Green Building Techniques

Green Bonds Have an Impact

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 by

Green Mutual FundsHow Mutual Funds is helping change the climate of fixed income - By Madalyn Metzger, Everence Financial and Praxis Mutual Funds

The goal of most investors is to achieve a positive return – with success typically measured in annualized percentages. And while this is an important measure, a growing number of investors are looking for more. Specifically, they’re looking for ways their investments can make a difference, and improve the quality of life in their communities and around the world.

That’s where green bonds come in. First introduced by the World Bank in 2008, green bonds (also known as qualified green building and sustainable design project bonds) are designed to help investors make a positive impact on environmental projects through their investment portfolios.

The market for green bonds has picked up steam over the years. Since their introduction, the World Bank has issued approximately $3.5 billion in green bonds. And while they’re somewhat new to the scene, green bonds make complete sense to Praxis Mutual Funds, a faith- and values-based fund family advised by Everence Capital Management.

Praxis approaches its investment strategy through stewardship investing, a philosophy of financial decision making that balances social and financial considerations and is motivated and informed by the fund family’s faith convictions. This focus is driven by the company’s core values, which include the need to respect the dignity and value of all people, demonstrate a concern for justice in a global society and work toward environmental sustainability.

“At Praxis, we want to do our part to transform our world,” said David C. Gautsche, President of Praxis Mutual Funds. “Our investment philosophy consists of company selection, shareholder advocacy and community development investment. Our core values embrace a wide range of environmental, social and governance concerns, as well as traditional, prudent financial considerations.”

Praxis applies this strategy to all of its five mutual funds – but it is especially notable in the Praxis Intermediate Income portfolio, which includes more than 10 percent of green bonds and other high social impact bonds. In addition, the Praxis Genesis Portfolios (three diversified funds-of-funds celebrating their third anniversary this year) include the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund in their portfolio mix.

Making a High Social Impact Through Bonds

When it comes to stocks, it’s easy for investors to see how they can have a positive social impact by including progressive companies in their portfolios and/or utilizing shareholder advocacy to help goad companies to better social and environmental performance.

Fixed-income investors, on the other hand, can’t make a positive impact in the same way, because they don’t have company ownership. And because many of those same progressive companies are young and small, they likely aren’t borrowing from the public investment grade bond market yet. However, bondholders can help organizations and companies bring down the cost of borrowing at the margin – effectively making an impact in places where a stock portfolio couldn’t. Also, some of these organizations don’t have public stock, and companies borrow for specific energy projects that would not issue equity in the public market.

To continue reading this article visit Green Money Journal

Green Spas And Salons: How To Make Your Business Truly Sustainable

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by

Green Spas And Salons: How To Make Your Business Truly Sustainable, a new book for the Spa/Salon/Hospitality Industry by Shelley Lotz, helps owners and managers develop smart, sustainable practices for long-term business success.

This unique guidebook summarizes business practices, sustainability principles, and green building  all in one. The book sifts through the “green hype” to focus on best practices. This guidebook goes beyond the spa industry and most  of the principles are applicable to any business or lifestyle. 

  Planning guides with personalized action plans, how-to steps, and worksheets are included. Tools are given for evaluating services, products, supplies, operations, and building elements. Ideas for staff engagement, client needs, and marketing are incorporated, along with the science and the economics of sustainability. Guidelines for purchasing, water and energy conservation, waste reduction, and indoor environmental quality are all covered. 

  The book is described by Mary Bemis (Founder of Insider's Guide to Spas, and Founding Editor of  Organic Spa Magazine) as “an invaluable resource for spa and salon owners.”  Kristi Konieczny,   Founder of The Spa Buzz, says “The most powerful and practical resource for sustainability of spa and salon operations I have ever seen.”

Visit  for more information.

Inspiring spa case studies include: Agave Spa, Aji Spa and Salon, Atlanta School of Massage, Be Cherished Salon and Day Spa, Complexions Spa, Crystal Spa, Elaia Spa, Glen Ivy Hot Springs, Natural Body Spa and Shop, Naturopathica, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, Spa Anjali, Spa at Club Northwest, Spa Moana, Sundara Inn and Spa, The New Well, Vdara Spa and Salon, and Waterstone Spa.

Shelley Lotz has over 25 years of experience in the spa/wellness/beauty industry as an esthetician, educator, and business owner. She is a major contributing author of Milady’s Standard Esthetics Fundamentals, a core textbook for esthetician students. She started an institute of aesthetics and is also a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. Contact her at

The book will be featured at LOHAS and Ted Ning is one of the book contributors, as the LOHAS philosophy is a key part of the green business movement. 


Green Jobs: Resources for Careers in Natural, Organic and Sustainable Products

Monday, April 22, 2013 by

Here at Compass Natural Marketing, a lot of folks ask us about resources for finding jobs and career opportunities in the $300 billion LOHAS market, i.e., the “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability” market for natural, organic, eco-friendly, and socially and environmentally responsible products and services.

There are a lot of great companies and NGOs in the LOHAS market, from organic food to renewable energy and from yoga to green building. In fact, with significant growth in demand for natural, organic and sustainable products, according to the Organic Trade Association, the organic food industry is creating jobs at a much higher rate than the conventional food industry.

Here are some good resources below for finding jobs in the natural and organic foods and sustainable products industry, and for social and environmental mission based organizations.

Of course, if you identify companies you’d like to work for, check their websites. Often, the larger companies, such as Whole Foods Market, UNFI, Pacific Natural Foods, Earthbound Farm, and other brand leaders will have job postings on their own websites. Do some research of your favorite brands.

We welcome your comments and suggestions to add to the list.

Green Job Resources

Green Dream Jobs. You can search by level and region. Awesome resource presented by our friends at

Here’s a great resource for sales, marketing, management and executive level jobs in the Denver/Boulder region, created by our friend and colleague Luke Vernon.

Also, GreenBiz has a great sustainable jobs board.

TreeHugger has green job listings.

Sustainable Industries posts green jobs across the country.

Just Means job listings have a social mission and NGO focus.

Natural and Organic Industry Resources. A good compendium of industry resources.

Naturally Boulder is another resource for job listings in the Boulder/Denver region.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Wanting a Peace Corps-like volunteer experience, but on an organic farm somewhere around the world where you can learn about organic agriculture? Feeling young and adventurous? Check out WWOOF.

Green Career Guide job thread.

California Certified Organic Farmers, an excellent organization for organic producers, posts job listings.

ReWork:  Founded in 2011 by alumni of the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, ReWork helps people find careers in values-based, socially responsible and sustainable businesses.

Hope this helps get you started. Happy green job hunting!


Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural LLC, a full service marketing communications, public relations and business development agency serving natural, organic and sustainable business. Hoffman is Co-founder of the LOHAS Forum annual market trends conference, former Editorial Director of New Hope Natural Media’s natural and organic products trade publication division, and former Program Director of Natural Products Expo East and West. A former Peace Corps volunteer and agricultural extension agent, Hoffman holds a M.S. in Agriculture from Penn State University. Contact

4 Green Pinterest Boards Every Eco Conscious Person Should Follow

Monday, August 6, 2012 by

Pinterest may be the newest social media/bookmarking site that most college students are enamored with at the moment—after all it features tons of great fresh and trendy DIY crafts, recipes, and clothes—but the digital pin board can also be used for a greater purpose: teaching users how to live a greener lifestyle. Whether you're looking for inspiration to transform your home (or dorm room) into an eco-friendly haven or you're simply wondering what new clean technologies are in developments, Pinterest can help satisfy your curiosity. That said, below are some prime "green" Pinterest boards you should start following today.

Plants Anything Green Garden

One of the easiest ways to promote sustainability is to plant your own herb or vegetable garden in your backyard. But if you're unsure of where to start, what to plant, or how to construct beds for your plants, then this board can really help you out. With more than 78 fabulous pins that explain what perennial herbs are and how to construct a DIY self-watering planter for example, this particular board is loaded with tons of useful information for the eco-conscious. Just make sure to double click the images to re-direct you to the original location of the pin for step-by-step directions.

Green Buildings I Digg

Like the name suggests this board is filled with beautifully constructed sustainable buildings that the owner, Bidgette Meinhold, finds interesting. But we find her particular taste interesting too. If you're looking for some inspiration on how to design and construct your new eco-friendly home or you just want to know what some consumers in various parts of the world are doing to make their homes and businesses sustainable then become one of the 300 plus followers of this board.

Clean Tech

If you're interested to know what certain clean tech gadgets and tools universities are working on then this board would be essential to follow. While it allows users to get a better idea of what's in store for the future, it also has some great clean tech DIY tips that the average user can construct at home, such as how to turn your plants into a cell phone charger. Hopefully the owner Planet Forward continues to add to the 34 pins already featured on the board.

Green Lifestyle Consulting

Green Lifestyle Consulting, which like the name suggests is a board that is designed to help users live a greener lifestyle. The board is run by a wife-husband duo. There are so many different pins featured that they're organized into different categories, including: For the Home, Political Action and Ideas, Tips to go Green, and Raising Green Children.


And of course there is the LOHAS board that provides visuals of the various elements LOHAS embodies. For those who are visually inclined it may provide a clearer picture on how LOHAS sectors are connected and the best contexts to consider when explaining it to others or determining if one is LOHAS. Boards include personal develolpment, images of nature, food and energy efficiency to name a few.

An expert in the construction industry, freelance writer Kristie Lewis offers tips and advice on choosing the best construction management colleges. She also enjoys writing about green building practices for business and home owners. She welcomes any questions and comments you might have at

Sustainability Trends for 2012: energy, water and employee engagement

Friday, April 27, 2012 by

Energy EfficiencyA quick review of sustainability trends reported on the internet shows (not surprisingly) that energy will stay a high priority. The focus is on alternative energy, energy efficiency  and solar energy. Within the green building movement, retrofitting buildings for sustainability is gaining momentum.

This poses a huge market opportunity for businesses. However, it helps if (local) governments create the environment that is beneficial for investing in clean energy. For rapid introduction of new technologies a so called ‘innovation system’- the needs to be in place. Innovation systems are networks of organizations that work together on diffusing new technologies. They are facilitated through entrepreneurial activity, knowledge development through collaboration with educational institutions, and knowledge diffusion through networks such as accelerators and business platforms. Governments can play pivotal roles in facilitating innovation systems.

