[Updated] 10 ways to make your salon more eco-friendly

Once business is back to normal post-coronavirus, are you looking to take steps to become a sustainable beauty salon or spa? As part of Professional Beauty's Sustainability Week (April 20–26), we talk to the salon and spa operators who have already made great strides in their business to be eco-friendly, sharing these easily implementable tips so you can do your bit for the environment too. 

10 ways to make your beauty salon or spa more sustainable:

1. Start with the basics

 “Our industry has a large carbon footprint, so as salon and spa owners we have a duty to do our bit for the planet,” says Kirsty Kianifard, director of Uniquely Organic EcoSpa in Hove. “Traditionally, the volume of imperishable waste products that we all churn out is vast, so this is a great place to start.” 

With sub-zero waste predicted to be a big trend, Kianifard suggests beginning your eco journey by sourcing supplies like cotton wool, cotton buds, tissue and couch roll ethically, or finding ways to eliminate them completely. 

“You can source biodegradable consumables from brands like Simply Gentle and Who Gives a Crap, which offer organic and fair-trade cotton wool and tissues,” she says; or if you want to take it one step further, take a leaf out of Uniquely Organic’s book: “Where possible, we avoid using disposable materials all together and opt for organic sheets over couch roll and washable mitts over cotton wool.” 

2. Cut out plastics

With the UK plastic straw and cotton bud ban having come into force this year, now is the time to encourage clients to reduce their plastic wastage by implementing your own rules. Titanic Spa in Huddersfield has banned single-use plastics; guests now use recyclable paper cups rather than water bottles. 

“We also have eco-friendly re-useable water bottles with the Titanic Spa logo that guests can buy and keep. These have sold extremely well so it’s been a cost-effective move, but it’s also encouraging that guests are engaged with our sustainability goals,” says managing director Warrick Burton. 

If you have a bar or offer clients drinks that use straws, switch to a sustainable alternative or eliminate them completely. “In our bar we now use biodegradable straws that are made from sea shells. They look and feel virtually identical to ordinary straws, so we haven’t had to sacrifice on quality either,” says Burton. 

Other simple things like putting recycling bins in obvious places can really help. “Being more eco-conscious can even be as simple as encouraging your guests to recycle. We provide recycling bins around the spa and in our spa apartments, and although we remain largely paperless by directing guests to our website and e-materials, our spa brochures are printed on recycled paper with vegetable ink dyes,” adds Burton. 

Water bottle

3. Reduce laundry

Constant laundry loads are an unavoidable expense and use of energy in a salon or spa. But you can ease the burden by introducing biodegradable linens. 

Rossendale, Lancashire-based Polished Beauty Clinic started working with Scrummi Spa in 2018, a range of single-use biodegradable towels, linens and accessories. “Scrummi Spa reduces our laundry cost by nearly 90% while cutting down drastically on the amount of micro-fibres entering the water system,” explains co-owner Elizabeth Wilkinson. 

As a result of having to use the washing machine far less, the salon’s carbon emissions are also lowered, and although the products are disposable they’re totally recyclable in compost. “Everything is completely compostable; it’s a 100% sustainable product,” says Wilkinson. “The cost of the range starts from 15p per pair of facial mitts, up to 63p per body towel.” 

4. Make simple swaps 

Mimosa Beauty in Chelmsford prides itself on being an eco-friendly salon. For owner Jennie Lawson it’s the everyday changes that beauty businesses can make that have the most impact. “It’s honestly the really small things, it’s not hard at all; like changing all your light bulbs to LED,” she says. 

The salon has done away with monthly magazines in its reception area and instead has a well-stocked library of hardback books for clients to flick through while waiting for their appointment. “The other thing about having magazines is that some promote the attitude that there’s something wrong with you,” says Lawson. I want clients to read material that helps them nourish their minds and bodies. We’ve got cook books, travel books, poetry and kids books too.” 

Lawson also favours British-manufactured product houses like Devon-based Lola’s Apothecary, mainly because of the reduced carbon footprint in getting the products from where they’re made to the salon. “We also use Medik8, which has just rebranded with strong sustainable initiatives”, says Lawson. 

Mimosa works to reduce its own footprint by using a landfill-free recycling company that Lawson pays to ensure as much of the salon’s waste as possible is properly recycled. “It all goes into normal bags in our normal bins – all the wax, tissues, paperwork, and so on, and they sort through it all.” As an incentive to think more consciously about waste, clients can bring old product containers into the salon to be recycled and get 5% off their next in-salon product purchase. 

Laundry

5. Look at the whole business

It’s not only treatment products and supplies that can be swapped out for more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Samantha Davies, owner of Luna Organic Beauty Boutique in Cardiff, looked at every product used by the business and replaced as many as possible with substitutes that are better for the planet. 

