Many spa owners may think, “I’d love to go green, but I can’t afford to revamp my entire operation!” With the costs associated with overhauling water systems, appliances, services and operating procedures, an owner can easily throw up her hands and resign herself to the status quo. But the truth is, there are many ways to join the green movement that require levels of commitment and financial investment that are well within your reach. Getting involved with an existing event in your neighborhood, or planning your own event or initiative, are simple ways to express an environmentally friendly ethos and simultaneously move your spa’s
name front and center in your community.
DAYSPA checked in with five spa owners across the country who are using simple outreach methods to better their businesses, communities and planet. You may be surprised to hear how naturally they were able to embrace eco-activism—without disturbing their businesses’ profit margins.
Marina del Rey, CA
When Sandie West was tapped to take part in the national sustainability event known as Green Festival in Los Angeles, the holistic practitioner and owner of Creative Chakra couldn’t have been more delighted. Initially invited by the local Holistic Chamber of Commerce to take over the yoga and movement stage at the 10-year-old event, West also served as a key sponsor, emcee and coordinator of a multifaceted lineup of educational seminars and demonstrations for the more than 10,000 attendees who piled into the Los Angeles Convention Center last October.
To put her spa’s signature on the proceedings, West decided to offer show-goers samples of her new line of natural cleansing elixirs, made with herbs, teas, fruits, nuts and/or spices, which was also showcased at the event. A different elixir was offered after each class, and they were a huge hit, with attendees lining up to sample the selections. Creative Chakra was also the only business present offering massages.
Was the effort worth the rewards? Without a doubt, says West. “It was easy to put together, and with such a big turnout, it really solidified our place as a green leader,” she confides. “Participating in events like these shows goodwill toward the community, and helps identify who you are and what you stand for. Even people who couldn’t make it to the festival heard about the event in our newsletter.”
West recommends that spa owners looking to get involved with an existing event join with other green businesses. Determine a specialty that sets your spa apart and work with local media to get the word out about the event and your involvement. “People might think going green is out of reach, but simple things make the difference,” she says. “If you’re promoting wellness, you have to put your money where your mouth is!”
In 2009, Michael Stusser, owner of Osmosis, looked at the businesses in his tiny town and became inspired by an unlikely common thread: fermentation. Teaming with a local bakery and winery (and in the process discovering several small-scale food producers making fermented foods in the area), Stusser created the Freestone Fermentation Festival (FFF). The event takes place annually in a LEED-certified community building—and it builds community! Not only does the festival bring together local residents for food tastings, music, enzyme baths (courtesy of Osmosis), speakers and children’s festivities; the FFF raises funds for the local Ceres Community Project, a program that teaches kids how to source local organic ingredients and also feeds people with life-threatening diseases, to encourage recovery.
“The event has a tremendous impact, and extends our reach into so many aspects of the community,” enthuses Stusser. “Last year, 1,000 people showed up—we generated goodwill and raised money [more than $5,000]; we were surprised at how many people were interested in the movement.” This influx of festival attendees also infuses money into the local economy.
Osmosis’ portable enzyme baths showcase a popular service to festival attendees, while garden tours and an open house on the day of the event allow them to check out the spa’s grounds and facilities. Stusser keeps extra staff on hand to manage the attendees; arranges sponsorships with local-minded companies such as Whole Foods to help defray costs; and recruits volunteers to work the event. Best of all, the spa has learned to work with members of the ever-growing fermentation movement, which promotes healthy eating—a perfect alignment with the spa’s mission of overall wellness. “Spa owners should find out how they can collaborate with other businesses that have common interests,” Stusser recommends. “By coalescing people around a common interest, we found a community we didn’t even know existed!”
The Green Spa has found ways to teach clients about green topics, strengthen vendor relationships, and promote its staff and services—all without leaving the premises. Last August, for example, an event at the spa to promote an organic skincare line also educated attendees about why the spa chooses organic, and why guests should choose it for themselves. The learning was wrapped up in a fun night out with raffles, hors d’oeuvres and wine tasting. Each guest received a free mini skincare treatment and consultation, plus incentives to buy, such as free gifts with retail purchase, and free add-ons for a service booked that night.