A more recent trend is concern over water issues. Many places in the world don’t have access to enough water to meet agricultural, urban and industrial water needs. Large areas deal with droughts, and disruptive weather patterns caused by climate change  aggravate these issues.

Though this is important for business, especially in the food industry, it is even more important to governments. Water supplies are directly related to energy and food needs. The repercussions of water shortages in combination with an exploding world population cannot be underestimated – and may lead to water wars. Meriting this issue to be dealt with from a diplomatic point of view. For example: it is for a good reason that China does not want to leave Tibet: the country is the source of all the rivers in the region.

Thirdly, employee engagement is finally on the corporate agenda. Which is great, because the social side of the triple bottom line often gets little attention.  I often wonder why we have so few very successful cases for sustainability. In my opinion, engagement is the missing link – you can’t just roll out policies, or change light bulbs. Sustainability becomes a part of the organization when employees are engaged in the subject. Luckily for us, there is a strong business case for engagement, and links to sustainability within a company

Top LOHAS-ish Fall Conferences for 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011 by

LOHAS crowdHere it is mid August and already I have to start working on my conference attending schedule for the fall of 2011. It seems like I have to do this earlier and earlier each year primarily because there are so many LOHAS oriented conferences being added or are catching my attention that I did not know of before. I have done a post on what events I think are important the past 2 years and here is my 3rd installment of top green/health and wellness/social enterprise/sustainability/leadership conferences worth considering as you plan your conference schedule for the fall.

For those new to the conference scene, there are two seasons – fall and spring. There are associations and organization that provide 1 or 2 events a year usually during those months. This is primarily because summer is a time when many set up personal vacation time and winter has more holiday time and weather issues.

Conference strategy
In determining which event is best for you take a look at the speakers and topics that will be presented. It is also important to look at the sponsors and how the event is presented via the event website. This will give you a feel on the type of companies that will be attending the event and what type of audience the event is trying to attract. By viewing the agenda content you can get an idea on how in depth they plan on going on topics. Also look at the networking opportunities that are in the program. Some events consciously embed them in the program via receptions, meals and outings and others do not. It is really up to you to make the best of the time for your own networking purposes.

On site
I find attending events to be incredibly stimulating. However I also find them to be extremely exhausting. Make sure you eat right, drink plenty of fluids, keep to a good sleep schedule and maintain a steady energy balance. For the large trade shows make sure you wear comfortable and supportive shoes for those hours on the exhibit floor. There are plenty of after party events to attend at which you can have some great business talks. It is up to you to make sure you know what formula works best for you. Set up meetings in advance if you can. That way you have some anchors to build the rest of the day's plan around and not get too lost in the shuffle of things - especially if they are large trade shows.

Women in Green - August 30-31st Santa Monica CA
Focuses on women in leadership positions that promote green business. Although all the speakers are women you don’t need to be of the double X chromosome to attend. This is the second year of the event and according to people who attended last year it was about 200 people. This year there should be more.

Conscious Capitalism - OCT 12-14 Austin TX
You need an invite to attend this prestigious event that brings many CEO’s together to discuss conscious leadership within organizations. It is a relatively small event with around 200 attending. John Mackey of Whole Foods co-founded this and has people ranging from the CEO of the Container Store to Jean Houston speaking on how business can drive conscious change.

Green Initiatives Conference Sept 29-30th Ft Lauderdale FL
A new event on my radar that has some interesting presenters and sponsors. The event team that is putting this on look like they have a tech background and may be one of the main focuses of the event. There are larger corporations participating such as DOW, HP and Coca Cola. It looks like they will focus on sustainability within larger companies and case studies from experiences.

SXSW Eco Oct 4-6 Austin, TX
SXSW music festival looks to sing a new green tune this year with the addition of a green event. Former LOHAS speakers who will be presenting include Simran Sethi and Philippe Cousteau. This is thier first year and the B2B event looks interesting. A great idea tagging it onto SXSW.

Opportunity Green Nov 9-10 Los Angeles, CA
OG is in its 3rd year and brings together green business and sustainable design in LA. They have about 800 attendees from all walks of life – corporate, entrepreneurs, media and of course Hollywood. They hold a great green design competition and it is a high energy event with interesting sessions and booths ranging from LED lighting for studios to BMW to water filters.

BSR - Nov 1-4 San Francisco, CA
The big one for the larger corporations that has been around a long time focusing on the corporate responsibility of multi-national corporations. Last year they had over 1000 in attendance. If you are looking to connect with the bigger companies on CSR initiatives this is the one to check out.

Funding and Finance
SOCAP Sept 7-9 Fort Mason, San Francisco CA
A vibrant event focusing on investing into social entrepreneurship. This event brings together large funds and banks with social entrepreneurs. Competitions on business plans are submitted ahead of time for a competition for funding and there is great education on raising capital for the startup and social enterprises.

SRI in the Rockies OCT 2-5 New Orleans, LA
A flagship event for social responsible investing(SRI) that brings SRI funds together with financial advisors. They also bring in a mix of speakers who focus on humanitarian, social and environmental impacts such as Jane Goodall, David Bornstein, Hunter Lovins and Bill McDonough. If you want insights on SRI and where it is headed this is THE event to attend.

Slow Money OCT 12-14 San Francisco, CA
Slow Money is a network of food activists, investors and entrepreneurs who nurture a range of conversations in order to actively develop funding and investment channels for local and sustainable food enterprises. Like Slow Food, they have local gatherings and a larger main event promoting a slow and steady investment into businesses who are seeking an alternative to the conventional Wall Street type investor.  Speakers include David Suzuki, David Orr and Vananda Shiva.

Investor's Circle OCT 26-27 Philadelphia, PA
A membership organization that  support a great entrepreneurs that are addressing social and environmental issues. They look at 10-15 high impact deals that are seeking investment.  They also provide a due diligence process that starts once the event is complete. It is about 200 people in attendance who are angel investors, fund managers, family office managers, foundation executives and trustees, wealth, financial and philanthropic advisers and their clients and other accredited investors.

Industry Specific
EcoTourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference Sept 19-21st Hilton Head SC
With over 30 inspiring sessions, 50 leading industry partners, and impactful and engaging keynote presentations, the ESTC 2011 (Hilton Head Island, SC, USA, September 19-21, 2011) sets the platform for ongoing dialogue promoting innovative ideas and practical solutions, driving change in global tourism.

Expo East Sept 22-24 Baltimore MD
Attended by as many as 25,000 industry professionals and featuring thousands of exhibits, Natural Products Expo East is the largest natural, organic, and healthy products trade show on the East Coast. With the newest and best-selling products and branded ingredients available this show features the best in organic at All Things Organic/Organic Products Expo-BioFach America, offers an extensive retailer training program and provides an advocacy platform through a strategic partnership with Natural Products Association East. Natural Products Expo East is ranked as one of the top 200 tradeshows in the US.

Greenbuild Oct 4-7 Toronto Canada
Greenbuild is the green building industry's can't miss event. It's where we go to learn about what's new in green building practices through the extensive educational sessions, see the latest technology and innovation in the exhibit hall, and perhaps more importantly, where we go to do business.  Greenbuild is a one-stop shop for credential maintenance. From pre- or post-show LEED workshops to sector-specific summits, from green building tours to concurrent educational sessions, you will find the education you need at Greenbuild. Most sessions at Greenbuild will be approved for continuing education credits for LEED and other professional credentials, allowing you to maintain your credential with ease.

Natural Beauty Summit Oct 6-7 NYC
This is a smaller and formal event for the natural and organic beauty industry that brings together the mission driven companies such as Dr. Bronners and Weleda with the larger corporations such as Este Lauder, L’Oreal and Avon. It is more of a lecture format and a lot of presentation intake. If you are a data hound you will get your fill. If you are a networker you will need to work for it but there are good connections to be made. The group is a bit insular if you are an outsider but if you are seeking to enter the luxury skincare market it may be worth considering.

Green Spa Network - Oct 9-12 Sundance, UT
This event is made up of a group of spa resorts and products that want to go the extra mile in promoting green efforts in the spa industry. The event has about 100 passionate people who want to move the spa world in the direction of holistic and sustainable integration. They are a very open and friendly group that welcomes newcomers (and new members). Plus the events are always at pristine green resorts.

ISPA - Nov 7-9 Las Vegas
If you are in the spa industry you have to go where everyone goes which is the International Spa Association Conference. Every other year they have their annual event in Las Vegas which brings investors, products and service providers, spa techs and directors together. This is THE most well groomed event I have ever experienced with exhibitors providing facials, teeth whitening and massages. There is good data provided on the spa world and great sessions specific to spa owners and employees. ISPA provides great data on the spa market as well. 

Social Venture Network Oct 27-30 Philadelphia, PA
SVN is a membership organization of successful social entrepreneurs ranging from Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, creators of Ben & Jerry’s, to Van Jones, former Green Czar to Obama, to Tom Szaky founder of Terracycle. It mixes sustainability with community building and innovation and a ton of passion. You can’t leave this event without 2-3 bonding hugs. It is a great place to seek mentorship, collect ideas and also potential funding from successful entrepreneurs and community leaders who are interested in helping others. This overlaps with the Investor’s Circle previously mentioned.

Net Impact Oct 27-29 Portland, OR
Net Impact is a large event that brings 2500 students and corporations together. They have chapters associated with Universities all over the country with a large membership and the event focuses on social enterprise, green business strategies, and nonprofit work.

Public Events
Yoga Journal Conference Sept 18-25 Estes Park, CO
For yoga die hards and trainers interested in the business of yoga or just to improve their own yoga practice. Famous yoga instructors such as Rodney Yee, Sean Corn and Shiva Rae have taught classes here. There is a vendor area as well.

