On the verge of Green Spa Network’s 10th Anniversary Congress, Roberto Arjona, Chief Executive of Rancho La Puerta, and past GSN President, shares his insights on sustainability and spa.
When you think back on your time as President of the Green Spa Network, what were some of the high points?
Your question is making me feel young again, to start with. Being young with a bunch of dreamers, if you will—being in a group of people who truly believe in the spa—getting together with a bunch of believers who truly believe they can be the change in sustainability and responsibility.
During your tenure, what was the primary focus?
We concentrated a lot on sustainability, the products, and what we offered to guests, but there was a very strong part of it that was about social responsibility. The group incorporated practices under the umbrella of sustainability . . . there was a desire to change the world and to be socially responsible. You could feel that in our gatherings.
What were your biggest challenges during your two terms as GSN President?
Early on, I realized our spa directors had a huge challenge: many lived inside hotel environments—not necessarily focused in what our values are. It was a battle trying to convince corporate that greening and sustainability paid off. I still believe there’s a big challenge in that, and having said that, Green Spa Network’s impact has been in bringing in partners like you, and spa designers into the conversation to build sustainability from the ground up. We’re making headway by sending out spa designers and programmers and consultants who are putting some of these practices into their projects. I think it’s sort of a sideways battle . . . going around, and coming in from the backdoor.
“You have that little angel on your shoulder that is telling you the right thing to do—that is the role of the Green Spa Network . . . “
Is the Green Spa Network’s original message still true today?
I think the message should not change. The reason I say that is because I don’t think we have arrived. I think there are many well-intentioned people like us who have done everything we can to lead the way in our companies, with our teams, and in our designs to do just that—but in reality, there is a large group of green spa believers who have quite a bit of resistance from the higher-ups in corporations, multiple outlet enterprises, so I think, we haven’t been able to make the strongest impact we want to make because of that.
What does the future look like?
We definitely have a long way to go. I look around and see other industries are being forced by consumers to produce a more sustainable product. For example, if I’m thinking about restaurants, I go there and look at their menu, and they are being forced to offer ingredients that are organic, natural, that have low processing—the consumer is pushing them to do that. Spas must continue to move in that direction because at one point, consumers will look at that menu, at the way we’re creating this environment, and will say “That’s not who I am, that’s not what I want,” so I don’t think we have a choice—we have to continue to push in that direction, and that is where we are all going.
Why should people attend Congress?
I continue to believe that the Green Spa Network provides something others don’t—the soul of the spa industry. I think that is the space of the green spa . . . you have that little angel on your shoulder that is telling you the right thing to do—that is the role of the Green Spa Network, and it continues to be true to its value and philosophy.
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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