The idea of living green – in ways that support our health and our planet – is one that most of us think is important; However, this claim is not always put into practice. After all, making better decisions can be difficult or even impossible for a number of reasons: It’s expensive. It’s an extra step I don’t have time for. And especially: Does it make any difference at all?
Yes, says Laura Fenton, expert on small spaces and sustainable living and author of The Little Book of Living Small.
“Green living…is something we should all strive for,” Fenton said, noting that choices that are good for the earth are generally good for us too. “It’s all very intertwined, these issues of health for ourselves and what’s healthy for the planet. They kind of go hand in hand.
“So what’s that good for? [massage therapy] Clients, what’s good for the actual massage therapist is often also the same thing, which is the best choice for a healthy, happy planet.”
In this article, we’ll examine methods for living greener in three key areas: choosing massage and body care products; the benefits of eliminating single-use plastic water bottles; and why you should consider making your next vehicle electric.
Selection of lubes, linens and more
The massage lubes you use on clients provide a natural starting point to improve the earth-friendliness of your practice. It’s an integral part of most massage therapy experiences and an important part of creating an ambiance while you work.
First, look at the oils and lotions you offer: check the labels and even log on to their websites to learn more about the ingredients. Most reputable companies that make natural products will be very forthcoming with information that will help you feel good about your choice.
Here’s a breakdown of some terms you may encounter when shopping:
USDA Organic/Organic/Made with Organic: The US Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines for products that carry the USDA organic seal; those who wear it must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients, all made to strict protocols.
Other products may use the Made with Organic label if they contain at least 70% certified organic ingredients, but may not carry the USDA organic seal. Less than 70% of respondents are only allowed to state that certain ingredients contained are organic.
For a complete list of organic production and labeling guidelines, see Grades & Standards on the USDA website.
Not tested on animals: This means that the product (and all of its ingredients) are not tested on animals. Leaping Bunny is the organization overseeing this designation.
Consistent: This term refers to crop and animal production practices that are healthy for humans and good for the land; have processes that are as efficient and natural as possible; and to run the business in such a way that production can continue in the long term. For more information on sustainability, visit nal.usda.gov.
Choosing natural, organic massage oils and lotions is not only good for the planet and healthy for you and your clients, but it often comes with another benefit, Fenton said: added luxury.
“Healthier choices … will also feel more luxurious,” she said. “Often, of course, the sustainable choice is a qualitatively better choice, which you will be happy to experience.”
This is especially true when choosing the bedding for your massage table. Instead of polyester blends, Fenton recommends choosing natural fibers like organic cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, or wool. “The tactile physical experience of touching those sheets or towels will be more luxurious for the person receiving a massage,” she says. “This will be an enhanced experience.”
If you’re looking at cotton bedding, she noted, be careful to choose organic cotton because non-organic cotton is a very resource-intensive crop that requires a lot of irrigation and lots of pesticides. For this reason, organic cotton is more expensive than other natural fibers. Also, be careful with bamboo bedding; Because bamboo comes from overseas, it can be difficult to determine if it’s been sustainably produced.
Also consider the detergent you use to wash your sheets, towels and blankets. Fenton says it can take some trial and error to find one that’s as natural as can be but still has enough power to completely remove massage oils and lotions from your linens.
One last thing to keep in mind about the products you buy: their size and packaging. Avoid items that are wrapped in plastic or have a lot more packaging than they need.
If it’s practical, buy big. “Unless you’re already buying bulk products for customer use, they tend to be less expensive and reduce packaging waste,” said Ada Chen, founder of Chuan’s Promise, a natural skincare line focused on sustainability and inclusivity. “Also look for plastic-free options when purchasing products to resell to customers.”
Do you For real Do you need bottled water?
Like many massage therapists, you probably encourage your clients to drink plenty of water after the massage, or you offer them a bottle of water when they leave. While drinking water is a healthy choice, single-use plastic bottles contribute to a number of environmental and health issues, Fenton said.
“The problem with single-use plastics is that even if they’re ‘recyclable,’ they’re very rarely actually recycled,” she noted. “Unfortunately, many of these end up neither in a recycling plant nor in a landfill. They end up in our waters and oceans and wreak all sorts of havoc among marine life.” Another major environmental concern is the carbon footprint left by so many companies that bottle water and ship it to the millions of stores that sell it.
Perhaps the best reason to avoid plastic bottles, however, is their potential to cause health problems.
“There’s a lot of research going on right now,” Fenton said. “We’re learning more and more disturbing things week by week about microplastics, which are those tiny little bits of plastic that get into our food, into our water, from things like water bottles.”
Fenton points to a 2019 study by Australia’s University of Newcastle, commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund, that says the average American eats enough plastic particles in a week to be the weight of a credit card.
Instead of offering bottled water, she suggests installing a water filter on your faucet or investing in a pitcher that filters water and then drinks it from glasses. Handing a client a glass of filtered water instead of a plastic bottle after a massage adds another touch of luxury to the experience.
Have you ever considered investing in an electric car? Charging an electric car is a lot cheaper than buying gas, which can add up quickly, especially if you’re a mobile massage therapist and make your money on the go. They also contain fewer parts than petrol-powered cars, meaning fewer things can break and expensive trips to the mechanic are required.
While the initial cost of electric cars is still typically higher than gas-powered vehicles, some companies are making cheaper models. Mazda, for example, offers one for $30,000, but it doesn’t run as long per charge as more expensive counterparts — that’s the problem most consumers have with electric cars, after price.
The distance you can travel with an electric car before you need to recharge it is an important factor to consider carefully, said Dev Chakravarty, CEO of Dukeflow Limited, a London-based start-up, the plug-in -Hybrid electric cars for rent. An electric car is an ideal choice for a second vehicle if your family owns more than one car, he noted; “Possibly one can be a short-haul electric vehicle and the other a hybrid [gas/electric] for long journeys,” he says.
Planning ahead is a must when investing in an electric vehicle, especially if you need to charge along the way. “Can you charge at home or at work?” he said. “For long-distance travel, are you prepared to plan ahead and have backups in case the designated charger is out of order or in use?”
The main benefit of choosing an electric vehicle is the amount of pollution habit produce compared to a conventional gas vehicle. “You can drive an electric vehicle knowing you’re not spewing tailpipe emissions into the atmosphere that contribute to climate change,” wrote Jim Gorzelany, an automotive writer for Forbes, on his website.
What if a new car isn’t part of your plans for the near future? “If you travel to customers, consider purchasing carbon offsets for distance traveled,” Chen suggested.
Tell your customers how you can help
No matter how much effort you put into making positive product decisions in your life and business, make sure your customers know about it: use it as part of your marketing; that can only help you.
“People are very concerned about their health, and a growing number of people are really concerned about the sustainability of any business they support,” Fenton said. “It’s not a turnoff for anyone; there will never be a negative result.”
About the author
Allison M. Payne is an independent writer and editor based in Northeast Florida. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine including 5 Ways to Make Sure Your Massage Marketing Appeals to a Diverse Clientele and Program Restores Healthy Touch to Trauma Survivors’ Lives.