Greenfests are the creations of Green America and a designed to celebrate green and diversity in various regions. Their flagship event in San Fran pulls in 30,000 attendees and they have some amazing keynote speakers such as Dr. Weil, Deepak Chopra, Amy Goodman, Jim Hightower and many more. Companies large and small mingle together with the public selling their products and services. I think these are great not only to see what is being sold but to see who is buying and the similarities and differences each region has as it relates to green. There is always a colorful audience at Greenfestivals.
New York  10/1-2
Los Angeles  10/29-30
San Francisco 11/12-13

Bioneers San Rafael, CA 10/14-16
Bioneers is where ecology meets activism meets celebration. I could spend hours in the parking lot just reading all the bumper stickers on people’s cars (mostly hybrids). If you are into fighting injustices of the underserved, hearing the wisdom of traditional cultures and the stories of animals and unique journeys of people this is an event for you. There are workshops on business, youth, art, peace and more.  It draws about 3-5,000 who are all there because of the larger mission Bioneers embodies. Networking is great but you will need to be selective on who you connect with since there are so many types of people there.


Of course these are just a few of the many events out there of interest to me. There are many others that are international that I did not include. If there are any other events you see I am missing please feel free to comment and add.


Ted Ning is renowned for leading the annual LOHAS Forum, and LOHAS Journal the past 9 years Ted Ning is widely regarded as the epicenter of all things LOHAS leading many to affectionately refer to him as ‘Mr. LOHAS’. He is a change agent, trend spotter and principal of the LOHAS Group, which advises large and small corporations on accessing and profiting from the +$300 billion lifestyles of health and sustainability marketplace.  The LOHAS Group is a strategy firm focusing on helping companies discover, create, nurture and develop their unique brand assets.  For more information on Ted visit

Futuretopia. Or, "Come On, Can't Humanity Do a Little Better?"

Thursday, June 23, 2011 by

A (literally & LEEDly) green building.I used to play Sim City when I was a kid, and I always named my city "Utopia." So a talk entitled "Futuretopia" really got my idealistic jazz on. Man, I was excited.  I imagined it painting a vision of the future of a harmonious union of sustainability, sufficiency, spirituality, beauty, and appropriate use of advanced technologies that could inspire humanity to get far beyond the current fu*k-everything-but-me paradigm and into an interconnected matrix of sustainable winning.

And I left feeling like..."Dammit, humans, can't we do a little better?"

I guess what it comes down to is, the talk was a lot more...practical, than I was hoping for. I honestly can't fault it for that. It's not the speaker's fault that I was on my idealistic high horse to start with.

A few highlights:

  • Blinds that can store solar energy, solar batteries, improved microwaves
  • Design for disassembly. Why don't we just pull the motherboard out and put a new one in?  Why are computers "disposable"?
  • Design for up-cycling.  Design it so that when it's done, it can be used for something else. A cruise ship that becomes a home or hotel built into the side of a hill.  (Now, that's a bit more like what I'm talking about.)
  • Stop rewarding consumption
  • Mandate strict building codes
  • Tax energy use on a sliding scale
  • Are you yawning yet? A wave of the future -- getting energy from waves.
I mean, trust me, I'm all for a little (or a lot of!) practicality and on-the-ground green realness (I am the "Where Does the Rubber Meet the Road?" queen to a lot of my friends)...but a talk entitled "Futuretopia" had my inner-idealist all puffed up and entering with expectations of the cuttingest edge of the cutting edge, and man, I expected to be unduly inspired.  I wanted to hear about biomimetic business models; green buildings that emulate the strength and flexibility of trees; wave power and seasteading. Instead I'm thinking of feed-in tarrifs, ecological living, and solar batteries. 

Yes, essential.  Yes, in everyday life I'm all about 'em.  And yes...I'mma have another cuppa coffee. 

LOHAS Trends for 2011 - Green Building and Housing

Monday, December 27, 2010 by

Green Building Construction for 2011

The U.S. green building market has defied the economic downturn and has a strong outlook for 2011. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth report the value of green building construction starts was up from $42B to $71B from 2008 to 2010 which is approximately 50% increase and represents 25% of all new construction activity in 2010. According to projections, the green building market size is expected to reach $135 billion by 2015.

Nonresidential Growth

Nonresidential buildings construction has proven to be the strongest sector for green building and represents a $54B market opportunity. Today a third of all new nonresidential construction is green. In five years nonresidential green building activity is expected to triple, representing $120 billion to $145 billion in new construction (40%-48% of the nonresidential market) and $14 billion to $18 billion in major retrofit and renovation projects.

Health Care Construction

Health care construction this year is expected to grow its green share to as much as 40% (valued at $8 billion-$9 billion in 2010) — phenomenal growth in just two years. Education (valued at $13 billion–$16 billion in 2010) and office green construction (valued at $7 billion–$8 billion in 2010) also remain strong sectors, showing high increases in market share, due in part to the fact that bigger projects are the most likely to “go green.” This year, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED specification is mentioned in 71% of all projects valued at over $50 million.

Primary Reasons for Green Building Growth

* Reduction in operating costs of 13.6% on average for new buildings and 8.5% for retrofits;
* Increase in building values of 10.9% for new buildings and 6.8% for retrofits; and
* Increase in return on investment (ROI) of 9.9% for new buildings and 19.2% for retrofits.

California will add to this growth because on January. 1st California's CalGreen building code takes effect, mandating eco-friendly practices that were previously voluntary.

Green Housing Trends for 2011

simple green homeThe current housing crisis means fewer new homes being built. But are those that are being built designed based on what the crisis has shown us? According to Green House there is a new emphasis on smaller homes with fewer luxuries. The median size of new single-family homes fell from a peak of 2,268 square feet in 2006 to to 2,100 square feet in 2009, says the study by Paul Emrath, vice president for survey and housing policy research at the National Association of Home Builders He says part of the current decline may also be recession-related but he sees other factors at play, such as the desire to lower energy costs and less emphasis on homes as investments. "Not all of these trends are likely to reverse themselves immediately at the end of a recession," he writes. Jenny Sullivan, a senior editor of BUILDER, calls this "portion control." She cites nine other trends for 2011.

Glitz is gone (for now)

Simple and honest architecture is what is in demand as homeowners look to simplify and manage their lives easily – and their houses. Simple beauty will be the focus of interior design with a modest ‘Zen’ approach. Natural finishes, clean lines and less frivolous embellishments will be in style.

Healthy Homes

As people become more aware of wellness aspects more will want to surround themselves with healthier home options such as low VOC paints, stains, and sealants. There will be an increased demand for natural furnishing products made of hay, wheat, bamboo, aspen and other natural fibers that bring more of the outdoor elements inside.

Multigenerational Homes

mulitgenerationalAs more families rely on each other for financial support including mortgage payments multigenerational households are proliferating. These types of homes are increasing for various reasons: boomerang kids moving home to save money; elderly parents who need family support; young parents relying on grandparent care for their kids; and rapid growth among immigrant families for whom shared living is a cultural tradition.

Urbanizing the Burbs

Along with the trend toward smaller homes is the growing interest in urbanism. City planners and developers are creating ways to create artisan shops and walkability into existing hotspots.

DYI Alive and Strong

DYIHomeowners will continue to take care of their own leaky roofs, remodeling projects and other home improvement projects themselves. The value of homeowner improvements is on track to top $117.6 billion in 2010 and $133.7 billion in 2011, according to IBISWorld. Retrofitting existing homes to meet energy-efficient standards is expected to be a boon to business. According to, the aging population's desire to "age in place" is fueling an uptick in universal design. More boomers are bypassing assisted living facilities--for their parents and themselves--and renovating their homes to be tastefully functional and accessible.


Ice Ice Baby

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 by
I had the chance to remodel my kitchen earlier this year and I wanted to do it in a sustainable way. Our counters were these crappy typical lamenent that was all gnarled up and pretty ugly. They came with the house when we bought it and were in horrible shape. I really wanted to adopt some green building techniques and came upon one of the greenest companies to replace our counters. Yes I was torn with my desire for something new and keeping what I have which works but was in bad shape. And for all those minimalist out there I am sorry but I gave in to vanity. But I did do it with some intent and found a phenomenal LOHAS oriented couner top company. Icestone is a triple bottom line company that blends concrete and various recycled glass to make amazing green countertop materials. According to thier own definition - IceStone is a sustainable durable surface made with 100% recycled glass in a cement matrix. IceStone surfaces are produced in slabs. IceStone is the first and only Gold Cradle to Cradle™ certified surface material in the world and comes in a wide variety of colors. IceStone is not an engineered stone product. 

The definition does not speak enough about the final product at all. However it was not as easy as I originally thought to select it. My wife and I got some sample colors and all were really nice. From white with brown and pearl colored flecs to green with small pieces of glass. We finally decided on a type called Heirloom Grey that has a mix of 3 types of glass - white, clear and brown and also bits of recycled mirror. Once we have it installed it looks totally amazing. The mirror pieces in the counter sparkle like snow in the sun when you walk around it. We are totally thrilled with how it looks. And instead of having it dumped into landfill when it is as hacked as our old counters, which I hope won't happen for a long time unless I convert my kitchen into a heavy tool workshop, it can be sent back to Icestone and repurposed for another counter. Why don't other companies think this way? Duh!

I would highly recommend this product to anyone interested in having a green countertop as an aspect of thier ecological lifestyle. Yes it is a bit pricey - about the same as high quality marble. But I dont have to concern myself with the thoughts of my counter coming from a quarry in China as most are. Plus I dont have to use any nasty toxic sealers too. If there is more demand for green products like this then the price will go down.

Not only is the company providing an excellent product the process that it is made and the way they treat thier employees is totally in line with LOHAS principles.

Check out thier video here.

Recommended LOHAS Oriented Conferences To Consider Attending

Sunday, August 29, 2010 by


In my time at LOHAS I have been to a lot of green events. A few years ago there were only a handful of events to choose from and it was a bit of a close circle. However now it seems that green and sustainably oriented events are popping up everywhere. How does one know which are solid and which are just flashes in the pan? I am putting together my travel schedule and like you have to be selective as to where to put my energy and travel budget.

Here is a list of events I have either been to or have heard about that make my list and are organized by month:


The International Ecotourism Conference (Sept 8-10 Portland, OR)
The event for the ecoutourism industry that brings a global attendee base.  Eventhough the ecotourism industry is a small section of the overall tourism industry, it is an excellent place to learn what is happening in the space and who’s who. I have not been to this event and have always wanted to and this year is my chance. I look forward to it. Yours truly will be speaking on the future of sustainability trends and the ROI of green travel. Should be fun!

