Pulse September 2015 - Page 35

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. Synthetic Fibers 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). MATERIAL 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. Durability 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 Fast Drying Durable Extra long staple (ELS) Cotton ✓ ✓ Cotton/Poly blend ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Bamboo/Organic cotton blend ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Bamboo/Microfiber blend ✓ ✓ Hemp Microfiber ✓ Bamboo SOURCE: GLOBAL SPA NETWORK TOOLKIT Antibacterial Stainresistant Absorbent ✓ Soft ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ SUSTAINABLE LINEN TIPS ● Review your treatment protocols to see if they can be reengineered to use less sheets and towels. ● Make sure you are using high-efficiency dryers. ● 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 to start! 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 cotton1. 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 denominator2.” 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. ■ September 2015 ■ PULSE 33