Is there such a thing as a clean spa?

Picture this: “A timeslot for a Californian massage? Sure, Tuesday at 3 p.m.?” OK, but only if the spa is… clean. But what does that mean, exactly?

It starts with a little drop of water and ends up being a totally eco-managed, eco-community-based, eco-friendly spa – just perfect. But while this is what we all dream of, it is for the time being a work in progress. The intention, the will and the desire are combined with eco-friendly materials and led by the determination of the management teams behind these “eco-establishments”. Here is the lowdown from Pauline Picaut, a trained osteopath and co-founder of the new Spa Clemens.

A clean spa, what for?

It’s about the wish to create a new “clean” kind of wellness spa, something that by definition is really a contradiction in terms. “Two years back, we decided we wanted to create a clean spa in a sensible way, with very exacting standards in terms of environmental responsibility. And we did so starting from an almost blank canvas, because there are as yet no (or very few) specialised architects and specific materials for spas. We had to do a lot of research ourselves. As a farmer’s daughter, in love with and respectful of nature, I couldn’t see myself going about it any other way“, she stresses.

In real terms a clean spa is…

According to the founder, you have to list all the requirements of the spa and seek out the environmentally-responsible alternatives for each of them:

Responsible materials: we only went with those made in France, with hardwood flooring from eco-managed forests and everything else sourced from ethical companies.

  • Overhauled pool concepts. In conjunction with a pool designer, you have to find ways to use as little water, detergents and toxic chemicals as possible. So what solution did we find for the five pools in the Clemens spa? An ultraviolet tunnel to rein in chlorine usage. This is a feature that requires more space – a big investment given the commercial property prices here in Paris. “Then we worked out that to create immaculately hygienic conditions, we had to empty out thirty litres of water per bather per day. Instead of going to waste, this water is fed back into our waterworks to flush the toilets. So we use the water a second time before it goes to waste. Ultimately, our water and chlorine usage is lower“.
  • More ethically-sound bath linen management: Since laundering bathrobes uses a lot of water and energy, you have to use towels only. “We even encourage guests to bring their own towels, which is a workable solution since all areas are private. So there is no hygiene concern with these towels coming from outside because we clean each space between uses“, says Pauline. “And as for the spa towels, they are made of recycled cotton, which is a little less soft but more environmentally responsible. “Once we’ve told our guests the reason for it, they don’t mind! Quite the opposite, they commend our principled stance and are happy to be part of it.”.
  • Greener showers: We order in jumbo packs of shower gel and shampoo for the refillable dispensers in the spa.
  • Energy-efficient lighting: You have to opt for low-voltage lighting, as well as motion sensors that switch the cubicle lights on only so long as guests are present. The wax candles are made in France and the imitation candles are all rechargeable, not battery-powered, with a long lifespan.
  • Upcycled furniture: You have to avoid anything new. At the Clemens spa, everything was tracked down by the Thiste interior design agency (set up by Paris-based Thibaut Poirier). From 1950s armchairs to tables, stools and dressers, everything is vintage. “We asked the interior design agency to buy as few new things as possible, to give items a new lease of life“.
  • The swimwear worn by the massage therapists: Since the vast majority of the massages are done in water, the practitioners wear swimsuits. It’s better to opt for clean, recycled fabrics such as Econyl, a fibre made by recycling beached fishing nets. “We’re cleaning up the sea at the same time!” says Pauline.
  • Compostable slippers and tea bags. Moreover, cloths have permanently replaced paper towels, which are too polluting.

Lastly, but most importantly, you have to share this “clean” ethic with your employees. “You can’t be respectful of the planet if you don’t show respect to your employees“.

Other clean spas…

  • L’Occitane spas also deserve this epithet. They use traceable, eco-friendly materials that save water. They use organic cotton bath linen sourced from eco-managed plantations.
  • The Weleda spa in Paris has greened one of its walls to purify the inside air. Eco-friendly paint also ensures that there is less indoor pollution.
  • The Yves Rocher eco-spa in La Grée des Landes, Brittany, is nestled in the heart of the countryside. Its rooms are insulated with greened roofs, making for guaranteed and significant energy savings. Energy is partly supplied by wood burners, heat pumps and thermal solar panels. But to take it further, the Breton brand also uses materials such as hemp and cellular concrete (which is free from volatile organic compounds, non-fibrous and non-combustible).

So the way is clear, and spas now know how to make their way over to clean operations, even though suitable certification is yet to be created.

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