Green By the Numbers

Day spa staffs are forming “green committees” to ensure collaborative support of the environment.

“Going green” is no longer a trendy buzz phrase. Many people today embrace it as a necessary way of life, especially business owners who want to reduce their impact on the environment, save money and attract clients who favor earth-friendly businesses. As an increasing number of spas now embrace green practices, owners have begun to realize that forming an organized team can go a long way when trying to meet goals and make an environmental impact. Green committees—on-staff groups focused on planning, strategizing and carrying out a business’s sustainability initiatives—have started popping up in spas around the country, proving that when we band together, we can make an important difference.

Michael Stusser, founder and owner of Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary and board chair of the Green Spa Network, has spent years working toward the greening of the spa industry. He believes that starting a green committee is the best way to design and implement the changes necessary in a business operation’s evolution toward earth-friendly practices. To that end, he has come up with a list of “the most important elements to consider in forming a green committee.” They are:

• Commitment from management to provide support and follow-through;
• Allotted time for regular meetings (at least once per month);
• An environmental policy statement reflective of the genuine heartfelt interests of the people and the business;
• Realistic objectives for implementing specific measures;
• A timeline for accomplishing goals;
• Consistent acknowledgement and celebration of accomplishments, even small ones.

Most importantly, he adds, make sure there are staff members on your committee who really have a desire to be there and will be dedicated to helping reduce your spa’s environmental footprint. “You need a team leader or catalyst,” stresses Stusser. “Obtain ongoing participation from a representative from each department and make sure that the leader possesses leadership qualities that inspire engagement.”
Wondering if you can pull this off? We tracked down three spas that are successfully managing green committees, and asked them to share their experiences.

The Spa at The Brown Palace, Denver

For this iconic hotel that opened its doors back in 1892, evolution has always been a vital component to success, says spa director Erin Johnston. “It is our priority to continually explore new methods for best practices at The Spa at The Brown Palace,” explains Johnston. “Forming the Green Committee in 2008 was a natural way for us to organize our thoughts and initiatives.”

Led by 12 employees but often involving activities that enlist a comprehensive staff effort, the committee is open to anyone who is passionate about the company being as environmentally responsible as possible. “The committee is structured with four sub-committees: air, water, waste and energy,” Johnston notes. “Each sub-committee reviews what is currently being done at the business in their particular area and explores new ways to improve upon green practices. This may include performing research, meeting with vendors, setting up expert speakers and more. Employees also have opportunities to volunteer in broader green initiatives, such as cleaning up local parks.”

Although the spa does not currently publicize the fact that it has a green committee, Johnston says that since its formation, some of the group’s activities tend to garner attention, such as the spa’s rooftop honey program (see “Sweet Seduction” in the August issue of DAYSPA), which was researched and implemented by the committee, and ultimately led to the creation of proprietary honey spa products.

The Spa Ritual, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

In 2008, motivated by a desire to enhance their guests’ experience and protect the environment, employees at the then-just-launched The Spa Ritual formed their own spa-supported green committee. Four years later, the committee is going strong. According to marketing director Christina Arthur-Dick, members of the committee meet at the spa and cover topics such as energy and water conservation; areas for improvement and innovation; and the building of local partnerships.

A founding member of the Green Spa Network, The Spa Ritual promotes its green committee on its website and newsletter, and through media relations efforts.

“We’ve found that promoting our green committee is a great benefit because it informs guests of ways to be green when spa-ing, and the word of mouth from guests to friends increases the number of clients we have at the spa,” Arthur-Dick says. “Community praise has increased awareness of our spa as well.”

Since the formation of the committee, Arthur-Dick says the staff has gained a better understanding of how being green impacts the guest experience and the business as well as the environment, increasing the spa’s ability to implement further changes and increase green practices. The hope is to continue to reduce the spa’s environmental impact in the future.

Tallgrass Aveda Spa and Salon, Evergreen, CO

As an Aveda salon, Tallgrass has always been focused on the environment, but it wasn’t until 2008 that owner Gail Ridings decided it was time to step up things with the formation of a green committee.
“Three factors convinced us to put more focus on being green and helping our guests and staff to be more green as well,” says Ridings. “One, more emphasis in the media about the environment; two, our guests and staff expressing more interest in green initiatives; and three, Aveda’s inspiration as one of the first companies in the world to really be green.”

Committee members get together at least once a month (more leading up to and during Earth Month) and review topics such as fostering more earth-friendly operational procedures, encouraging the staff to become more green and green marketing ideas.

“During Earth Month, each person on our committee [see photo, right] was challenged to raise funds for Western Resource Advocates [an Aveda-selected company focused on water conservation],” recalls Ridings. “The nail techs baked cookies and sold them in packs of three to guests and staff; the massage therapists donated chair massages for $1 a minute. Each person involved with the green committee came up with a different idea.” Committee members also make suggestions throughout the year that are brought up at all-staff meetings.

Ridings reports that Tallgrass guests value and respect how passionate the staff is about being green, and that efforts have also improved the staff’s morale and sense of pride. “In the future, we would like to add different people to our committee to make sure that everyone gets a chance to learn about being green,” says Ridings. “Rotating team members ensures fresh ideas and green pride for everyone!”

Power Meetings

Coming together on a regular basis is absolutely essential to maintaining an effective committee, green or otherwise. According to Green Spa Network founder Michael Stusser, monthly meetings present an opportunity to focus on goals and track progress at your spa as it pertains to sustainable practices. “Measure and track your water and energy use as well as volume of waste, and review and monitor your progress every month,” advises Stusser. “Scan internally and externally for new ideas.”

Liz Barrett is an Oxford, MS-based freelance writer and editor.

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