5 ways we’re reducing environmental impact

Spa owners and employees, by nature, care about the health and well-being of the people we serve. That extends to the environment in which they live. One challenge in owning a spa is that there are many environmental challenges in this industry. Some of these challenges may come as a surprise to our guests. We are continually taking steps to reduce our environmental footprint.

1.We LOVE Recycle Me Iowa.

East Village Spa employees with recycle me Iowa storage containers

Haven’t heard of them? They are located in Des Moines and offer convenient, affordable recycling if you live or work in a building that doesn’t have recycling as an option, you need this company in your life.The amount of cleaning supply and product containers, packaging and shipping waste is overwhelming, but we make sure to recycle as much as possible. Every 2 weeks Recycle Me Iowa takes it all away.

2. Reusable cups reduce waste

East Village Spa Manicure, guest holding ceramic mug.

Since we switched to glassware years ago, we’ve saved hundreds of cups per week from going in the trash. We still have to-go cups for our hot and cold beverages, but we encourage you to bring your own and we’ll happily send you on your way with a full travel mug of our yummy hot or cold Pure Inventions teas!If you’re enjoying a complimentary beverage in the spa, please choose a reusable cup instead of paper or plastic.

3. Reducing robes = reducing water and energy waste

East Village Spa Robe on Hanger

Did you know that the average home washing machine uses 41 gallons of water per load? Drying laundry accounts for a large amount of energy use as well. We are happy to provide robes for convenience for guests enjoying both a facial and a massage at our spa, but we do not offer robes for guests who are enjoying a single service. This helps us to save over 200 gallons of water (on a single Saturday!) reduce energy and detergent use.

4. Eco (and human!) safe pedicures

East Village Spa guest getting a pedicure and talking to nail technician.

Did you know, our pedicure chairs use 80% less water than traditional pedicure chairs with whirlpool jets? They also don’t require us to flush gallons of harmful sanitizing chemicals down the drain every time they’re used! We choose our nail care products carefully, for the safety of our employees, guests, and the environment.

5. Eco-friendly products and packaging

Rhonda Allison Citrus Gel Cleanser with recycled glass dish full of fruit

We partner with companies who have safe, ethical business practices. Farmhouse Fresh is headquartered on a farm, where they source some of their ingredients. Their packaging is often reusable (like ice cream dish candles-see how we re-used the dish in the photo).Rhonda Allison’s packaging is designed to preserve the products without synthetic preservatives, and can be recycled.Zoya and CND nail polishes are non-toxic and Zoya will even recycle nail polishes from ANY company during their Earth Day campaign.

Our environmental initiatives are always a work in progress. Some things we can’t control for regulatory and safety reasons (for example, we’d never, ever re-use wax sticks. This is dangerous and a violation of sanitation rules.) We’re always brainstorming together ways that we can minimize our impact without sacrificing on service quality and safety and it is my goal to have several NEW initiatives to share with our guests by Earth Day 2020.

Post by Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT. Owner, East Village Spa in Des Moines, IA. East Village Spa was established in 2008 and offers massage therapy, esthetics, and natural nail care.

Human trafficking in the spa industry

Following a White House proclamation in 2011, January is recognized annually as Human Trafficking awareness month.  In recent years, organizations like the Polaris Project and government agencies have helped to shed light on how widespread human trafficking and slavery are in America, in big metropolitan areas, affluent suburbs, and quiet rural towns.

The issue of human trafficking is often top of mind for me as a spa owner because facets of this industry have been used as a way to exploit victims of human trafficking and Iowa is not immune.

Fake Massage Businesses

Fake massage businesses masquerade as providing legitimate massage, reflexology, spa, or other health services, but often operate within a network of traffickers.  People I’ve spoken with are shocked to see how openly these businesses are advertised online.  In 2015 alone there were many raids on parlors:

Salt Lake City, Utah

Central Ohio

Houston, Texas

And in West Des Moines, IOWA in 2015, women were found living on bunk beds in a massage parlor that operated long hours 7 days a week including late nights.  Neighboring businesses reported they never saw employees come or go.  After a visit from the fire inspector, the parlor was told they could re-open once they met fire code. A city council member asked police to investigate the business for illegal activity, but police declined.

Licensed Massage Therapists are health care providers who have extensive education in their field.  While some people laugh and tease licensed massage therapists like my colleagues and me about these parlors, it breaks our heart, especially when the people forced to work in places like this may be slaves, even minors.  The reporting and labeling these businesses as “massage” is dangerous to licensed massage therapists like me and puts us at risk for assault or harassment.

It also is unfortunate as it stigmatizes the good work that licensed massage therapists do, making some people less likely to seek services that could truly benefit their health, including pregnant women, cancer survivors, senior citizens, children with disabilities, athletes, and people with high stress levels or injuries.

Nail Salons

In 2015, a series of articles in the New York Times by Sarah Maslin Nir exposed nail salons for human rights violations.  The organization Human Rights First explains more about nail salon labor exploitation.

As a spa owner, I know exactly how much a safe and ethical manicure and pedicure cost.  Quality products that are free from the harsh chemicals common in some high volume salons are expensive (Our cost for a bottle of base coat, top coat and one color of Shellac is $65.85, not to mention all the lotions, scrubs, and disposable tools we give to our clients or toss after a service!)

In order to ensure safety, employees can’t rush through services and need to allow adequate time to clean and sterilize their tools.  The cleaning and tool sanitation time is time they can’t see clients.  If a salon is under pricing services, they will have to make it up in volume which doesn’t always allow for adequate tool or tub cleaning. Nail technicians spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours attending training programs and continuing education so they can provide safe, skilled services.

Basically, my point is that if a nail service is really cheap, something has to give, whether product quality, sanitation (reusing disposable products, not allowing enough time to clean instruments or tubs), or employee compensation.  Often, all three.

Like the fake massage businesses, nail salons are also under investigation.  The New York Times series set off a rush of legislation and investigations in the northeast in 2015 exposing many labor violations.

It isn’t a recent problem for nail salons.  The Huffington Post published an article in 2013 explaining some of the reasons nail salons are easy fronts for human trafficking: Low hour requirements for licensing programs, a predominately cash-based business (easier to launder money), and at least in 2013, they were more under-the-radar than fake massage businesses.

In Virginia, a nail salon is under investigation after human trafficking reports in November

In Connecticut, 23 nail salons were shut down in 2015 for wage and health violations

New Jersey also started cracking down on health and wage violations in nail salons last year.

It is important to note that not all low price or high volume nail salons are engaging in illegal or unethical practices. Nail salons can be an excellent business for people with lower start-up rates and many are operated well by people who are passionate about their career or making an honest living.  However, human trafficking is growing at such an alarming rate nationwide, it is important to know the signs and report any suspicions.   Learn more about the signs at PolarisProject.org.

If you know someone you suspect is a victim of human trafficking, you can also contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1-888-373-7888