Do you remember the very first Earth Day 41 years ago? What I most remember is my teacher, gardener Alan Chadwick saying, “if we could just take care of the top seven inches of the earth’s surface (i.e. the top soil), the rest would take care of itself.” Inspired by Chadwick, I spent a decade in the 70’s living, working and teaching in horticultural collectives. We made nearly everything from recycled materials, built solar houses, gave garden workshops and produced a significant amount of our own food.
It’s hard to believe how much awareness and change in our lives has been generated since those early efforts. Today Earth Day is celebrated in 175 countries, and designated International Mother Earth Day by the United Nations!*
At Osmosis practicing sustainability is second nature: we have been doing it for 25 years, beginning with building the original enzyme bath facility with wood from an abandoned chicken coop. “Greening,” as it is now called, is a continuing journey that provides ongoing learning opportunities for all of us. Recently over 900 Osmosis guests responded to a green survey: something we hugely appreciate.
Almost ninety percent of you feel that the use of non-toxic cleaning products is important or very important. This has been our practice for years. We’re glad to see most of you realize that we use eco-friendly products in our treatments, sell them in our retail store, and that we have low flow toilets and showers.
In my opinion, safe ingredients in a skin care line are the most critical consideration for any spa business that is representing itself as “green”. While a majority consider our environmental integrity an important reason for coming to Oz, at least half of you are not fully aware of our ongoing efforts to conduct an earth friendly operation. Eighty percent of our respondents either hadn’t heard of, or only knew a little about our wetlands and gray water recycling system. This installation is particularly important because spas in general are using excessive amounts of water. It’s a wasteful practice that cannot continue.
Our wastewater recycle systems enables us to recycle the majority of the water we use in the spa to irrigate our extensive gardens. The entire building is plumbed to separate gray water from black water. All of our gray water is pumped to a constructed a wetland area on the hill in back of Osmosis that functions as a biological filter, cleaning it for reuse as landscape irrigation. We were actually the first commercial facility in Sonoma County to do this, and it’s been working very well. Incidentally, due to our extensive water conservation measures, we are only using 1,000 gallons of water a day in the spa, a pretty remarkable number when you consider a household of four averages at least 250 gallons a day.
Our on-demand hot water heater works in conjunction with a solar system that reduces propane use by more than 70%. We used wonderful lightweight collectors built and installed by the same company who installed the solar collectors on the White House in 1978. The installation was 100% financed by the Sonoma County Energy Independent program.
Besides fine-tuning our own environmental practices, we believe playing a strong role in our community is a vital component for any authentically engaged sustainable business. To this end we partner with the Sonoma County Go Local Co-Op, the nation-wide Teens Turning Green organization. For the past three years we have hosted the Freestone Fermentation Festival, a catalytic community event dedicated to returning culture to agriculture. It’s a celebration of the miracle of fermentation; it’s magical alchemical properties that change milk to cheese, organic waste to hummus and are the catalyst for transformation in the enzyme bath. Fermentation is the fundamental impulse in biology and can truly be called nature’s purification process. It’s also the natural phenomenon that unifies the bakery, winery and Osmosis in our historic hometown of Freestone.
Sauerkraut and kombucha have the rapt attention of young people, along with nutrition and health experts. This festival has become a way to bring together community, and to celebrate and learn from each other. The intention was always for Osmosis to be a nexus in the continuity: being a sustainable business by helping to sustain our community is part of the vision unfolding.
In the larger community of the spa world, Osmosis has had the good fortune of working with a passionate group of professional spa owners and operators from all over the country who understand the link between personal and planetary wellness. Now in its fifth year, this group is maturing. Along these same lines, as one of the founders of Green Spa Network, I am most excited about the new website being built by one of the country’s leading design firms. This will be the go-to place for anyone in the spa world seeking to become part of the global imperative for sustainability. We are preparing to host our 4th Annual Green Spa Congress in Sundance, Utah.
There is no doubt in my mind that the spa community has enormous potential to affect the culture in significant and profound ways. There are well over 15,000 brick and mortar locations where people go everyday searching for personal transformation. Each of these places is staffed with devoted professionals whose intention is healing, and to reconcile mind, body and soul. It is not a large step for these crucial activities to become part of humanity’s immune system response to what is happening on the planet.
At Osmosis, we’re dedicated to manifesting the change we want to be, and we’re always looking for ways to improve. If you have ideas to share, we want to hear them.
In the meantime, thanks again for answering our survey questions. Happy Earth Day….and many more.
Earth Day 1970 achieved an unusual political solidarity, with support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, and urban dwellers and farmers. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Air,Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.