Opportunity Green  (Sept 22-24th Los Angeles Center Studios, CA) – This is their 3rd event and is very green business and design oriented. The speakers are primarily big business with some cutting edge entrepreneurs in the mix. Design conversations range from buildings to automobiles to fashion and the blend of people here is good. The event is really the only national oriented event I know of in LA that is green oriented and it has the LA look and feel. I feel you need to come to this event with a bit of a strategic game plan and set up some meetings to make the most of this event. You can also hear some interesting speakers and chat them up at the cocktail receptions and meals which are quite nice.

West Coast Green (Sept 30-Oct 2nd, San Francisco, CA)
The green building conference for the west coast featuring speakers such as Bill McDonough and an exhibit area of 300. I have not been to the event but I hear great things and if you are in the green building and design market you should go to this or Greenbuild (see below). 


Green Spa Network (Oct 3-7, Avon CO)
The Green Spa Network has come from those in the spa industry that are seeking to reclaim the world of wellness from the clutches of pampering and luxury. GSN is a membership organization and looking to get those in the spa world to recognize sustainable product creation and spa properties. This will be their second year convening and are still in infancy but are moving fast and furious to make headway into the spa world. Those in the spa world who truly want to engage green practices should definitely attend this event. 

SoCap (Oct 4-6th, San Francisco, CA)
Honestly, I have not been to SoCap yet and am looking forward to my inauguration to the event this year. I have only heard good things about this event. It appears to have a Silicon Valley type vibe from those that attend from its free form programming and type of people who are there. A great event for start ups and investors looking to match values in socially responsible businesses.

Expo East (Oct 13-16th Boston, MA) 
These are great to get a pulse of the natural products industry. Expo East in the fall is on the east coast (hence the name) and is much smaller than the mega sized Expo West held in the spring (and in Anaheim)  I like Expo East because it is smaller and you can walk the floor without the onslaught of people that Expo West has. You can have conversations in depth at Expo East that are a bit more challenging at West.  Typically the executive teams are at the shows the first few days so if you want to meet top brass you need to schedule meetings or come by booths at the beginning of the shows.  There is also no need to buy meals as only a quick stroll through the exhibit spaces can fill a stomach. Be careful about trying everything you see as sometimes food mixing may not agree with you. I found that out the hard way. Urp!

Bioneers (Oct 14-18 San Rafael, CA)
Bioneers is the gathering of what seems like all the activists, free spirits and dark greenies of California who want to learn about ecology, social justice and indigenous wisdom. It is a public/consumer event so expect to encounter some interesting characters. The general speakers are quite remarkable as they come from all over the globe and the audience can get pretty fired up on issues. They do talk about some of the more difficult issues society faces but I really like this event because the speakers challenge us to question things and help understand some of the issues people don't see in conventional media. If you can't get to the main event there are a few locations that have smaller gatherings and live video feeds into the larger event but they do not capture the energy and the other activities that happen there. As you walk through the crowded parking lot try counting how many hybrids you see or the bumper sticker slogans that have some activist slogan. I don't know which is the larger of the two.

Green Biz Innovation Forum (Oct 19-20th San Francisco, CA)
I have not been to this event but anything that Joel Makeower and his Greener World Media team does I back. They always seem to have the ability to get top speakers and relevant content that makes the event special. I have heard great things from those that have attended and really like the format.  Joel always seems to be on the cutting edge of what’s what in the green business world.

Social Venture Network (Oct 21-24th, Long Branch, NJ)
SVN is a membership organization and has an open door conference in the fall and a members only event in the spring. The members are successful social entrepreneurs such as Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s, Jeffrey Hollander of Seventh Generation and Priya Haji of World of Good. I really like this event as it brings a lot of good and experienced minds together. The matra of this event is bonding and there are men’s and women’s circle meetings to promote this. Expect a lot of hugs and soul sharing which is a good thing to do for us all. Because of the intimacy some of the members feel among peers and get heated in conversations they feel important to them that I see more often here than other events. It is refreshing  especially after seeing many other events that stick to the talking heads format.  The event provides plenty of times to have conversations with members and provide opportunities for mentorship for start ups. Some of these conversations have resulted in future board members and even investment for startups. 

Greenfestivals (Oct 23-24th DC / Nov 6-7 San Francisco, CA)
The Green America Green Festivals as some of the most well attended green consumer events I have attended. Each has a very local focus for the vendors but make sure you go to the speaker sessions because they have outstanding speakers from all over to come and grace the audience with their perspectives. Big hitters such as Deepak Chopra, Dr. Weil, Paul Stamets and a few other TED talk types present and you cant beat the ticket price for a front row seat. I have not been to the DC Greenfest and hear that each of the events reflect the vibe and culture of each city. The SF Greenfest rocks and is packed with all kinds of great booths and events. If you go get ready to be emersed in the dark green side of San Fran - free hugs, poetry, dreadlock and all. Green America is not doing their Green Business Conference this year that typically is right before their San Francisco Greenfest. Instead they have developed a green business pavilion within the San Fran Greenfest that will have business oriented talks. If you have not been to a Greenfestival I highly recommend them as they embody a variety of aspects that LOHAS does – organics, alternative therapies, personal development and social justice elements.

Net Impact (Oct 28-30th, Ann Arbor, MI)
Another event I have heard great things about but have never attended. It is primarily focused on CSR and brings together students and large corporations to openly discuss issues. It is also a great recruiting ground for companies seeking new green talent from recent graduates. The event brings together over 2500 people and has workshops and discussion groups to get down and dirty on complex issues. Their keynote speakers are solid with Majora Carter, Jeffery Hollander and Bill McDonough.

SRI In the Rockies (Nov 18-21 San Antonio, TX)
Anyone who is a financial planner or interested in socially responsible investment nitty gritty must put this event on their calendar. This is a blend of financial jargon and social justice and clean tech orientation. About 800 people attend the event from all over the world and is typically in a mountain setting. Being in San Antonio this year is a stretch.  it is a packed schedule for the most part but they do make time for long networking hikes and excursions . I have seen speakers ranging from Jane Goodall and David Bornstein to Calvert and Domini fund managers at the event. It is a great place to understand how to unravel the complexities of financial issues and know what mutual funds are actually doing as they relate to socially responsible investing. They throw a great evening party and many are not afraid to show off their dance moves.
Greenbuild (Nov 17-19th Chicago, IL)
The mother of green building products and originated from the USGBC this is the event for anyone interested or involved in the green building sector. The exhibit area is about 1000 booths and attracts about 25-30,000 attendees from all over the world. The green building industry has really picked up and does not look likely to slow down. I like this event a lot because of the creative energy efficiency exhibits and speakers.

Investors’ Circle (Nov 10-12th Washington, DC)
A membership organization of over 150 angel investors who are looking for solid socially responsible companies to invest in as a group. They have funnelled over $134M into 200 companies addressing social and environmental issues. A great place for LOHAS oriented start ups to present who are seeking seed capital. There is an application process with an extensive screening but nothing too overloading.  The event focuses on vetting good seed capital candidates for an investor audience and mixes in some good quality speakers sucha as Acumen and Ashoka. If you are an investor or seeking funding from a good values base source check out Investor’s Circle.

ISPA Conference & Expo  (Nov 15-18, Washington, DC)
The spa association where everyone in the spa world congregates - green and conventional. If you attend you can see there is a strong emphasis from many about sustainability than ever before but there are still those brands that have their share of green washing along those who just don’t care. Regardless, anyone who is interested in the spa world and creating spa products should attend to understand the trends in the industry. LOHAS has a strong foothold in the wellness and beauty industry and it is a good place to learn macro trends and spa operation techniques. This is probably the most well groomed attendee base I have seen which I have no trouble surrounding myself with.


LOHAS Regional Events (April TBD, NYC, LA, Atlanta, Minneapolis)
Taking the LOHAS conference on a bit of a roadshow and working to get some momentum build in these areas. Its tough to go to all these events so we have decided to try to make it easier by providing single day events. Stay tuned for more details!

BALLE (June 15-17th Bellingham, WA)
Business Alliance for Local Living Economies celebrates local businesses and local orientation. There are a lot of local loyalists at the event and mostly smaller and mid size companies, non profits and academia. But the conversations are lively and some really interesting networking. A lot of cross over with speakers from the Greenfests and SVN groups. I like the workshops and the networking here. The production of the event is low key as the focus is on the content and type of people who attend which is really nice.

LOHAS (June 22-24th Boulder, CO)
Of course I have to put this one on the calendar as I think EVERYONE should consider this one. Well...maybe not everyone. We have about 5-600 people attend who are business executives, thought leaders, academia and enterpreneurs. As much as many equate LOHAS with the converted dark greens of the world the event is set up to not be an 'Us' and 'Them' atmosphere. Rather we welcome all who are interested in understanding LOHAS and how it applies the them personally and professionally. We set up plenty of networking opportunities and workshops to provide tangible takeaways. To see some of the videos from previous LOHAS sessions visit our LOHAS YouTube page. We work hard to get a solid program together with a great attendee base. If you have any recommendations or tweaks I'd love to hear from you.

These are only a few of the many that are out there and more to come. I truly feel that any conference you attend is what you make of it and how you prepare ahead of time setting up meetings, scheduling and follow up. With that said, good luck with your planning and hope to see you at one of these events. If you have other events you feel should be added I would love to hear about them. Please share!


Green Beer, But it's Not St. Patrick's Day

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 by

ESCONDIDO, CA -- Ever been to Chicago on St. Patty's Day? The river is dyed green, and the hundreds of Irish Pubs scattered throughout the city offer green beer. Thanks but no thanks.

As a big fan of microbrews -- the slightly larger producers brew what is properly called "craft beer"-- I am always on the lookout for environmentally friendly labels. In Escondido, about 20 miles north of San Diego, is what is surely among the greenest breweries in the world - Stone Brewing Co. The idea of an environmentally friendly brew house seems out of synch with one of their best-selling labels, "Arrogant Bastard?" But we will forgive them, after all, it is fabulous marketing tool that has encouraged beer enthusiasts from around the world to come witness this green suds establishment.


