The Green Spa

| June 15, 2011 | Comments (0)

Consumers across the world, and in particular those with a special interest in the hospitality and wellness industries, are increasingly asking important questions about the products and trading practices that apply to the businesses that they frequent:

  • Are their products continuously re-usable, or biodegradable so that, eventually, they replenish the earth?
  • Are there any social or community benefits in the production of their products?
  • Are their products really good for us as consumers and the environment?
  • Do they conduct ethical trade?
  • Do their businesses consume resources in a sustainable way?

As wellness generators spas, by their very nature and existence, promote the health and wellbeing of their guests. A logical extension of Spa activity is to also promote the health and wellness of the planet and also the community in which the Spa operates and this is what Spas in South Africa are increasingly aiming to achieve.

The Green Spa not only promotes all-round wellbeing for guests, but also operates a sustainable business model, relying on and promoting a harmonious relationship with its surrounding landscape and communities.  The underlying philosophy is that personal wellness connects with and is interdependent on earth- and community wellness.

Generally, Green Spas share many of the attributes listed below and have their Green Policies that incorporate these principles available for both their guests and employess to study.

–       Green Spas are committed to reduce harmful practices and exposure to harmful substances and are open to learning, adopting and implementing new environmentally friendly strategies and techniques.

–       Green Spas strive to conserve natural resources and operate in environments that promote health and wellbeing. For example, a Green Spa building will create a healthier and consequently more productive environment to work and provide therapy in. The subsequent benefits are transferred to the experience of the Spa guest, adding wellness value to the therapies themselves.

–       Green Spas adopt energy conservation practices and incorporate fixtures and fittings that comply with such practices. The conservation of energy translates into a reduction in carbon emissions and an overall smaller carbon footprint for the Spa.

–       Green Spas are committed to using materials which can be recycled, follow recycling practices and actively promote waste reduction.

–       Green Spas incorporate natural or organic skin care products in their therapies and actively encourage their guests to apply this thinking in their personal health regimes at home.

–       Green Spas promote the wellbeing of their communities by participating in community projects and contracting with their local communities for the delivery of products and services wherever possible.

–       Green Spas also share their concern for the planet’s wellbeing with guests and set ongoing examples of Green living and Green thinking.

Taking a more specific look at the most important areas that should be addressed by Spas in going green, being the health of the Spa building and environment, energy and water conservation, waste management, green skin care products and community involvement (which incorporates principles established by fair trade), the following considerations will always apply.

Green Spa Building and Environment

The health of the Spa building, that is to say aspects relating to its design, construction,  building materials and fittings, is integral to the wellness experience. It forms an important facet in the holistic vitality product provided by the Spa because it is resource efficient, environmentally responsible and incorporates design, construction and operational practices that reduce its negative impact on the environment and its occupants. This translates into having abundant fresh air and natural light throughout the Spa, having paints and carpets that are absent from harmful chemicals and using sustainable building materials such as recycled aggregate and recycled or FSC certified timber. As mentioned above, a Green Spa building will create a healthier and more productive environment for both guests and employees.

Alternative energy generation and energy conservation

Ideally, the Green Spa should generate some of its own energy through renewable resources such as wind, solar or bio-gas, and with ongoing improvement in these technologies, this should become relatively easy to achieve in future. At the other end, there ought to be a significant reduction in energy consumption, which can be achieved in areas such as ventilation, cooling, heating, lighting and the mindful use of electronic and electrical devices. Consideration must be given to equipment and lighting with a small energy footprint as well as control systems (manually and otherwise) that should be in place specifically to manage and regulate energy consumption.

Water conservation

Water in South Africa will soon become a scarce and expensive commodity (it is already in many of our neighbouring countries) and the conservation of potable water is critical to people from all walks of life. Many industry experts have already engaged manufacturers in pushing the design and manufacture of innovative water saving products. In the Spa world some of the following practices can be incorporated to conserve and protect our water resources: grey water recycling; rain water catchment; reducing potable water consumption with dedicated equipment such as low-flow shower heads, dual flush or waterless toilets, and an indigenous garden. A dedicated water management policy and measurement systems should also be in place.

Green skin care

Many of us are concerned about skin care products containing synthetic ingredients, which can be occlusive by coating the skin and preventing respiration, cause allergies, strip the skin from natural oils and may even be carcinogenic. Many are also not bio-degradable.

While there is no single, universally accepted set of guidelines yet for labeling cosmetics as green, natural or organic, the terms “certified organic” and “certified natural” are governed by a number of internationally recognized certification bodies and the use of skin care products that have the logo of a certifying body on the label is widely promoted. At the very least, all Spa retail and professional products should be absent of chemical fragrances, colourants, preservatives and petroleum by-products.

Community involvement and fair trade

Establishing a Green Spa entails more than having the right environment, the Green building, fittings and products. It also goes hand-in-hand with the manner in which the Spa conducts its business.  Ethical trading practices and community involvement are core principles of a sustainable business and a business can not be considered truly green if it does not also embrace the principles of sustainability. Fair Trade Tourism South Africa (FTTSA) endorses fair and responsible tourism practices in South Africa.  FTTSA certification is based on compliance with specific criteria centred on fair wages, fair working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practices and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.

The Green Spa should incorporate comprehensive HR policies dealing with the aspects above and also skills development, employment equity, community investment and interaction and health and safety. It is advisable also to have a local procurement policy in place that accounts for a significant percentage of total purchases.

Spa kitchen

An appreciation of food is no longer the only consideration that is part of the eating experience. While meals should be tasty, flavorsome and fresh they should also be produced without straining the earth resources, its ecosystems and human health. In addition, purchasing seasonal meal ingredients (which are more nutritious) that are locally produced and the presentation of spa meals that are flavorsome and stimulate the senses, promote and strengthen wellness, harmony and positive energy.

Waste management

According to 2003 data released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Most of it end up in our ocean, rivers and dams , or in landfill leaching harmful toxins over time that contaminate the soil. Every Spa must therefore incorporate and give effect to a waste management policy that addresses the following aspects:

a)   reduction in consumption of paper, plastic and packaging,

b)   re-use of products and

c)    recycling of waste, preferably on- site. Realistically, a certain amount of packaging and waste is unavoidable and hence, a culture of recycling must be developed. Most material recovering facilities will accept paper, glass, metal and certain plastics.

Today, Green Spas are becoming the destinations of choice for a discerning clientele. Spa owners and managers already appreciate that prospective Spa guests will begin to weigh a Spa’s environmental- and community upliftment policies and will reward those Spas who have shown to have incorporated authentic, natural and indigenous treatments, hired local staff and contributed to the local communities.


In recognition of the need to identify Spas with green policies in place, the South African Spa Association (SASA) has recently adopted a Green Spa Committee that looks at providing guidance to Spas who are in the greening process. It also created the Spa Index with special indicators for such Spas and the areas to which their Green Policies apply. The Spa Index can be obtained from SASA at


Author and Green Spa owner Charne le Roux has also published The Green Spa Guide, which takes a very specific look at the spa and wellness industry and provides step-by-step guidelines and a holistic pathway to a sustainable business using Green principles. The golden thread connecting each page is that personal wellness is inextricably linked to and in harmony with planetary wellness. The Green Spa Guide is available from and many of the larger book retail and electronic outlets.


Category: Spa Articles

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