Spas are indisputably kind to the body, but whether they are kind to the environment is a much talked-about topic in the spa industry globally. And it is a question that cannot be ignored given the exponential growth in the spa industry in the past 15 years, a growth that shows no sign of abating. These days a spa is to top-end hotel/resort development what a swimming pool was in the 80's and a fitness centre in the 90's -- an essential and expected service offering.
The word spa originates from the Latin salus per aquam -- health through water -- and spas in the 21st century certainly use as much water as their historical counterparts with water-influenced components appearing on almost every spa menu. On top of this, thousands of litres of chemicals disappear down spa bathroom drain holes every year in the never-ending quest for cleanliness. Air conditioning keeps guests cool, electricity provides atmosphere through ambient lighting and music and the demands for ever longer shelf life for products, often packaged in plastic, mean that "all natural" and "recyclable" are still some way off.
Enter EarthCheck's Spa Benchmarking Initiative, a revitalised sector to their existing stable of environmental benchmarking and certification programs.
EarthCheck is the only international benchmarking and certification program designed specifically for the travel and tourism industry. Their benchmarking criteria are based on the Agenda 21 principles for Sustainable Development endorsed by the United Nations at the Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992.
So how does EarthCheck benchmarking standards and processes differ from more widely known programs such as those offered under the ISO umbrella? All EarthCheck Standards are performance-oriented, providing participants with a framework to benchmark and thus measure, monitor and improve their environmental and social sustainability.
"The ability to benchmark the performance of the spa sector is less to do about giving them a logo and more about delivering the industry with a mechanism to demonstrate their ongoing sustainability as an industry." says Andre Russ Vice President of Sales at EarthCheck.
EarthCheck has already developed guidelines for more than 30 sectors. Each sector within the EarthCheck program has sector-specific benchmarking indicators that identify the measures that need to be recorded by an operation. The spa benchmarking process has the following 12:
1. Energy consumption
2. Water consumption
3. Water Saving
4. Water Source
5. Waste Sent to Landfill
6. Waste Recycling
7. Community Commitment
8. Community Contributions
9. Paper Products
10. Treatment & Cleaning Products
During a benchmarking assessment a spa is compared to other spa businesses in the same region using Baseline and Best Practice levels for the industry. As more spa operations join the EarthCheck program, these levels are reviewed to ensure they are consistent with current spa industry practice worldwide.
Alila Hotels and Resorts, a company that has already committed to EarthCheck benchmarking processes and received certification (Design and Operational) for many of their hotels, welcomes the continued support in a spa-specific initiative.
"Spa-specific environmental benchmarks and yearly accreditations are definitely a necessity for all spa developers and operators to take onboard," explained Steve Jeisman, Director of Spa and Development of Alila Hotels & Resorts. "Such programs bring great awareness to not only the spa's owners and developers but also its employees, surrounding villages and associated businesses."
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