The story of Stone Brewing Co. begins with the two founders, Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. Koch owned recording studios in L.A. and Wagner was a studio musician who rented space. Serendipitously, they ran into each other at a "How to Make Microbrews" seminar and, as they say, the rest is history. Since its founding in 1996, Stone Brewing has become one of the largest craft beer producers in America, with annual output of well over 100,000 barrels.

What makes Stone green? Only the largest, operating room clean, state-of-the-art facility you've ever seen, a huge 100,000 foot building tucked in an anonymous area of Escondido. On a guided tour with Stone's knowledgeable Director of Communications, Ken Wright, we learn that the hundreds of thousands of pounds of by-product created during the brewing process (it looks like wet sawdust) is fully biodegradable and trucked to local farms for use as cattle feed. The plant has a full gray water recycling capability to help cut water consumption (this is critical because the brewing process is very water-intensive), and the roof is adorned with solar panels to help reduce the enormous energy consumption brewing requires by almost one-half.

All Stone bottles and cardboard carriers are fully recyclable, and the plant was built using a variety of reclaimed woods and other metals. One of the most impressive features of the tour was seeing the process from brewing the hops, to bottling, to hauling off for distribution. Unfortunately a rarity in modern day American culture - a vertically integrated manufacturing process. There were costs involved in making Stone a green operation, but the founders determined that this was worthwhile investment for business and environmental reasons. Stone has not really advertised a green marketing strategy, instead preferring to let the sustainable design speak for itself and hope the word spreads virally and by reputation.

A beautifully designed one-acre beer garden lies adjacent to the brewery; visitors can meander along the heavily landscaped pathways and walkways while sipping the wide variety of ales, hefeweizen and seasonal brews. Although I am a Belgian-only beer drinker at heart, the spectacular facility produces increasingly good seasonal beers such as Levitation Ale and Ruination, as well as their mainstays Stone Pale Ale and IPA, and of course Arrogant Bastard.

Stone Brewing Tour from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Our only criticism of the entire operation, and this is echoed in many internet reviews by consumers, is the food. The restaurant is very appealing visually, the design, green building techniques and materials used are breathtaking. Unfortunately, the grub leaves a lot to be desired. I do, however, admire the Bistro's "Meatless Monday" promotion. As a greenie, even if the food is horrendous, you gotta love their enthusiasm for vegetarianism! They are the largest consumer of locally grown, organic ingredients in San Diego. The Meatless Monday credo is as follows:

"If you have dined with us before, you already know that we use locally grown, organic ingredients as part of our dedication to sustainability, community, and better health. Now we are kicking it up a notch by offering a meatless menu on Mondays. Meat dishes are available on request but we encourage you to make a commitment to your health and the environment by trying our Chef's fantastic vegetarian creations. You won't miss the meat!"


Tours are available twice daily. Take one you'll be pleased to see how even an inherently non-green activity such as craft brewing can be made much more energy efficient and sustainable with some forethought, commitment and investment as demonstrated by Stone Brewing Co. As always, I invite your comments and recommendations of other green brew-ha!


Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter:

The Greening of Spas

Sunday, March 7, 2010 by
Green SpaThe term “green” and all of its variations—”going green,” “green building,” and “greening your home”—was so ubiquitous in the late 2000's that it received the most nominations for the “Words Banished From the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse, and General Uselessness” list. At first this accolade might appear to be bad news, but such recognition indicates that the concept has reached significant market penetration.

Much like the word “green,” the term “spa” has also become completely woven into the fabric of our current society. One in four Americans visited a spa in 2008 reports the International Spa Association. Both green and spa represent a reconnection with the treasure of our natural resources.

Spas and Sustainability
Fifteen years ago the spa movement and industry ignited in unprecedented growth in the U.S. on the wave of increasing awareness of the mind-body connection and alternative approaches to health. The double digit annual growth of the industry brought in new players, elaborate spa facilities and the perception that spa is luxury with no limit on the consumption of resources. Now new wave in spa is providing consumers with a choice to enhance well-being naturally in an environment that values and cares for our planet’s health.

The Green Spa Network and member spas embrace the responsibility of living these values personally and professionally to attain measurable improvements towards full integration on the sustainability spectrum. Cici Coffee of Natural Body International, Inc. provides an example of spa leadership in practice: “In 2004, we implemented a charitable campaign with Georgia Organics in which we sold co-branded T-shirts and donated 100% of profits to the nonprofit, GO. In 2005, we implemented an employee contribution campaign with Earth Share in which Natural Body partially matched such contributions. We are now in our fourth year with workplace campaigns for Earth Share and have pledged in excess of $40,000 to this environmental nonprofit. We reward our eco-ambassador in every location to excite the team to achieve their philanthropic goals, so the store that improves the most is awarded a team party.”

The ultimate goal is to become a zero waste spa by sending nothing to landfills—an audacious goal on the sustainability path. Sheila Armen at the Strong House Spa in Vermont has taken this goal of achieving zero waste to heart. Strong House started the Cosmetic Recycling Program that allows clients to bring in old products that contain chemicals and get a $5 credit toward organic products. “We then recycle not only the containers but the products inside,” says Armen. “All cleansing products go to our recycling company to wash their trucks.”

Such simple changes are proving successful for spa morale and cost savings across the country. Michael Stusser, founder of Osmosis and president of the Green Spa Network, explained that “our spa has had much stronger cohesiveness since we have become a committed sustainable spa. Many favorable stories in the press and awards from local governmental and business organizations have contributed to a good feeling among staff and guests as we all work together to reduce our load on mother Earth. We estimate that the hard cost savings in training and operational effectiveness to be $12,500 per year, and the improvement in staff moral and customer service substantial.”

Highlights of current greening initiatives in GSN member spa operations include:
• Use LED and CFL lighting, lighting sensors, and educate employees about the conscious use of energy.
• Design spa treatment protocols with conservation fixtures and client messaging that prevents water waste. Subtracting only 1 minute per hot shower can save $75 on utility bills and 2,700 gallons of water per year for a family of three. Eliminating water waste in 14,000 US spas is part of the GSN mission.
• Collecting recyclable microfiber linens that can be used in building materials, and other damaged and worn textiles are donated to animal shelters.
• Reduce paper waste through technological options such as online client software and management tools and eliminate need for printed materials.
• Replace single use supplies with items such as durable beverage cups, cloth hand towels, and microfiber body wraps.
• Utilize biologically safe laundry detergents, non-chlorine bleach and energy efficient equipment.

Stusser states, “The GSN is dedicated to creating a culture of merit by celebrating and sharing best practices. We have begun by having our members take realistic steps that can be easily accomplished with the intention of gradually raising the bar for sustainable business practices throughout the entire spa community. The network acknowledges that we are in this together and sharing our individual successes and innovations will bring everyone closer to the possibility of a transformed world.”

The concept of “green” is often thought of only in terms of environment. The GSN has adopted a 360- degree view of sustainability that benchmarks and measures progress. The benchmarks range from startup initiatives to fully integrated sustainability practices within the following categories:

employee experience
guest experience; treatment protocols
retail products
linens and textiles
food and beverage
community connection
water use
energy use
pool operations

When it comes to a spa’s retail product line, the GSN encourages members to select product lines that correspond with philosophies of well-being, quality, sustainability, and responsibility. The sustainability continuum progresses with these benchmarks:

Incubator level: Whenever possible select retail skincare and other product lines that fit your sustainability goals; communicate your sustainability and ingredient goals to product suppliers; plan to eliminate products that contain synthetics, fragrances and dyes, phthalates, parabens, and triclosan.

Initiative level: Audit retail products from a sustainability perspective; request that supplier(s) employ sustainable practices such as packaging, local sourcing of raw materials; and ensure that at least 20% of products offered are fair trade, organic, sustainable, made with pure ingredients, and packaged sustainably.

Integrated level: 100% of retail skincare products are certified at the highest level [USDA NOP, EcoCert, Natural Products Association, NaTrue, Soil Association, NSF, or BDIH certification] for product quality, purity, and sustainability.

Most GSN member spas are beyond the initiative level in the retail product category and aspiring to the fully integrated level as certifications and verifications are made available.



Rhana Pytell is co- founder and director of GAIA Spa in La Jolla CA. Ms. Pytell also founded Amethyst Systems, a company that provides templates and spa management tools in a web-based format. Rhana serves on the board of the Green Spa Network.

Organics can feed the World

Sunday, March 7, 2010 by
by Seleyn De Yarus


There are an estimated 6.9 billion humans on planet Earth. Of those, there are an estimated 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Access to healthy food, housing, and drinkable water challenges nearly half of our species. However, evidence is mounting that organic agriculture can feed and provide income and sustainability to a growing number of the world’s poor while also ensuring healthier ecosystems and more nutritious food.

A shining example of how organic agriculture provides sustenance on many levels is the Tigray Project in Ethiopia.
Local and national experts have cooperated with farmers in the Tigray region and tapped the rich knowledge of the farmers to understand and utilize local ecosystem elements rather than depend on fertilizers. Tigray has achieved higher yields, higher groundwater levels, better soil fertility, increased household income, and stronger livelihood opportunities for farmers than previous efforts with conventional agriculture. The Ethiopian government has now adopted this approach to mitigate soil damage and alleviate poverty in 165 local districts in the grain producing parts of Ethiopia.

A report showing further evidence that organic farming can feed the world was presented in October 2008 by the United Nations Environmental Program. In a statement to The Independent, the head of the UN’s Environment Program, Achim Steiner, said the report “indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world may be far higher than many had supposed.”

The report analyzed 114 projects in 24 African countries and found that yields had more than doubled where organic or near-organic practices had been used as compared to conventional crops. Additionally, the study found that organic practices provided environmental benefits such as improved soil fertility, better retention of water, and resistance to drought. The research also highlighted the role that organic farming could play in improving in areas such as local education, agro-ecological knowledge, leadership training, adult literacy, computer knowledge and experimental farming programs. The report can be found at

Out With The Green Revolution, In With The Organic Revolution

The Green Revolution, so named in the 1960s and 1970s, offered a package of hybrid seeds, farm technology, better irrigation techniques, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It was successful at meeting its primary objective of increasing crop yields and augmenting aggregate food supplies. Yet, despite its success, the Green Revolution as a development approach has not necessarily translated into benefits for the lower strata of the rural poor in terms of greater food security or greater economic opportunity and well-being.

