Spa Pros Reveal Their Methods for “Green” Spa Success

allison_inn[Image: Courtesy of The Allison Inn & Spa]It’s not easy to stay out of the red when adopting green practices, but many of the country’s top environmentally responsible spas are living proof that “where’s there a will there’s a way.” The U.S. Green Building Council created its LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) guidelines to promote a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It requires arduous efforts and budgets to pass LEED’s audit and rating system for the design and operation of green buildings. But whether you’re a spa owner seeking to design a LEED-Certified facility from the ground up or merely wish to adapt your existing space into a more organic refuge, there are numerous methods and materials available. Read on for some real-world examples.

What elements make your spa eco-friendly?

Peter Plishka, director of communications, Natural Body Spa, Atlanta: With the opening of our 12th location in Brookhaven, Atlanta, we decided to take our sustainable building practices and conservation efforts to the next level and strive for Platinum LEED Certification. In all our locations, business decisions are made with an eye on sustainability, including the use of recycled paper and soy ink in marketing materials, and the selection of recycled building materials like repurposed barn-wood flooring, and rubber floor tiles made from recycled bus tires.

Monika Jalovec, spa director, Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California: Post Ranch Inn was designed from the ground up as a green property that sensitively preserves the land. It has one of the largest solar panel projects in the U.S., which produces 90% of our energy requirements. Whenever possible, we use natural materials that are not only environmentally sound but add to the aesthetic—think glass, wood and stone. Reclaimed wood, including old-growth redwood from wine casks, adds a rich, deep red color to walls; fallen trees are turned into pathway benches. The spa uses nontoxic treatments and cleaning products, plus composting methods; we incorporate flowers, herbs and honey from our organic garden into products such as massage oils, body butters, mists and bath salts used in therapies.

Amy Matincheck, spa director, Sasanqua Spa at The Kiawah Island Club, Kiawah Island, South Carolina: Sasanqua Spa won a Gold Key Hospitality Award for its eco-friendly construction. It’s built on pilings over a saltwater tidal marsh in observance of environmental protections that also preserve ancient live oaks and fauna habitats. We’re inspired by our beautiful location; inside and out, we connect guests with nature.

Tara Calton, spa director, The Allison Spa, Newberg, Oregon: Energy efficiency was a high priority throughout our design process. The property achieved Gold LEED Certification less than a year after opening in 2009. The spa menu is inspired by Oregon’s bountiful soil and ecological abundance of fruit, herbs, flowers, water and wine. True to our Oregon roots, we have placed a premium on “green” in-house systems and standard procedures, including eco-friendly and locally sourced amenities and retail selections, right down to our cleaning supplies. We also use ‘clean cosmeceuticals’ with organic ingredients such as seed oils, plant stem cells and botanical extracts.

Greg Bohn, CEO, Spa Habitat, Dallas: Our flagship spa is housed in a 1908 Victorian home, so technically the entire building is reclaimed. The flooring and reception desks are constructed from reclaimed wood, and chairs and sofas are made of eco-friendly recycled timber, steel, leather and other sustainable materials. We strive for LEED standards with VOC-free paints, nontoxic cleaning products, low-flow toilets, and nontoxic, plant-based ingredients in every product used or sold. We use 100% recycled paper and soy-based inks wherever possible, and we plant a tree for every service performed through

Related: 12 Easy Tweaks to Incorporate Eco Design Elements Into Your Spa

How do you reconcile the spa industry’s high water usage with green practices?

Calton: We took deliberate measures to design The Allison as a low-energy-consuming property. Key water-saving features include water-efficient plumbing fixtures and equipment, and rooftop solar water collectors for heated water. Irrigation equipment has been installed to utilize the city’s reclaimed water supply for landscaping.

Jalovec: Our spa’s green design elements include showerheads and low-flow toilets; the cleaning system uses biodegradable, eco-friendly detergents, and efficient treatment protocols cut down on spa linens. In addition, our drought-resistant landscaping uses native plants that provide habitats for the endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly, California Red-Legged Frog and Western Pond Turtle.

