Plastic Free Spas? An Iconic Spa Taking Sustainable Leaps & Bounds.


plastic free

We have heard, read and written a lot lately about the devastating impact of plastic on our environment. Plastic is polluting our land and killing our oceans at an unprecedented pace. Plastic has entered all areas of our lives, from personal care to shopping, working, working out, eating and, yes, our favorite spas. Designed as sanctuaries of relaxation and wellbeing that are supposed to help us be healthier and happier, the amount of single-use plastic products in spas has reached an environmental footprint whose size cannot be ignored any longer. Sustainable spas are taking action.

When Kate Morrison, spa director at the iconic Southern California escape Ojai Valley Inn & Spa realized that in 2016, Spa Ojai guests discarded 24,000 plastic snack cups and 107,120 plastic water cups, she took action.

In April this year Ojai Valley Inn & Spa announced it will become free of single-use plastic items throughout Spa Ojai, its award-winning 30,000-square-foot spa. The goal of this innovative movement was to replace traditional spa amenities with eco-friendly, reusable versions and to establish a new benchmark in the luxury spa space.

The Green Spa Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping spas become more efficient, sustainable and earth friendly, took a deeper dive with Kate Morrison on implementing a plastic-free initiative. Here we share their interview with Kate:

What inspired you to make Spa Ojai ‘single use plastic-free’?

Last year a massage therapist on our team introduced me to an online video from titled “Open Your Eyes” about the detrimental impact single-use plastic is having on our planet. The video prompted us to take an honest look around our spa, assessing our daily plastic consumption.

We discovered that in 2016, we issued 34,120 bottles of water to our guests. We used 24,000 plastic snack cups and 107,120 water cups. Other single-use items included disposable hair combs, plastic-wrapped towelettes, wrapped razors, plastic bathing suit bags, and plastic mouthwash cups; each item literally used once and thrown away.

plastic free

Shocked by the excessive waste being produced, we were inspired to make a plan for change.

In honor of the Earth Day 2017, Spa Ojai formally launched our single-use plastic free commitment. We have sourced alternative, reusable materials to eliminate waste, yet provide guests with the amenities and accessories necessary to support a complete luxury spa experience.

The “green” initiatives throughout Spa Ojai are stamped with our signature oak leaf symbol, which was lovingly hand-drawn by our lead artist at the spa’s artist cottage. This symbol helps guide our guests through our innovative amenity program, continuously reminding them that by visiting Spa Ojai, they have participated in a conservation movement to better our environment.

What processes or actions are you using to facilitate your efforts throughout the property?

  • Water Cups:
    We used over 100,000 plastic water cups in 2016. Under the new initiative, all plastic water cups have been replaced with stainless steel 10 oz water cups from Klean Kanteen. Each cup has a spa-centric word etched into it to help guests identify their cup during their spa visit. We encourage guests to reuse their cup throughout their spa day and return it to the spa front desk at the conclusion of their experience. Each water station has a clean: “freshly prepared” or dirty “recently used” tray for cups. The used cups will be collected by spa housekeeping and stored in industrial cleaning bins in the spa housekeeping area. When full, the spa housekeeping team will take them to the Spa Café to run the 30-second cycle.
  • Snack Cups:
    Small stainless steel snack cups replaced the plastic ones we have been using.
  • Water Bottles:
    OVIS bottled water will be available by request only at the Spa, Gym and MB Studio. It should be provided without hesitation when requested. Reusable water bottles can be purchased at the Spa Boutique.
  • Plastic Bags:
    Rather than offering guests a plastic bag for their wet suit, we will now offer a bathing suit drying service. Spa Front Desk associates or Housekeeping will take the wet suit from the guest, dry it in the 30-second dryer, fold it neatly and put it into a cloth bag before returning it to the guest.
  • Razors and Shower Caps:
    Unwrapped razors and shower caps are available for guest use. Signage will be placed at each razor/shower cap station informing guests that these “fresh amenities” are clean and theirs to take home for reuse.
  • Oshibouri Towlettes:
    Plastic wrapped towelettes have been replaced with lavender-infused chilled washcloths at the gym.
  • Mouthwash Cups:
    A paper alternative will now be displayed for guests.
  • Hair Combs:
    High quality hair tools such as brushes and combs are available for guest use and will be cleaned and sanitized after each use and presented as “freshly prepared” or “recently used” at the vanity stations.

How are you engaging your employees in reducing plastic usage?

At our 2016 December departmental meeting, I gifted each Spa associate will a logoed Swell reusable water bottle. This gift accompanied a formal announcement that we would launch our Plastic-Free initiative on Earth Day 2017 and enabled our associates to begin participation in the movement immediately. Since the idea was formulated, associate engagement is thriving. It’s reignited a sense of pride and enthusiasm at work. Our team appreciates that the idea came from a line associate and that the team collectively worked to develop the new processes and source the alternatives that brought the idea to fruition.

Were there any obstacles you faced when implementing this initiative?

The first challenge we needed to overcome was the initial cost to launch our new plastic-free program. Several replacement items, equipment and tools, signage, training of staff, etc. were factored into the total cost of getting the idea off the ground. However, the fundamental concept behind this idea is sustainability. Now that the initial costs have been invested, our monthly operating expenses are lower and will eventually deliver a return.

What advice would you give to others who want to reduce their plastic consumption?

The benefits outweigh the initial investment! Guest feedback with this initiative has been positive from the point of conception. Fueled by passion from the associates, we highlight this initiative as part of a guest’s wellness experience. We’ve seen the strongest reaction from our return guests who acknowledge the change and have verbally thanked us for providing them with an alternative to plastic.

Another benefit has been in the networking and partnerships we’ve developed with the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Kleen Kanteen. Additionally, it has strengthened our relationship with many existing vendor partners who have cross-collaborated within social media to highlight our collective passion for green initiatives.

Finally, we are benefiting from the cost reductions associated with single-use plastic (although the motivation for this innovation was not financial). For example, the cost of our stainless steel water cups is forecasted to meet the cost of one-year of the plastic alternative. However, the stainless steel cups can be reused again and again, delivering a positive return on investment.


“The greatest measure of success for us, however, is that our business will eliminate hundreds of thousands of single-use plastic items this year and for years to come.”
– Kate Morrison, Spa Director, Spa Ojai

This interview was originally published on the website of the Green Spa Network at

Green Spa Network (GSN) just announced its 6th Annual Sustainability Awards, which recognize innovation and leadership by the spa industry in support of a vital planet and vital people. With its annual awards, GSN supports sustainable initiatives and achievements in spas and uses success stories to inspire other businesses to create positive change.

Know a spa industry leader or brand who has taken action for sustainability? Celebrate their accomplishments by recommending them for the GSN Sustainability Awards.

plastic free

Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team
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