Research shows that the latest scientific approaches in organic agriculture offer developing countries affordable, immediately usable, and universally accessible ways to improve yields. Rodale Institute is a 60-year-old research and education nonprofit with the longest ongoing comparative agricultural field trials in the world.

“Yield data just by itself makes the case for a focused and persistent move to organic farming systems,” explains Dr. Tim LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute. “When we consider that organic systems are building the health of the soil, sequestering CO2, cleaning up the waterways, and returning more economic yield to the farmer, the argument for an Organic Green Revolution becomes overwhelming. These methods also build the soil, increase drought and flood resistance as well as adaptability to climate change,” LaSalle says.

Remember the high yield goal of the Green Revolution? The quest for maximum yield in conventional agriculture has often resulted in declining nutritional quality, says Dr. Donald Davis of the University of Texas, Austin. He and his team analyzed 50 years of USDA nutrition data. According to a study published in 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 13 major nutrients in fruits and vegetables tracked by USDA from 1950 to 1999, six showed significant declines—protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin C.

Dr. Davis noted that over many years of using yield potential as the dominant criterion in developing improved varieties, while average yields have risen, plant root systems have not been able to keep pace in drawing more needed micronutrients from the soil. When breeders selectively breed for one resource, using a selected trait like yield, fewer resources remain for other plant functions, the study explains.

Organic fruits and vegetables on other hand, are on average 25% higher in 11 key nutrients than their conventional, chemically produced counterparts, according to research published in March 2008 by The Organic Center. Organic fruits and vegetables also are 30% higher in antioxidants when compared to their conventional counterparts. The higher levels of antioxidants in organic food may also contribute to better taste, according to a 2006 Organic Center report.

Both international and national research is substantiating that food security, human health, economic development and ecological sustainability are better served through organic agricultural methods than previously recognized. The increased recognition of the downsides of chemically intensive agriculture combined with the growing body of evidence for the benefits of organic agriculture provides new momentum for more sustainable agricultural practices to be adopted globally. This is good news for the burgeoning populations of the developing world and their local environments.

Seleyn DeYarus is the development director of The Organic Center and has been an advocate of organic farming and ecological sustainability for 25 years. For more information, visit

City Center: Green Isn't Supposed To Be This Gorgeous

Monday, January 18, 2010 by

Regarding our visit to the grand opening of City Center Las Vegas a few weeks ago, we talked about how spectacular the entire development is - from its architectural design to its green standpoints. Here are some more observations and architect interviews about this trendsetting space, perhaps the world's best example of cutting edge green building techniques and design:

Julia Monk, founding principal of BBGM and designer of Vdara Hotel and major portions of ARIA:

We give clients a discount if they are going to be building a LEED certified structure. A major focus at City Center was lighting. We used fluorescent lamps which give off a similar glow to conventional bulbs, the latest advancement in LEDS which use only one third the energy but last 10 times longer. Low flow toilets in rooms, electronic window shades to reduce heat gain, low VOC paints, coatings, sealants and non-formaldehyde wall paneling. Recyclable fiberglass ceiling tiles, wall coverings, CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute) certified carpet padding, strawboard sub-flooring, FSC wood floors, low-E glazed windows, Caesarstone countertops, the list goes on.

I asked Monk if they considered cutting back during construction as the economy tanked. She said, "We never wavered on the sustainability issues. We look at City Center as a long term commitment which will weather the storm until the economy recovers."



Adam Tihany, designer of Mandarin Oriental interiors, Union bar in ARIA:

We compare Mandarin to the design of a custom Brioni suit, not an off the rack Armani. The Mandarin brand whispers, it doesn't shout. There is a lot of perceived value, as a non-gaming six star property. It was never an option to forego green, despite the economy. This venue should open up the city to a whole new customer who otherwise would have snubbed it.

All woods, lighting, plumbing and HVAC systems at the Mandarin are green. From my own personal experience, the spa, all 30,000 feet of it, is absolutely exquisite. My previous favorite Mandarin Oriental was Tokyo, but this new property goes a step beyond andy green building I have recently seen.


David Rockwell, architect/designer of Crystals retail center:

We designed Crystals for the person who doesn't necessarily need to shop but is motivated by impulse. We wanted to create the feel of a park, from the flower carpet to the benches, reclaimed wood stairs, and plants and foliage. MGM allowed us to be creative and take risks. People watching was a priority. I noticed as a student that people walk in a gentle arc, from looking at footprints in the snow. The flower beds and other major design features follow this idea.

The HVAC tubing is all located in Crystals' floor, and only heats and cools up to about seven feet. This environment of energy efficiency doesn't waste power and fuel to heat and cool the huge open spaces in the center of the mall, as would be the case with a traditional forced air system. Crystals also earned an FSC award for its use of sustainable woods, some of the most beautiful you will ever see.


Cesar Pelli, architect of ARIA:

Our firm has been designing green buildings for some time, my son Raphael was on the forefront of green building. Bobby Baldwin (MGM CEO) was very open to creativity, taking on a very complex and demanding program, and he educated me as to how a casino works, which is very specific. All rooms needed to have great views in a limited space. People move in different ways, at the gaming tables, bars and restaurants, and pools. We think ARIA makes all the other locations on the Strip look tired.


WET, leading designer of water features for commercial spaces, CEO Mark Fuller explained:
We debuted five new creations at City Center. The wall of water you encounter upon approaching ARIA, entices the visitor. It uses compressed air instead of pumps, which uses 80 percent less water although it costs more up front. All the water is recycled of course, through a reverse osmosis process

Also noteworthy is "Glacia" a popsicle-like ice sculpture creation found inside Crystals mall which changes from day to day depending upon temperature. WET is a very specialized company, they have over 250 full time staff doing nothing but building water features.



Michelle Quinn, art curator and gallerist said, "I worked directly with the architects so that the art was not an afterthought. Spaces were specifically created for the sculptures."

Over $40 million is rumored to have been spent on art. A special energy efficient digital screen display by Jenny Holzer, found downstairs at ARIA's valet pickup area, is done with LED lighting to save energy. Another piece mounted behind the registration desk at ARIA, by environmental artist Maya, depicts the Colorado River as Nevada's water source. It is made of reclaimed silver to represent The Silver State. One can spend half a day just touring the art pieces, which are mostly contemporary and created with sustainability in mind.


GENSLER, global architecture, design and sustainable building firm: Talk about herding cats, can you imagine trying to manage the design and construction of all these elements simultaneously? While MGM Mirage CEO Bobby Baldwin and his staff deserve much of the credit, they hired the esteemed firm of Gensler to handle the day to day coordination. This covered everything from the art, water features, architecture, retail placement, the list goes on. So how about getting all those egos to play in the same sandbox together? This gargantuan task was conquered by Bobby Baldwin at the helm with Gensler as overall coordinator. Speaking of green, the tricks Gensler applied were quite innovative including fresh air blowing at the base of each dealer station and slot machine in the casino; special ventilation to purge smoke from the ARIA gambling area; and a special system by Control 4 which allows guests to voluntarily "green their stay" with the press of a button (thermostat settings, re-using linens, low lighting, etc.).


So when I pressed Nellie Reid, Sustainability Director of City Center, whether there were reservations on the scope of the property and the greenness of it all, she does not hesitate. "We designed City Center as a 20, 30, even 50 year project, not just in the here and now. That's why we aren't in a panic about the current economic climate. This project, unlike some others in Las Vegas, should have a much longer shelf life." Under Reid's direction, City Center, the world's largest LEED certified project, received 267 total credits out of 268 they applied for. I would put my money on her.

And let's hope for the sake of all Las Vegas, she's right!


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The New Millenium's Emerald City: The City Center

Monday, December 21, 2009 by

I just entered the new Emerald City. The proprietor here, however, isn't The Wizard of Oz, and this sure ain't Kansas. This is the MGM Grand's City Center, located on the Las Vegas Strip.

You may have heard of it by now. City Center's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Aria Casino/Hotel, Vdara Hotel and Crystals retail experience just came on stream over the past two weeks. Veer Towers, a modern-day take on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is two condo buildings nearing completion. The Harmon is yet another high rise still under construction. City Center is simply the biggest, best, greenest, edgiest, most beautiful, over the top, spectacular, mind-blowing commercial/retail/residential development I've ever seen.



Yes I said greenest. City Center is the largest LEED project ever, achieving six separate gold certifications. You have to give props to developer/co-owner MGM Grand (Dubai World owns the other 50 percent) for having the vision and deep pockets necessary to design and build the most ambitious sustainable project of its kind in the world.

City Center is located on the Las Vegas Strip, north of Mandalay Bay and Monte Carlo, south of Bellagio. Sixty-seven acres - about 12 square city blocks - 18 million square feet of buildings which are so individually exceptional they should compete with each other, but instead they harmoniously meld into a stunning tour de force of architecture, art, and design. It accomplishes what no one man or woman could do. Names like Helmut Jahn, Daniel Liebeskind, Caesar Pelli, Gensler Design, Adam Tihanyi, David Rockwell, BBMG Design, WET design and Steve Marino, among dozens of other top designers, architects, and visionaries, all worked together to make City Center happen. I wonder how they got all that talent and ego to drive the same bus?

The use of sustainable materials and green building techniques throughout the project is innovative. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) woods found on walls, staircases, trim and sculptures in Aria and Crystals are breathtakingly beautiful. Drip water irrigation takes care of the landscaping meandering the lobbies, driveways and entrances. The feel of this project merges a park-like theme, a big city downtown, and a cultural center into one. City Center has upped the ante worldwide by delivering uber sophistication in a very sustainable package. Walking is the best way to get from building to building; a people-mover tram snakes its way around the facilities. Think of Rockefeller Center, Las Vegas style.

MGM claims that water use is reduced by 60 percent for landscaping and 33 percent for bathrooms and restaurants over conventional buildings. Low flow plumbing fixtures are found everywhere. Most of the lighting in both the public spaces and hotel/condo rooms are LED lights. Almost all demolition and construction waste was re-used. Total estimated energy savings is 30 percent vs. a typical non-LEED structure. Cindy Ortega, MGM Senior Vice President of Environment and Energy, attributed their success in earning the six LEED awards to a process-oriented approach that doggedly pursued each requirement line item by line item.

