Hemp and bamboo are being marketed as “eco/green/sustainable fibers.”
However, there is much to be learned
about the real environmental benefits of
using them. It is not always clear which
type of bamboo or hemp is used for these
fibers, where it is grown, how it is cultivated, and how it is harvested. To date,
there is no known organic certification for
bamboo and the process of producing
bamboo fiber can be very polluting.
The most common synthetic fiber in the
spa industry is high-performance
microfiber, designed to withstand the
rigors of spa operations while providing
a soft, lush feel. Synthetic materials currently comprise the majority of the
world’s fabric usage, yet use only one
percent of fossil fuel demand.
The default standard at luxury
resorts, microfiber linens are valued by
many spa businesses for their durability
and lightness in weight, which allows
for shorter drying cycles. These fabrics
are wrinkle-free, so they do not require
ironing, thus further reducing environmental load.
In a study of product distributors and
Green Spa Network (GSN) member
interviews, microfiber was the only
material to satisfy all six sustainable
linens purchasing considerations (i.e.,
fast-drying, durable, anti-bacterial, stainresistant, absorbent and soft).
Laundry and Life Cycle
Every spa manager knows the spa business is laundry-intensive, and that linens
are a “cog in the wheel” of the entire
operation. Energy and water consumption, as well as the life cycle of the linens,
must be top of mind.
Energy and Water Consumption
Synthetic sheets made of high-performance microfiber are lighter and fast-drying
than cotton—consuming less energy than
any alternative. They are also wrinkle-free
–meaning, less energy used in powering
additional pressing equipment.
Water consumption considerations
include the use of water in-house or at an
outsourced laundry facility, as well as the
water consumed when producing the
fabric. The production of one acre of
cotton requires 25,000 tons of water,
whereas production of the same amount
of synthetic material requires four tons.
The longer your linens last, the more sustainable in the long-term. Durable,
sustainable fibers are a natural first choice
for green spa operations. A longer product
life span means lower overall emissions
and less energy consumption over the
total lifetime of a product. Durability tests
on hotel textiles show that synthetic
fibers outlast cotton. The potential lifespan of 50 percent cotton and 50 percent
polyester blend sheets is twice as long as
Extra long staple (ELS) Cotton
Bamboo/Organic cotton blend
SOURCE: GLOBAL SPA NETWORK TOOLKIT
Review your treatment
protocols to see if they can
be reengineered to use less
sheets and towels.
Make sure you are using
Ask your linen supplier for
research on product life cycles.
Ask if your linen supplier will
take your retired linens and
recycle (some offer this service
free of charge).
Work with community
outreach to recycle linens—
animal rescue shelters and
group homes are great places
100 percent cotton sheets. A robe made
out of microfiber was shown to last 1.5
times longer than a robe made fully out of
Sustainability and Wellness
Sustainability and wellness go hand in
hand. “Just as personal wellness is about
a long-term living and existence, wellness
and sustainability are linked philosophically and in practice because they have
the natural environment as a common
In the future, “hotels will create unique
experiences centered around wellness3.”
An example of this is the StayWell®
Rooms at Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel
and Casino and the JW Marriott Hotels &
Resorts’ Spa Suites (read The Business of
Franchise: Following a Formula, page 42).
Wellness hotel rooms cater to healthminded individuals, but also to those with
environmental sensitivities. Bed sheets
made from high-performance microfiber
were chosen at both Caesars Palace and
JW Marriott, based on their luxurious feel,
anti-allergen properties and sustainability.
Given the whole equation on sustainability, it is not surprising that microfibers are
the increasingly more common choice. ■