History of GSN Planet
In 2003, a few members of Ispa came together to explore ways to encourage sustainability in the spa industry. The seed for this work was originally planted at the International Spa Association Conference, where Deborah Szekely (Founder of Rancho La Puerta) urged spas to become actively involved in the burgeoning environment movement. Inspired by her words, a small group of individuals began working on an Ispa task force to introduce sustainability practices to spa businesses.
Later that year a group called “Healing the Waters” was formed and began meeting regularly to discuss ways to improve environmental responsibility among spas.
In 2004, the International Spa Association established a task force on Greening and Sustainability that included many of the participants in “Healing the Waters.” For two years the ISPA Sustainability Task Force moved the agenda forward within the 3,000-member association, bringing exposure to “sustainability and greening” issues via conference speakers, articles in trade magazines, listing green resources on the ISPA website, and recommending ways to green its annual conference. Several members of the task force came to realize that the interest in sustainability within the spa industry extended far beyond its original mandate.
The name and idea for Green Spa Network was generated in an active conversation that arose at the end of the Ispa sustainability taskforce in 2005. Out of this came a series of meetings following Green America (formerly Coop America) gathering, LOHAS conferences and the first stand alone meeting held in Freestone California in 2006. From this activity a study was requested to assess preliminary industry interest, which clearly identified the compelling benefits to spas from adopting green practices. Conducted by students from New College of California’s Sustainable Management MBA program (newcollege.edu/greenmba), the benefits spoke not only to the spa industry’s interest in social and environmental responsibility, but also to how green practices can support spa marketing programs, contribute to spa financial performance, and provide an opportunity to raise environmental awareness of spa guests.
A very active and informal board formed in 2006 and officially incorporated as a 501(c)(6) trade association in 2007, the Green Spa Network (GSN) was established with the mission of promoting the natural connections between personal well-being, economic sustainability, and the health of our planet. Michael Stusser (Founder of Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary) invited a dozen leading spas from across North America to contribute their time and financial resources as “Seed Spas” to officially form the Green Spa Network and hire sustainability expert Gil Friend to conduct an assessment of each of the founding members. All convened with Gill to evaluate the assessments and compare notes at a gathering in Sonoma County in April of 2007.
This became the basis of the idea for an annual congress and opened the door for spa and wellness companies to become members. GSN believes that social and environmental responsibility can take many forms and emphasizes its intention of supporting the spa industry in making changes step-by-step and as they are feasible.
In 2012, lead by Jim Chenevey and Tara Grojesk, GSN hosted its first annual Buyer’s Conference to connect spa leaders with eco-friendly products and companies. The event also financially supports GSN’s ability to continue providing education, resources, and events to its members. Buyer’s Conference has hosted attendees at award winning properties, such as The Claremont, Loews Ventana Canyon, The Inn & Spa at Loretto, Woodstock Inn, and Callaway Gardens.
In 2014, GSN launched the Sustainability Assessment Tool and associated GSN Toolkit, providing spa operators insight into their overall sustainability performance and best practices for taking sustainable actions. Currently GSN is focused on serving as an action support network for the spa community. The first step is to restore a tropical forest in Brazil as part of a global regenerative forestry movement aimed at reversing global warming.
In 2018 GSN underwent a “re-branding” exercise to rename the organization to incorporate a broader focus and outreach beyond the Spa operators and brands. In 2019 GSN founded a new 501(c)3 non-profit organization with tax deductible status, with a separate mission and Board of Directors.
Currently, there is not an entity within the spa industry that is focused on sustainability, or the interconnection between personal and planetary wellbeing. Now sustainability has become obsolete. The leading edge of the movement is “Regeneration” This is a very different mindset. GSN would be well served by getting ahead of the curve and using regeneration paradigm going forward.
Green organizations exist within other industries such as the hotel, restaurant and yoga industries and although some of those organizations touch on various aspects of greening which can be carried over into the spa industry, there has been an absence of a concerted effort dedicated to the greening of the spa industry. One of the primary reasons for the Green Spa Network to come together is to fulfill the unmet need within the spa industry to first, assist spa owners, operators and other spa industry professionals in greening their operations and second, educate their clientele in the importance of a healthy environment and its impact on personal health and wellness.
GSN already has a well-established organizational foundation as evidenced by its committed founding spa owners, our strong and committed expert Board of Directors, our supporting industry consultants, and our community of volunteers. We are a member-based organization that depends on member dues as a reliable source of funding. Dues will be supplemented via sponsorships, special events and other appropriate revenue generating opportunities. As GSN’s funding is developed, we will continue to build our organization to include additional Board members, together with compensated staff and/or consultants to ensure effective performance and accountability.
Although GSN’s web site is intended to become a strong resource, we are a hands-on organization with a strong emphasis on personal and community outreach and engagement, ensuring that our organization remains connected on a personal level with the community we support and that we can continue to adapt our programs and objectives to meet the needs of our many diverse stakeholders. There was no concept of GSN or any organization outside of the task force at this time.