not sure how to get started? Avoiding synthetic fragrances, artificial colors and petroleum-derived ingredients are all helpful starting places when evaluating products. A concrete way for spas to step up their sustainability is to aggressively reduce their use of plastics while also encouraging their vendors to reduce the use of plastics in their product packaging and shipping materials.

However, packaging is only one piece of the pie. Sourcing products from responsible vendors, including those who follow principles of sustainability, and that hold certifications for natural and organic ingredients, and support fair trade practices will ensure the spa further its commitment to sustainability.

For example, when you choose to support fair trade products, you are not only helping farmers receive better wages and working conditions, you are also helping Mother Earth. For example, in the Southern Philippines, farmers are paid a fair trade premium for their coconuts which is invested back in their local communities to support sustainable farming practices and clean waterways.

Don’t Trash It-Donate It
Instead of throwing away unwanted or unneeded supplies, try donating them to local charities or organizations. Office furniture, supplies and equipment, food, unwanted testers, robes and sheets—anything you replace can be donated to those in need.

Wondering what to do with all those extra amenities such as shampoos and conditioners? Your local homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, food pantry or community non-profit would be grateful to receive them.

Another option is to send extra toiletries to our troops deployed overseas through Operation: Care and Comfort. Since 2003, OCC has distributed more than 1,000,000 pounds of donated toiletries!

Nix Disposables
Limiting the use of disposable items is a significant step toward sustainability. Did you know that a cotton ball takes about 17 ounces of water—about the volume of a large water bottle—to grow? This doesn’t even include the processing, which uses more. Even disposable products that many believe are eco-friendly contribute to waste production.

Luckily, there are many reusable options for traditionally disposable amenities. Reusable cleansing cloths can save over two thousand cotton balls a year and can be easily tossed in a washable bag at the end of the day with other towels and linens. You can even consider replacing disposable razors with bamboo or wood razors, and affordable reusable combs can be purchased in place of plastic.

Proper Disposable is Key
Personal care and beauty products may seem safe enough for everyday use, but they often require special disposal. Never pour hazardous materials down the sink or dispose of them with the regular trash. Those materials can harm customers, employees and the environment by directly impacting the quality of the groundwater. Acetone and aerosols must be disposed of properly to avoid expensive penalties and harm to the environment. Another hazardous material, disinfectants, can be easily swapped for non-toxic industrial-strength products that are eco-friendly. And the next time you’re about to toss out those old batteries, considering donating them (see tip above).

Purchase Refillable Supplies
Shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and cleaning supplies—there are endless ways to incorporate biodegradable, organic, and bulk options into your spa and guest room offerings. There’s also the added bonus that these brands use packaging made of 100% recycled material that you can transfer to glass pumps. Using these refillable options will reduce the waste from the small amenity bottles that can sit in landfills for years.