Efforts to make this $8.5 billion project truly sustainable extend down to details like the fragrances wafting into the air in the hotel lobbies, which are guaranteed to have no harmful VOCs or chemicals, to special blowers in the base of the slot machines to cool the air. One of the project's 40 full time sustainability professionals actually traveled to China, where the scents are manufactured, to ensure that they are indeed sustainable.

One potential problem I noticed is the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. A great deal of engineering went into the air filtration and ventilation controls to limit toxins and VOCs. Unfortunately, my hotel rooms in both Mandarin Oriental and Vdara were unbearably warm, even when it was in the high 50s outside. Of course I turned the A/C on, but in both cases, the actual room temperature was many degrees warmer than the thermostat setting. This was quite frustrating, and makes me wonder what happens in summer when it's 110 degrees outside? Hopefully, this is a sustainability management teething problem that gets worked out soon.

If it sounds like I love City Center, OK, guilty. Odds are, so will you. The architecture, design and materials, the flagship luxury stores, more great restaurants from foodie celebs like Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina and Eva Longoria, the list goes on. The big question is, can the wounded economy support such an ambitious, upscale, high overhead venture? The whole thing could be a case of great product/bad timing if things don't pick up. At risk of cliché, time will tell.

There is too much to talk about in one column when it comes to the new Emerald City, so, we will continue next time with Part 2. Oh, one more thing: if you're at all curious about seeing this architectural wonder in person, do so now. Introductory prices are in effect so rooms can be had at special rates, at least for awhile. It's a great opportunity to enjoy a "benefit" of the recession, high roller accommodations at reasonable prices. Dining, drinking and shopping, however, are priced to match the luxury surroundings, no deals to put it mildly.

For those of you who have already been to City Center, feel free to comment, I'd love to hear your impressions. Thanks!

Which Sustainable Business Conference is Right For Me?

Thursday, November 12, 2009 by
If you have been following my tweets or Facebook updates then you know I have been living out of a suitcase for the past few months. It seems like there are a lot of green events and conferences going on this year and you know what – there certainly are. It used to be that there were standard events that everyone attended. Now that green business is all the rage there are more events that bring business leaders together.

I have been to quite a few and still have a few yet to go. Here is a summary of what I have experienced that I hope will help you determine which ones are the most suitable to attend for education and networking.

Conference season – Fall and spring are the times when most of the events happen. Fall is busier than spring so you newbies to the conference scene plan the fall to be traveling.


Expo East – Is the Natural Food and Products show on the east coast. This event brings companies from the organic food and personal care industries together. This year it was in Boston. I didn’t go this year but have been in the past. It is much smaller than the spring west coast show and I like it because east coast companies are well represented. Plus you can actually have a conversation with people at booths rather than deal with a sea of people. If you are located on the east coast it certainly is a good one to attend.

Natural Cosmetic Congress – This is held in Germany and I presented U.S. LOHAS info. It is run by the same organizers as Biofach which is the largest European organic and natural food expo. I enjoyed this because it was about 200 people who focused on the German speaking areas of Europe and organic skincare. Germany has embodied much of LOHAS values into their culture including advancements in skincare. Companies like Dr. Hauschka, Primavera and Weleda are headquartered there. Even though many think Germany is light years ahead of the U.S. in sustainability they are still facing similar challenges such as ingredient listings and certification confusion. Nevertheless it was a great event to get some insight into the happenings of the cosmetic world of Germany.

Health and Beauty Expo – Happens in New York and brings together all the leaders in the cosmetic world. The floor is full of suppliers and manufacturers and well known brands such as Este Lauder and L’Oreal. I have spoken at this event as well which I thought was great. It is always good to get out to new people and educate them on healthy skincare and LOHAS consumer values.  If you are in the skincare market this is the big boy of the industry.

International Spa Conference – The big expo for the spa world and wellness. I have spoken at this event and see more and more green products and services every year. All the new information available on skincare and awareness of organic vs. chemical skincare products has many companies wanting to keep up with consumer demands. Also a very well groomed bunch.


21st Century Book Marketing – A new event that was created for people who are looking to write a book and what steps to follow. It was created by people who have experience in the self help world which makes sense since that is the category that sells the most books. There were about 200 people and some great speakers such as Jack Canfield and Debbie Ford. The sessions were packed full of information on marketing practices and a lot of techniques on social media which I found very useful. Lots of energy and networking. If you are interested in creating, publishing and marketing a book this is a great event for you.

Social Venture Network  – An member organization of entrepreneurs who focus on social and environmental business as their business mission. The founders of Ben & Jerry’s, New Leaf Paper, Odwalla and Aveda are members. This event brings together pioneers of the LOHAS space with new upcoming start ups and nonprofits and provide great opportunities for creating relationships for mentoring, advising and sometimes even investing. There is a lot of heart at this event and a lot of bonding. For those who are not willing to hug strangers – be wary. I really enjoy this event for the heart that is involved and the heartfelt participation that people provide during the conference. SVN has 2 events – 1 in fall and a members only event in spring.

SRI in the Rockies – focuses on socially responsible investing and brings together financial planners and SRI fund managers to talk about investing and shareholder advocacy. I enjoy this event to get a pulse of financials as they relate to LOHAS. They also have great speakers such as Marc Gunther and Jane Goodall speak to add to the social element. Plus they hold a killer dance party. Those fund managers know how to boogie.

Bioneers – A blend of ecological, social justice and artistic creativity that absolutely astounds me. There are about 3,000 people who come together for this and the speakers are unbelievable. I really enjoy hearing and learning about the earth and struggles that people are experiencing so I can share with others. It is very inspirational to see the line of biodiesel and hybrid cars in the parking lots next to the prayer flags and yoga tents and meet people that have ecological thinking in the forefront of their minds. They also provide satellite events throughout the country that are live feeds of the main event to create more local awareness and community. A great one to get really inspired.

Green Spa Network Congress – a fairly new nonprofit attempting to take back spa from the concepts of commercial luxury and pampering and bring it back to is wellness essence. This was a great workshop that had spa and property owners mingle with skincare companies and suppliers to talk about how to create green health spas and sustainable spa practices. Very good people who really care about their businesses and want to do the right thing.


Opportunity Green – a new event held at UCLA focusing on sustainable business and green design. A very high energy event and has about 600 people in attendance. Ther is a mix of eco friendly fashion meeting vibrant upstart green technology. It is a mix of small businesses and some larger corporations. The presentations are go good mix of ‘how to’ for smaller and mid size businesses and case studies from larger corporations that show how much money can be saved by going green. It is also the only big sustainability business conference I know of in LA.

Green Business Conference – held just before Greenfestival, this event is a great one especially for green small and mid size business who really want to be sustainable through and through. They provide a lot of workshops and insight and networking opportunities. Plus it is followed by the largest Greenfestival that has about 40,000 people attend and have wonderful booths, food and speakers. There are also Greenfestivals that occur in Chicago, Seattle, DC and Denver.

Greenbuild – Run by the USGBC and is a massive expo on green building and design. If you are in the design or construction world this is where you get to see the latest innovations in energy efficiency and eco materials. Denim insulation, counter tops of recycled glass, solo tubes, solar panels, energy efficient AC units, LED lighting and everything in between. A very informative event with a lot of momentum that only looks to grow.

Good and Green – held in Chicago and for those interested in learning about green marketing strategy this is a great event. It is also a great place to mix with larger company green marketer and agencies. Companies like Edelman, Martin Agency, Planet Green, Ford, Toshiba and Cotton USA were present last year. I saw a really interesting presentation last year at this event on color patterns in green advertising. Being a marketer myself I find this to be a great event to hear what is happening in larger companies as it relates to their sustainable story.  I am to do a presentation this year and it will test me to see if I can play with the big boys.

LOHAS – The grand daddy of them all! Ok I am biased but we are very proud of our event that brings together 600 business executives that are not only interested in the LOHAS market but also have a personal affinity to the movement. I think the difference between our conference and others is that it provides a bridge between large and small businesses and provides content that is informative and soulful. Many events focus on the business aspect and we provide that plus the ability to network at a heartfelt level. It is a bit difficult to explain but once you go you will know. Mark your calendars for June 23-25th to come to Boulder Colorado for LOHAS!

So as you can see Ive been a bit busy. All of these are great events and please go to the websites of the ones you think are most appropriate for you. You really can’t go wrong with any of them. However I do recommend coming into an event with eyes wide open and to read who is speaking and what topics are going to be spoken about so you can manage expectations and have a bit of a strategy. If you have other events that I have missed and worth mentioning please share them. Love to hear what events you think are good to attend.

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas (And Goes Green?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 by

Blazing neon lights 24/7, the world’s most grandiose fountains, gridlock on Las Vegas Boulevard, frigid indoor air over millions of square feet when it’s a hundred and ten outside … not exactly a poster boy for sustainability.  Name the top ten green cities in America – I’ll bet Las Vegas would not make your shortlist.

Well, think again.  After meeting with officials from the City of Las Vegas to learn more about their green initiatives for our Sierra Club Green Home Web site, I must conclude that America’s adult playground is making a sincere effort to embrace sustainability.  And the major casinos have actually been pioneers in energy saving techniques – with the power and water bills they generate, it makes economic as well as altruistic sense for them.  “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas” but it might be beneficial for the casinos to get the word out about their green initiatives.


Sometimes controversial, always quotable and often progressive, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is somewhat of a legend on the local and national scene.  Under his stewardship, Las Vegas began to embrace green environmental policies before it became de rigeur.  Goodman was one of the first to sign the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a pledge to green their city which now has over 1,000 mayoral signatures.  Currently, Las Vegas has one of America’s toughest consumer watering policies.  “Water cops” can fine you if they see runoff on your sidewalks.  Outdoor fountains at residential developments have come to a grinding halt.   Vegas was also an early adopter of hybrid fleet vehicles and even embarked on a recycled anti-freeze program in 2007 to help power the city fleet.  They also have a green building program, which rewards developers with tax breaks for building energy efficient, ecofriendly structures.