“We use 100% recycled bleach-free toilet paper manufactured in the UK, non-toxic cleaning products and organic non-chemical coffee and bleach-free tea bags from UK Fairtrade brand Clipper,” she says. 

The salon also introduced biodegradable bin liners and overhauled its packaging and printed materials. “For product purchases, we use paper bags and tissue wrap sourced from suppliers that offer recycled paper stock options and have FSC-certification,” says Davies, “and also for our price lists, gift vouchers and business cards.” Even Luna’s aprons were an eco-conscious choice, made from organic cotton in the UK.

A free recycling service has launched to help beauty businesses who are struggling to meet their sustainability targets due to administrative and financial burdens. 

6. Get back to nature

If your salon or spa has outside space, consider following in Calm Organic Beauty’s footsteps and planting an organic garden to help sustain insects’ ecosystems, in turn supporting the environment for bugs and humans alike. 

“Our organic product house Herbfarmacy gave us a big selection of seeds so we grew lots of bee-friendly plants in front of the salon,” says Lisa Mansell, owner of the Kilgetty, Wales, salon. “We actually came second in our Village in Bloom competition, which of course is good for business too, and we are now working on a bug hotel project,” she says. 

Calm has also signed up to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge, which encourages sustainability in Welsh SMEs. “I’m sure there are similar schemes in many areas,” says Mansell. “We have also signed up to the Refill scheme, whereby people can use the free app to show all the businesses around them that will fill up a water bottle for free.” 

Herbs

7. Reuse where possible

At London’s Agua Spas in the Mondrian and Sanderson hotels, doing their bit for the planet is all about reusing to reduce waste. “You’ve got to be looking at everything you have for ways to reuse,” says Jacqueline Kneebone, regional director of spa and retail at Agua parent company SBE. 

“For example, we provide new slippers to every guest so instead of throwing them away we save them and give them to charity.” Kneebone has also implemented a simple way of reusing old towels and linens by cutting them up to make cleansing mitts. 

And one of the things that drew the spa to working with natural and organic brand de Mamiel was its glass packaging across the entire product range, which is sent back to the brand for recycling when empty. 

8. Save your energy 

The first step to reducing your spa's carbon footprint is to carry out an energy audit, explains Brian Anderson, sustainable development manager at Chiva-Som, based in Prachuap Khiri Khan in Thailand, who has led the site to become vastly more efficient after doing just that. 

"We ran an aduti at Chiva-Som in 2013 and then implemented energy conversation measures by replacing existing equipment with energy-efficient technologies to decrease our electricity consumption by 26%, with a related 20% reduction in carbon footprint," he says.

"Last year, we completed another energy audit of the operation and plan to further reduce electricity consumtpion by replacing more equipment. All our water heating is achieved through solar-thermal systems on the rooftop of the building, most of our solid waste is sent to recylcing facilities, and we treat and reuse all our waste water for irrigation." 

9. Work with suppliers to reduce waste

For spas and salons that are already open and want to make changes to become more sustainable, but don't have the budget to go back to the drawing board, Sara Young, spa manager at The Spa at South Lodge in Horsham, advises starting with your suppliers. "When we first got our flip-flops, each pair came in a plastic bag so we just said to the supplier, 'don't put them in the plastic bag'. Next thing you know, you've saved thousands of bags and they've cut down their costs as well. 

She adds: "The next thing we're looking at, and something that's taking us a little bit longer to do, is paperless consultation using iPads, A lot of the really good spa software systems already have it integrated in. Unfortunately ours doesn't but we're going to get a separate one. All that paper you can save. And that's not too expensive either, so I think it's just working with suppliers mainly."

10. Research product ingredients

Once you've been settled with a brand in your salon for a while, it's unlikely you'll think too much about what's going into its products. However, it's important to keep an eye on the sources that these raw materials are being taken from and whether they're being extracted in an eco-friendly manner.

Making sure your chosen brands know how they're putting together its products is essential to ensure sustainability, and is always worth asking about. "We source 100% natural ingredients with traceability right back to the farmer and the original source of the essential oil," says Aromatherapy Associates (AA) chief executive Anna Teal. As of 2020, AA also aim to keep note of the farming techniques ued to obtain these ingredients.

Elsewhere, innovative methods of material-sourcing are similarly being used. "Medik8’s next long-term commitment will be to move all their professional product to ocean plastic-derived materials; plastic waste sourced from our oceans, rivers and seas," says Daniel Isaacs, head of research. Choosing a brand with an ethos like this will make all of the difference in the long-term.