Matincheck: We’ve significantly reduced laundry waste by limiting the number of towels used in treatments. Plus, instead of sending unused hot-wet towels to laundry at the end of the day, we hang them on a drying rack overnight for next-day use.

Plishka: We’re discovering more and more ways to conserve water: We focus extra attention on conservation efforts with tankless water heaters, and Energy Star washers and dryers. At our 10 Ten Nail Bar, hand-carved alabaster foot basins use half as much water as industry standard basins. We’ve also purchased hydropower credits to off set electricity use with a renewable power source.

Bohn: We chose not to perform manicure and pedicure services to avoid harsh ingredients found in some nail polishes and removers, and to substantially save water waste. We use low-water washing machines and do laundry in house using nontoxic detergents, while still meeting state health codes. All our linens, including sheets, towels and robes, are made of organic cotton or other sustainable materials, or can be washed and dried using as little energy as possible.

How have earth-friendly measures saved–or earned–you money?

Calton: Energy efficiency was a high priority throughout the spa’s design process, and it resulted in an energy cost savings of almost 50% relative to a conventionally designed building. Plus, our Variable Refrigerant Volume heating and cooling are more efficient compared to typical hospitality HVAC systems.

Matincheck: Because we only partner with product companies that demonstrate a high level of commitment to environmental causes, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of facial services performed each month—and in facial product sales—as clients increasingly appreciate and seek responsible spa services. Also, operational costs have fallen, and we’ve reduced our usage of electricity, towels and paper, and completely eliminated disposable plastic including cups, plates and flatware.

Bohn: Our business has built its reputation on being organic and green from the ground up. This is a huge part of why we’re a successful spa brand, and why we’ve been able to grow to four locations in the Dallas area.

Plishka: Timers and motion-sensor devices help us utilize electricity only at the times we need it, and Energy Star appliances use fewer utilities. Natural Body’s original location uses 0.317 cents per square foot, while our newer Brookhaven location’s electricity bill averages 0.208 cents per square foot. The savings comparison calculates to $637 per month.

Jalovec: We save money and reduce waste by buying bulk spa products to minimize packaging, in recyclable or reusable containers whenever possible. We give preference to purchasing environmentally superior products and office materials. Guests are more interested in sustainable practices for self-care than ever before—it’s important to them, and they appreciate the natural ingredients contained in our signature products, including honey from the bees on property.

Which of your spa values and practices have garnered the respect of your community?

Jalovec: Post Ranch Inn is considered an American archetype in organic architecture, and its respect for the land and commitment to our community are immediately evident. The design and construction of our green buildings use natural materials and sod roofs to blend in with the landscape. We use solar panels, chauffeur guests in electric cars and encourage employees to carpool or walk to work, which reduces traffic and ensures a serene environment for both our guests and neighbors.

Bohn: Green and organic practices are at the core of everything we do. Most customer feedback acknowledges that this is a big part of why clients choose to visit our spas in the first place. Appreciation for our carefully curated apothecary is also high: We were named ‘Best Spa Boutique in the U.S.’ by DAYSPA a few years ago.

Calton: Guests typically already value and have a sense for sustainability, and the community is vocal about how proud they are of our efforts. Some of those endeavors are designed to raise awareness, like naming the resort’s restaurant, Jory, after Oregon’s native soil, which is responsible for nurturing the produce of the Willamette Valley.

Plishka: Our commitment to the environment and our socially responsible support for the community are at the forefront of our business practices. Natural Body’s Village Place location was chosen for its high-density/mixed-use development following local EarthCraft Community guidelines, which were introduced in 2005 and are designed to protect the environment, enhance quality of life and improve the economy.

Matincheck: Our members and guests make positive comments daily about our organic product lines and our all-natural treatments. They also love knowing that each time they purchase an Éminence skincare product, a tree is planted on behalf of our membership only club spa. Being able to track this progress keeps both our members and our employees engaged in the process.


–by Vicki Arkoff

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