Tom Perrigo, Deputy Director of Las Vegas’ Planning and Development Center further enlightened me about how the city has been a pioneer in all things sustainable since 2005.  The city government and related buildings all have strict, sustainability management guidelines for power and water usage as well as recycling.  They are setting a great example here, and many of the major casinos in town have followed suit with state-of-the-art technology for saving power on laundry, lighting, climate control and water consumption.   City Center, the largest real estate development project in the country, is being built to varying degrees of LEED standards with help from prominent consultant John Picard and other leading green architects and designers.  Another noteworthy Las Vegas program is Green Chips, which provides free home energy audits for residents of low income housing and loans to consumers and businesses that will use the funds to improve energy efficiency.

Things are not perfect in Las Vegas, for sure.  To the average homeowner, recycling is not commonplace.  There are several neighborhoods that pick up recycling, but for a city of this size and scope the recycling efforts have a long way to go.   Some people have the false notion that the trash companies separate out the recyclables at their facilities.  I could not find any proof that this is accurate.   And most obviously, sun, sun, sun everywhere, but where are all the solar panels?  It is disturbing to think about how much solar power could be generated for residential and commercial applications here, yet solar panels are almost non-existent on the residential side.  Hopefully continuing advances in solar panel technology, additional governmental subsidies, and cost reductions will change this.  Perrigo also mentioned Nevada’s terrain is primed for generating Geothermal power; he has high hopes that the state will embrace this renewable source in the future.

Sierra Club Green has staffers from UNLV’s environmental studies program who are committed and enthusiastic about spreading the word on sustainability.  These young people are Las Vegas residents who inspire me with their dedication and willingness to help America go green.


The point here is that if an inherently non-green city like Las Vegas can embrace sustainability, so should all municipalities.  I urge you to look into what your city is doing to improve the environment.  Sierra Club’s Cool Cities program outlines sustainability agendas  across the nation.  Please take a moment to see what your city is doing at Cool Cities.  Let us hear your comments, and if they aren’t doing enough, be sure to urge your mayor and council members to do more.


Pictured Above: Sierra Club Green employees, Abi Wright and Bridge Barnes, meet Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Spa Business Alive and Kicking...Sorta

Sunday, October 11, 2009 by

I just returned from the International Spa Association Annual Conference held in Austin Texas. This was my 4th ISPA event and it is always a treat. It certainly is the most well groomed, beautiful person event I go to. Spa is a big piece of LOHAS as it incorporates
health and wellness along with personal care and green building. The last few years has seen a surge in green health spas have seen a surge in green orientation with things like eco-friendly towels and robes along with natural and organic skincare, essential oils and body treatments. These elements are a no brainer for modern LOHAS consumers who want LOHAS products without sacrificing quality. LOHAS consumers are also a main target audience for spas as many are those who frequent spas for massage treatments or other forms of wellness for the body and soul. (that would be me!)

The spa market has exploded in the last 10 years but the term 'spa' has been butchered quite a bit. I can go to my local Wal Mart or strip mall and find nail and hair salons with spa incorporated into their name - (usually in bright neon lights). However when I go into them nose gets singed with smells of chemical toxins from manicures or hair products or get blasted into the street from techno music. I often see  articles and pictures of exotic locations with luxurious hotels with spas included in glossy magazine spreads. All of course with a hefty price tag that limit me to my imagination as to what the lifestyles of the rich and famous is like. Call me old fashioned and snobby but that is not what I consider the true meaning of spa. The whole point of the creation of the industry was to generate awareness of self and healthy lifestyles. These initially were wellness centers that provided space for integrative alternative medicine practices such as massage, acupuncture, energy healing and meditation. Somewhere along the way external beauty, pampering and opulence founds its way into the mix and led the growth of the industry. When I was growing up hotels that had golf courses were all the rage and was a status symbol of a quality hotel. Now if the hotel has a spa it is considered a luxury hotel.

The economic crisis has caused many hotels to reconsider this paradigm. Insiders of the industry have told me that many hotels that incorporated spas into their properties from a 'me too' type of keeping up with the Jones attitude often did not factor the costs of operation into their profit/loss margins. Rather it was blended enigmatically into overall hotel costs. A spa on hotel property was a thing to have and since business was good the scrutiny on spas was limited. Nothing like a crisis to mix things up. Now that hotels are struggling with occupancy so are hotel spas. Those that did not have a structure to measure costs and profits are really floundering. This is also true with destination spas. Some say the wealthy are still booking and traveling - that market will stay the same regardless. But the so called 'wealthy wannabe' are the ones who are not spending. Overall spas are seeing their customers still come to their spas but are spending less per visit. This was echoed by many who I spoke to over the course of the event. For us to have a sustainable economy on all fronts we need to hit the reset button.

The spa industry was visibly hit at the event as well. Last year the ISPA conference had over 3000 people. This year there were about 1700. The exhibit space was also about half as many vendors as last year. Obviously the foot traffic was much quieter than years past. Yet I was surprised when I spoke to most vendors that they felt positive about the event. They said that although the traffic was less those that were walking the floor were serious buyers who were purchasing orders from them and there was more time for a deeper discussions and relationship building.

I think this brings up a very significant point for all businesses - how deep does a relationship go once the transaction is taken out of the equation? This is something that many companies are facing as many people are not spending. The old ways of business are being re-evaluated to figure out how to maintain relevancy in an environment that is transaction less. If you have ideas on next steps please share your thoughts.

I think that this is also a time of opportunity for spa leaders to refocus attentions on wellness. Health care is on the forefront of many people's minds with the debates on health care reform getting a lot of media attention. I think spas are a great place for educating people on preventative care and relaxation. Plus if you think a massage or organic living is expensive you should look at the price of health care. The spa industry has seen a purge of businesses. Now if they can re-establish the focus on the reasons for wellness I think we would all find that refreshing. I would love to hear your thoughts.


The End of the Spa World As We Know It - Enter the Green Spa

Saturday, June 13, 2009 by
Look at today’s headlines and one would believe the sky is indeed falling. At no other time in modern history have things gone so awry in such a short time. Who would have expected to be faced with the challenges we are today especially after recent years of such progress in green initiatives. We were on record growth paths in 2008 in the green market. We saw expansion of clean tech initiatives develop due to the skyrocketing prices of fossil fuels. The organic and natural products market continued its annual double digit growth as did green building due to advancements in health awareness and design. Both had seen years of expansion with no limits. Yet now everyone, ranging from consumers to corporations, are tightening their belts and growth has slowed dramatically. After attending the latest Natural Food and Products Expo and talking to vendors, many companies are now anticipating a single digit growth and I am hearing many say that zero is the new anticipated growth rate for the current time. This certainly looks like the end of the eco movement as we know it but it does not mean it is the end of green itself.

Changes in Attitudes
Consumer studies show that eco-consciousness has not left the consumer mindset. According to a January 2009 consumer research report by the Natural Marketing Institute, 22% of US adults report buying fewer environmentally-friendly products as a result of the economy.  This is presumably because of price, not because they have stopped being interested in the product. The 2009 Conscious Consumer study by BBMG found that price and performance are still paramount. US consumers claim price (66%) and quality (64%) top their list of most important product attributes. But, health and environmental benefits have increased in importance since last year – including energy efficiency (47% in 2008, up 6%), locally grown or made nearby (32%, up 6%), all natural (31%, up 7%), made from recycled materials (29%, up 7%) and USDA organic (22%, up 5%). Despite the recessions, consumers are still very engaged in environmental protection. And, consumers recognize that many green activities such as energy and water conservation can protect their wallets and the planet. For example Nielsen’s Homescan service has recorded a sharp increase in consumer expenditures for canning supplies; up 15% year-on-year. This is highest, and driven by, LOHAS consumers, who increased purchase of canning supplies by 45%. Consumers may be growing their own vegetables and saving them for later, expressing local, organic, and practical desires. This reinforces the importance of knowing your consumer and targeting your marketing efforts to the highest value consumer. “The economic crisis has created a moment of reflection where consumers are redefining what truly matters and evaluating purchases based on both value and values,” said Raphael Bemporad, co-founder of BBMG. “This is a moment for leadership. By delivering on the multiple dimensions of value – price, performance and purpose – brands will be able to close the green trust gap, weather the economic storm and thrive long term.” Consumer attitudes have changed from eco-elitism to that of conservation and frugality and are looking at products and services and that will provide more bang for their buck.

Green to Save Green
Those in the spa world tend to be more affected by these downturns as disposable income becomes scarce and hard press eco initiatives to become more bottom-line oriented and based around cost savings. However, there are ways to adapt to the circumstances that will enhance your spa while maintaining your eco integrity. Here are some considerations that will help you save money and the planet simultaneously:

Energy Audit

This can be done yourself online or more extensively through a professional and will narrow down areas that you are most energy inefficient. Once you identify these areas you will be able to address them accordingly. These can be as simple as turning off your lights and computer at night or managing water temperatures in pools or laundry more accurately to save you money.

Bulk Purchases
Bulk purchases provide more quantity at a more affordable price. This also reduces packaging thus reducing waste and cut delivery costs for you. Using refillable bottles in treatment rooms can reduce clutter and maintain similar products throughout the spa.

Use Durable Cups and Plates
Rather than plastic or paper cups and napkins use washable cups and cloth napkins and other reusable items. You may have to roll up your sleeves for cleaning but it will save on purchases and save additional money. Or you may want to do away with unnecessary items that were once considered mandatory. For example a University in Philadelphia recently stopped using cafeteria trays and it has saved 3,000 gallons of water a month and thousands of dollars in annual water bills.

Creative Protocols
Design spa treatment protocols with conservation fixtures and client messaging that prevents water waste.  Subtracting only 1 minute per hot shower can save $75 on utility bills and 2,700 gallons of water per year for a family of three.

Creative Outreach
Develop outreach that goes beyond the spa itself and penetrate larger community initiatives. Strong House Spa started the Cosmetic Recycling Program that allows clients to bring in old products that contain chemicals and get a $5 credit toward organic products.  They recycle not only the containers but the products inside as all cleansing products go to their local recycling company to wash their trucks. This is a great example of promoting green efforts that support parallel businesses.

Times are certainly changing. For companies to maintain their market position while keeping to green beliefs they must make adjustments that are relevant to spa goers and current circumstances.