First set up in 2002, when Rancho La Puerta’s Deborah Szekely urged spas to become active in sustainability, the Green Spa Network (GSN) has found itself, 17 years later, at the forefront of a mushrooming environmental movement, as consumers become more aware of the devastating impact of modern-day living on our natural world. With a mission to promote the natural connections between personal wellbeing, economic sustainability and the health of our planet, GSN aims to help support those in the spa industry to make step-by-step changes to become more sustainable.
Last year, spa operations and marketing professional Joanna Roche joined the organisation as its new executive director, and Bonnie Baker of consultancy Satteva Wellness took the position of board president. Together, these two women are breathing fresh life into the nonprofit at what is perhaps its most critical time.
“In today’s world, we collectively face some of the greatest ecological challenges in known history, as well as some of the greatest threats to our health,” says Baker. “The shortsighted approach we’ve been living with is unsustainable and offers no resolution. It’s becoming all the more obvious, that only a deep shift in our perspective from short-term solutions to long-term regenerative practices will carry us into a healthy future.”
What are your GSN roles?
Roche: Bonnie and I are incredibly well-suited to work together – our personalities, passion and desire to inspire change in our industry make this effort a true joy for both of us. I’m strategic and tactical, while Bonnie is diplomatic and generous of spirit. Since working together, we’ve applied professional standards for operations and an entrepreneurial management style to growth and future vision.
Baker: Since Joanna first joined GSN in May of 2018, she immediately brought a sharpened focus and direction, prioritising the many programmes and goals GSN has been pursuing. Joanna and I complemented each other from the very start in the way we understand GSN’s mission, and our belief in the importance of sustainable practices for personal and planetary wellbeing.
What changes have you made so far?
Baker: There have been many changes internally, as well as in relation to our membership which includes new strategies and benefits. We’ve created new GSN events; re-branded and re-structured the website; developed a webinar series; re-structured our sponsorship packages; and evolved the board of directors to be more of an advisory board, and less of a management board. We also initiated an annual action initiative, which started last year with the goal of planting one million trees, and this year, we launched our first sustainability research, where we collect monthly surveys from our community of 5,000 members to get insight into their environmental efforts – which means we can bring of-the-moment data on green topics to the wider wellness community.
Roche: We also have a Sustainability Assessment Tool (SAT), where we can come to your business and help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and offer suggestions and solutions, which is great for spas or suppliers that want to learn how to become more eco-friendly in their practices, operations or manufacturing.
Why should those in the spa industry get involved with GSN?
Roche: We should all care about the sustainability of the planet, and for US$1 a day you can be a member of GSN and make a difference – whether it’s participating in the tree planting initiative, taking the SAT back to your brand or business, or engaging with thought leaders at our annual congress. Consumers are driving the demand for more sustainable solutions across the wellness industry – whether it’s plastics or packaging, they want less, and we as an industry need to listen.
Baker: Any business truly looking to participate in the experience of wellness should become involved in GSN, but especially companies which have identified sustainability in their core values, manufacturers which want to take a more environmentally or socially responsible approach, and corporate wellness divisions that are setting up standards and operating practices for multiple locations. It doesn’t matter the size or focus of a business, GSN can provide the baseline tools and resources for taking steps to become more sustainable.
What plans do you have for the future for GSN?
Baker: GSN has primarily been a US-based organisation, but we’re now looking at expanding with initiatives in the UK, Mexico and Costa Rica. In December, we’re holding our first-ever Self-Care Summit at the Kripalu Center in New York. This will be focused on caring for the caregivers, including spa managers and practitioners.
Roche: We’re also launching a new GSN Foundation, which is an independent tax-deductible nonprofit association. We’re partnering with Hutchinson Consulting on an industry job board, and launching a ‘Growing Greener’ Facebook page for members to discuss sustainability challenges and solutions. And in January, 2020, we’ll have our annual congress in Ojai, California, as well as our Sustainability Awards. The theme this year is ‘Transformation’.