The events are so successful that the spa hosts one every season, often themed around a holiday. “These evenings are fun and educational at the same time,” says Maureen Brody, The Green Spa’s marketing director and manager. “We bring in educators from the product line and our own staff, so clients, the vendor and the spa all benefit.” The events are also a great way for staff practitioners to pick up more product knowledge, as well as promote their services: If a client appreciates the knowledge and skill demonstrated by an esthetician or therapist, she’s more apt to book an appointment with her.
For owners planning similar events, Brody advises having attendees reserve space to ensure adequate staffing and preparation (as an incentive, she offers a free goody bag to those who RSVP). She advertises events in a local newspaper, and on the spa’s blog and website. The only other expenditure is refreshments—a small price to pay, according to Brody. “You spend a little money, but look at the bigger picture,” she says “When customers recognize your good products and treatments, the outcome is worth all of the effort.”
Complexions Spa has found that great ideas can grow from the smallest of seeds—in this case, literally: For one week during Earth Month for the past four years, the spa has been giving away trees to clients. Working with her state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, owner Denise Dubois has brought in 150 seedlings (young trees) per year; the first 50 are free and she pays $42 in total for the remaining 100. “It’s a little money to make a big impact,” she concedes. “Planting a tree does so much for the environment.”
Dubois partnered with a local tree farm to learn about planting and caring for the trees. Spa staff members learned how to wrap the seedlings with moist paper towels to prevent them from drying. They tie instructions to the bundles, and place the young trees close to the reception area in an oversize basket that’s replenished each day. The seedlings are distributed at checkout, and anyone can walk in and pick one up.
Dubois advertises the tree giveaway via email blasts,and regular clients have begun to look forward to it. “We built a new green facility four years ago, but I also wanted to get clients contributing to the cause,” Dubois says. “Now it has become an event, with kids getting involved. Clients think it’s great, and everyone loves to see a tree grow over the years.”
Since implementing this program, Complexions has added 600 new trees to the area, making a real difference in its community—all with minimal staff requirements and a nominal cash investment. It has also created a lasting presence for itself right in clients’ backyards! “This is just another way to show and share our efforts with the community—it says a lot about our mission,” Dubois says. “We have clients thanking us on a regular basis for our efforts.”
Cynthea’s Spa owner Cynthea Wight Hausman fosters community goodwill and attracts new clients through her support of local farms and the ingredients they provide. Hausman works closely with the Intervale Center—a local center for sustainable agriculture that works with 21 farms in the area—to provide ingredients for her spa’s homemade products. She also demonstrates how to use them at a “pop-up spa” set up outside her facility and at the Intervale’s weekly summertime parties. “This was a natural for us, because we target moms and people who are passionate about being local and making healthy choices,” says Hausman. “The effort is worth it, because it gets our name out and lets people know what we’re about.”
Hausman sets up chairs at her makeshift spas and stocks them with the freshest farm-derived ingredients (such as goat’s milk, berries and flowers) to craft custom scrubs on the spot. Technicians massage the scrub onto visitors’ willing hands and remove the product with hot towels, then finish with a brief hand massage. “That’s the key—people need to try it themselves,” says the owner, who also offers custom scrub service in-spa to clients waiting for other services. “It’s an easy way to accommodate guests, and it doesn’t cost a lot!” she says.
Hausman advises spa owners to connect with local farms through a similar organization or through area farmers’ markets, and to use local ingredients to craft one-of-a-kind signature scrubs. This will differentiate your spa from others, and make your services truly unique. And clients will be more apt to come back, says Hausman, because services will change with the seasons and ingredients’ availability. (They’ll also appreciate your positive effects on the local economy.) “Little things make a big difference, and this is one example of how you have to give to get,” Hausman says. “By authentically sharing your passions, you’ll gain plenty of followers!”
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, Mississippi.
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