Can we make our Spas more sustainable?

I took a drinking cure in famous spa town Carlsbad in Czech Republic. And I promise I will tell you all about it in another article, but today I have a more pressing matter to brainstorm with you.

So, I am staying at this lovely boutique hotel in Carlsbad. I had just washed my hair and applied my skin care, when I needed a cotton swab. As common in hotels, there was a little complimentary plastic sachet near the sink with two cotton pads and 2 cotton swabs. Much appreciated.

And as always, I worried about opening this sachet for only one single cotton swab… 

(I always take the remains for later use, not because I want to steal from the hotel, but because I do not want it to go to waste. The sachet once opened is of no use to other guests and would be disposed by housekeeping anyway.)

And as always I wondered: is there no better way to avoid this extra plastic packaging and the extra waste of unused content? And what about all those little bottles of guest amenities, the shampoos, the body lotions, the conditioners?

Can we make our Spas more sustainable? Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

I am fortunate to life in a community where recycling is taken very seriously. Here, we do spent a good portion of our time thinking about waste reduction, reuse, recycling. For years, I have been using fabric shopping bags for example, I have many of them, in the car, in the bike basket, even a thin flat foldable one in my handbag.
And whenever I shop and am offered a plastic bad, I deny and use my own.

I have recently purchased reusable wax paper wrap, for my lunch sandwich.

And of course I have a reusable drinking bottle that goes everywhere with me. Getting take out coffee other than my own thermos is unthinkable to me.

So in my private environment, I feel I can make a difference in many ways!

Can we make our Spas more sustainable? Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

But what about spas? As a spa guest, I feel less empowered to have a say in environmental decisions in a spa. However, you as spa manager, you can make the difference in your spa!

Are most spas still unsustainable?”

… is the title of an article by the Green Spa Network.

We work in an industry that looks after people’s wellbeing. And offer sustainable products. By choosing organic and bio. But what about spa businesses operating practices? 

I think it is time that spas tap the potential of making a difference. 

I also think that our spa guests have already – or will very soon – develop a new service quality understanding. Consumers apply new benchmarks when evaluating products and brands. Why? Because of trends such as globalisation, ecology, and of course mega trend health.

The ecological value will increase in importance: fair, green, sustainable… those key words will not erase from the minds and preferences of consumers and our spa guests.

In fact, trend researchers predict that our ‘disposable society’ can turn into a ‘recycle society’. I think many our spa guests understand the importance for the spa & wellness industry to act and protect the environment.

In Europe already today, many Hotels not only publish annual financial reports, but also sustainability reports. One of my favourite examples: best eco spa awarded Lefay Resorts in Italy.

Bonnie Baker, VP of the board of directors of Green Spa Network identifies the following most urgent issues:

“Reforestation, water, plastic reduction, air quality and alternative energy are the most urgent issues concerning health for the planet and people.” 

Reforestation? What can I as an individual do about that? I have no garden, no land, and I cannot simply plant trees in my spa or hotel garden, if I have any…

True. But I strongly believe that we all can and need to act now! We work in an industry where we take care of the health and wellbeing of our guests. But what about the health and wellbeing of the community and the world around us?

Can we make our Spas more sustainable? Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Let us make our spas more sustainable together!

How can we make our Spas more sustainable? My 5 easy steps to more sustainability in your spa, now!

Step 1:
Look at your EOS (equipment and operating supplies) list, which should provide you with a good overview of all items you use in your spa.

Mark all those, that are consumables, and those that are one-way items.

Consumables are per definition those items in a spa and wellness business, that are used up during the service. Other than equipment and other operating supplies, such as towels or robes, that are non-disposable and being re-used.

Consumables however are either used up (think about skin care products during a facial treatment, or massage oil for example) or one-way items, such as cotton pads or plastic cups.

Step 2: Think about alternatives

Such as replacing disposable plastic cups with reusable ones. Brainstorm with your team.

Hotels have long understood to ask guests about their preferences for changing room linen for example. This way they not only save valuable resources such as water and energy, but also let the guest have a voice in shaping their own experience. 

New materials emerge. A company in Australia for example produces pedicure bowls made from sugar cane and rice. LINK

Step 3: Look into costs, you may be surprised. Be creative!

Let me give you an example: I live in the beautiful Alps, in a rural area. This is were ‘the world is still intact’. Little crime, children greet elders in the streets, you know your neighbours, and shop at the farmer’s market. People trust each other. 

Many of the small farmers offer own produce for sale: eggs, bread, vegetables, butter, cheese. None of those small farmers can afford shop rent or a sales person’s salary. And none of them have the time to be available for selling their home produce 24/7. So what to do? The answer is trust. Many of them will offer their products in an unsupervised small area with public access. And will have a price list and a little cash box nearby. As a customer, you pick what you need and drop the money accordingly. 

Ha! (I can hear you say it), ha, never! Not where I live! People would just take and not pay!
Afraid you are mistaken. Studies have shown, that most customers actually leave a little more than they need to. Which means that, bottom line, this business model is actually working. 

Which makes me think about a “pay what you think it is worth” model. What do you think would happen, if you offered more sustainable and ecological alternatives at your spa and asked your guests to pay voluntarily for this benefit. Price tag? What they think it is worth to them! 

Step 4: Motivate your team to implement changes.

Change is about leadership. Humans are creatures of habit, and change is most of the time difficult to implement in the first place. Change is a team effort.

Step 5: Tell your Spa Guests.

Not only by thinking ‘marketing’ or ‘advertising’. Marketing is advertising, but it is also informing customers, educating the public about your products and services and business practises. Stimulate public conversation about ecological choices, encourage responsible media coverage.

Let’s make a difference together!

Here are a few ideas of hotels and spas around the world that want to make a difference:

  • building a treatment menu that revolves around the native botanical, geophysical or cultural features or your region
  • using more eco-friendly products (maybe also in cleaning supplies). I have always promoted eco friendly, all natural products on the blog, check our a selection of spa products here.
    The Guardian has published an article titled Microplastics: which beauty brands are safe to use?
  • avoid plastic bags for your spa retail. I know it is convenient to throw that cosmetic product in that branded bag. Sometimes Spas even pay for those shopping bags that they give away, sometimes they are sponsored by the product supplier. Which ever way, it is fully worth finding alternatives! You may be interested in this article about How to avoid plastic today.
  • linen re-use program
    Linen & towel reuse programs offer guests the option to reuse their linens and towels more than once. When guests participate hotels save money in reduced water, energy, labor, detergent and sheet/towel replacement costs.

More complex activities in mitigating the environmental impact:

  • Join a tree planting initiative. Trees are our best bet to combat climate change, as they regulate water resources and filter air.
  • invest in installing water purification systems. By the way, have you heard of Grander water? It is about purification of water. But even more important are water recycling systems including monitoring water consumption and discharge, as well as water sources (i.e. rainwater collection)
  • energy consumption, including source of energy, i.e. solar
  • purchase policies
  • sustainable cuisine with local and seasonal supplies
  • use of natural materials in interior designs, see my example The Kulm Hotel
  • community: recruiting local people and partnering with local businesses
  • neutralisation of CO2 emissions of the business and its guest
  • waste management
  • achieving environmental certifications, such as TÜV, ecocert, Green Globe to name a few.
  • Clean the World partners with businesses such as hotels for their recycling program of soaps for example

Do you already engage in related activities? Tell me in the comment box below.

And what have I learned from my trip to Carlsbad (amongst many other things)? Not to forget my own – unwrapped – cotton swabs with paper shafts for my next trip.

Anja Eva Keller Spa & Wellness Consulting