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Green beauty queens and kings looking for guilt-free decadence, it's your lucky day: eco-friendly day spas are popping up faster than one can say "organic microdermabrasion treatment." These establishments offer the day spa standards— facials, body work, massages, nail care, waxing, and more—but with a distinct green appeal.

How to visit an eco-friendly day spa

  1. Look for spas dedicated to conserving water and energy: While you're at it, you can also ask to see if paper use and waste are kept to a minimum and about their policy for recycling and using recycled materials.
  2. Ask if a spa uses non-toxic products: Choose businesses that eschew petroleum-based products containing frequently-in-the-news synthetics like parabens, triclosan, and phthalates and instead opt for plant-based products that often contain organic ingredients. In green spas where nail treatments are performed, ask if products containing formaldehyde and toluene are avoided.
  3. Check out the facilties for green amenities: Another crucial component of the eco-friendly spa experience is the actual facility. Many green spas have gone above and beyond in creating a physical space where everything from the paint to the flooring to the lighting to the linens pose little harm to the health of both the planet and the patron. For example, Washington DC's Nusta Spa—the first spa to achieve LEED Gold Certification for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI)—boasts bamboo flooring, salvaged ceiling tiles and beams, ENERGY STAR appliances, and LED lighting. The spa is also located near public transportation and purchases electricity from renewable energy sources.
  4. Inquire about the spa's overall philosophy: Many green spas embrace a holistic approach to their operations, believing that both the human body and the earth must be in harmony in order for a treatment to truly be effective. Although some may find these leanings a bit heavy-handed or irrelevant to the task at hand, it helps to keep an open mind: emphasis on the relationship between the body and the earth is often what makes an eco-friendly day spa unique.

Find it! Eco-friendly day spas

It's not easy being green, which is why your body deserves a little TLC. Listed below are just a few GY-approved eco-friendly day spas. For more eco-friendly and holistic day spas, check out Spa Index, SpaFinder, or peruse the listings at the Green Spa Network.

Visiting an eco-friendly day spa helps you go green because...

  • It means you receive beauty benefits that are more energy- and water-efficient.
  • It results in aesthetic transformations that are less chemically intensive.
  • You support a progressive business (often a small, independent business) that's making the shift toward sustainability.

According to statistics released by the International Spa Association in 2007, the number of spas being opened in the US is growing: as of August 2007, the total number of spas in the US was 14,615. About 76 percent of those spas are adopting environmentally forward practices in an effort to green-up their daily operations for those who crave beauty without the ugly side effects.[1]

Traditional spas require a tremendous amount of resources to operate, mainly water and energy. According to spa expert Janice Gronvold, water use is just the beginning when it comes to areas where conservation can make a huge impact in this industry: “From day spas to destination resorts, the industry typically utilizes environmental resources for a myriad of water-based treatments, laundry services, pools, verdant landscaping, and golf courses, making it a major consumer of water, energy, and precious natural resources.” Spas committed to conservation decrease this rapid consumption.

Traditional spas also commonly use conventional products that contain a host of petroleum-derived and health-endangering chemicals. These chemicals can cause problems throughout their life cycle, creating air and water pollution during production, affecting human health in their application to the skin as well as in offgassing which pollutes indoor air, and contaminating the environment upon disposal. The production of the petrochemicals used in bath and skin care products pollutes the environment by releasing hazardous chemicals into the air and water. Supplementary preservatives in spa products can include parabens, known endocrine disrupters that are not only detrimental to human health, but also destructive to animal hormones and development. (Studies have found higher levels of parabens in tumors from human breast tissue, but, because the potential damage to the endocrine system has yet to be proven, the controversy surrounding the toxicity of parabens is still being debated.) The potent synthetic antimicrobial agent triclosan is also commonly used in spa treatment products, and has been found in 55 percent of streams examined in 2002 at levels high enough to disrupt the natural life cycle of frogs.

The fragrances in conventional spa products pose risks as well. Fragrances are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which add to air pollution, are persistent in the environment, and contaminate waterways and aquatic wildlife. An estimated 5.72 million Americans have skin allergies to fragrance, while around 72 percent of those suffering from asthma claim that their condition can be triggered by synthetic fragrance.[2] Artificial fragrances can also contain phthalates, widely used industrial chemicals that are estrogenic or anti-androgenic. There is public concern about phthalates because of their widespread use and occurrence in the environment, and because they can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes, according to animal studies.

Glossary

  • formaldehyde: A flammable reactive gas belonging to the VOC (volatile organic compound) family of chemicals, widely used in personal care products, building materials, insulation, and home furnishings.
  • parabens: This family of synthetic preservatives (which includes methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butyl-parabens) can possibly disrupt the endocrine system.
  • phthalates: Additives that are widely used in plastics and other materials, mainly to make them soft and flexible.
  • toluene: A clear, water-insoluble liquid aromatic hydrocarbon.
  • triclosan: An antibacterial agent that can form dioxin and chloroform in the right circumstances, both probable carcinogens.
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air and may cause immediate and long-term health problems.

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