Maintaining a sustainable hotel spa comes with its challenges, including water consumption and access to natural products. Spa directors across the globe shared their best practices.
GLOBAL REPORT—Sustainability trends in the hospitality industry continue to be a hot button topic, especially when it comes to initiatives in hotel spas, sources said.
More and more people expect hotel spas to do their part in responsible sustainability, said Jane Turner, director of spa and leisure for FRHI Hotels & Resorts. She said efforts could start with the design of the spa’s building.
And while that comes with several challenges, spa directors in hotels across the globe shared how their properties are achieving environmentally-friendly operations.
Challenges of maintaining a sustainable spa
Sources agreed that one of the biggest concerns in a hotel spa is water and energy conservation. Often times, many hotel spas lack the right equipment to measure water and energy consumption within the spa unit, said Jeffery Smith, director of sustainability for Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.
It’s essential that hotel spas measure those metrics, he said, since spa operations require a large amount of water usage.
For the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda, the island collects rainwater as its primary supply, Turner said. A few years back, the hotel installed a water treatment facility that allows the spa to recycle water.
This is especially important, she said, since the hotel’s location has limited recycling facilities, which also makes discarding packaging an issue.
In Onetahi, French Polynesia, the Varua Te Ora Polynesian Spa at The Brando Resort chose to offer a small choice of water facilities, meaning there is no hot tub or sauna in the spa, Anne de Saint Pierre, spa director, said. The spa also has a central steam room.
“Our luxury is natural, not electrical, which can be surprising compared to other five-star resorts,” she said.
Linen usage in the spas are also a concern, sources said, which ties in with water conservation.
At Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada, another FRHI Hotels & Resorts property, spa director Christine MacLeod, said the spa uses microfiber sheets, which dry faster than cotton and last two to three times longer than cotton sheets.
From the ground up
To achieve a sustainable structure, the Spa at Mohonk Mountain House** resort in New Paltz, New York, includes a “green roof” that acts as a geothermal heating and cooling system, said Barbara Stirewalt, assistant GM and spa director at the resort.
Additionally, part of its interior and exterior façade was constructed from 600 tons of Shawangunk Ridge recycled rock, she said.
Saint Pierre said the Brando’s spa was built with local wood.
And for the Six Senses Laamu property, located in the Maldives, Megan O’Beirne, Six Senses Laamu sustainability officer, said each spa treatment room is constructed in dome-shaped nests made from woven vines.
The idea behind that was to ensure the rooms are all open air, eliminating any air conditioning or heating, which saves massive amounts of energy, she said.
Treatments and products
Angee Smithee, area director of spas, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa and Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa,* said guests have become savvier with sustainability and are beginning to ask questions about organic products and practices, as well as the source of the products.
“Guests are making choices that help them feel like they are contributing to bettering the earth and their bodies,” she said. “Spas are expected to view sustainability as a responsibility, not a trend, and be able to educate others and provide measureable outcomes.”
Despite higher costs for obtaining eco-friendly products, Smithee said the spa remains committed to it.
O’Beirne said being in the isolation of an island in the Maldives presents challenges in sourcing supplies and treatments. And while Six Senses Laamu makes an effort to source locally, like with Maldivian coconut oil, many products are imported.
“Imported items often come packaged in plastic, which is difficult to handle with the Maldives’ limited recycling facilities,” she said. “These challenges can be addressed by utilizing more local ingredients and producing more spa products in-house.”
MacLeod said at the Fairmont Jasper Park, if treatments include a body scrub, they’ve eliminated the shower component of the treatment and instead use scrubs that remove easily on the treatment tables, which saves water.
Small things to consider
Going forward, sources said they hope to continue to educate guests on sustainability initiatives in spas and incorporate smaller things that will go a long way, such as going paperless and working on using 100% natural ingredients.
Saint Pierre added one of the things the spa is dedicated to is encouraging local recruitment and offering full training programs, which gives locals the chance to learn new skills in-house.
To become as sustainable as possible, MacLeod said the Fairmont Jasper Park hopes to continually educate and evolve with processes and products used.
*Correction, 20 February 2018: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect title for Angee Smithee.
**Correction, 21 February 2018: The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mohonk Mountain House.