Category Archives: Congress

What to Expect at Our 10th Anniversary Congress


As we prepare for the 10th Anniversary Congress, we took a moment to chat with 2018 Congress Committee Chair and VP Retail Sales for A La Mode, Tracie Wertz about what inspired her to get involved and what attendees can anticipate at this milestone event for GSN.


What inspired you to volunteer as Congress Committee Chair?

Tracie enjoying one of the many swings at CVR!

Congress is my “Do-Not-Miss” event of the spa and wellness industry. I attended my first Congress in 2012 and it profoundly affected me on both an emotional and spiritual level. It was such a unique experience and I was immediately hooked! Since then, I have never missed Congress and thought I would step up and Chair this pinnacle 10th Anniversary event – plus I have the support and experience of the past chairs to help me put together our best Congress yet! It is an important time in our lives. When we look at what is happening to our planet and environment in conjunction with the divisive social and political climate, we can agree it is time to take action and restore/repair our vital community and planet.


Tell us about the focus for the 10th Anniversary Congress

Having completed our strategic planing process as a GSN Board Member, it became clear that we needed to create more action in our industry for a vital planet and vital people. So the theme came about very organically: Inspire Action and Create Community through Storytelling. Whether the stories we tell are personal or professional, this year’s Congress will bring together our powerful and passionate community leaders to inspire action. Our panel of speakers will range from sustainability experts and business authorities to personal vitality specialists and spiritual leaders. We are incorporating music, art and other methods of storytelling to engage our participants and prepare them to cause positive change in their own communities. Congress always combines education, business-building skills, networking and personal rejuvenation. This year’s Congress, at the beautiful Carmel Valley Ranch, will provide us with the natural environment to really connect, recharge, play, learn, share and create. I am excited to see what comes out of Congress!


What are some key takeaways for attendees?

From a professional standpoint, Congress is the ultimate connector. I have made lifelong friends and met new clients at Congress. Sustainably speaking, our attendees leave more inspired every year with the knowledge that we CAN make a difference and reverse the negative effects our planet is experiencing. This milestone event, in particular, will provide participants with clear action plans and opportunities to get involved. It will speak to everyone in an individual way, but inspire us to work together to bring about important changes in myriad areas. And personally, it becomes one of those rare opportunities to remind ourselves why we are in this industry. With the ability to combine personal time within the Congress agenda, everyone feels refreshed and happy!


How has attending Congress impacted your business?

As a vendor, I am always looking to attract new spa clients at Congress. And while Congress is not a buyer-supplier event, I have found that Congress is an opportunity to deepen relationships and obtain new business in a more consultive way. It is all-inclusive and educational networking event for everyone. The activities, excursions, breakout sessions and open time allow participants to create deeper connections and just be your authentic self without the pressure of buying or selling. The energy is magic and the relationships you make are authentic.


How is Congress evolving to support the industry’s growth?

As part of the larger wellness industry, Congress addresses all areas that impact the spa industry –  from beauty and ingredients to workplace wellness to new ideas for sustainable solutions in all areas of your business – to attract the lucrative global wellness consumer. Within the 10th Anniversary Congress theme, we aspire to help our participants “create community.” Spas will succeed in the future if they become the epicenter of wellness within their local communities, something that I consult on and speak about often when working with my spa clients. At Congress, we provide the tools to not only grow your personal community, but leave Congress with ideas and support to strengthen your spa’s community and offer competitive advantages to achieve even greater financial success.


What is your sustainability success story?

My favorite example is when I was personally inspired at the 2013 Congress in Santa Fe by the “Raise the River” documentary from the Redford Foundation. I am now super aware of water usage and have dramatically reduced wasted water use. Growing up in the Midwest, water has always been abundant. After learning more about the water supply in the southwest region of country, I was shocked at how drastic the differences were and how fragile our water supply is! Education is the key to awareness and has the power to affect change.


How do you inspire action?

Sustainably – I hope I have inspired many friends and family to be more eco-conscious in areas of water consumption, recycling efforts, eating whole/organic foods and removing meat from their diets.  And walking or bicycling versus driving whenever possible.

Vitality – As a cancer survivor (it will be seven years at Congress) who lost a limb to the disease, I have personally inspired others by never giving up, by knowing that any negative situation can become a positive one and by persevering to achieve my own dreams and goals.

GSN Announces 10th Anniversary Congress

The Green Spa Network (GSN) announces the location and theme for its 10th Anniversary Congress, the only spa industry event dedicated to sustainability education and inspiration. With the theme of “Inspire Action and Create Community through Storytelling,” the 10th Anniversary Congress with take place at the award-winning Carmel Valley Ranch, March 11-14, 2018.

Storytelling has fostered human interaction since the invention of language. Whether it’s through extraordinary experiences being shared by guests, employees sharing the benefits of treatments and products, or the décor and menu of a spa communicating how they support wellbeing, storytelling is a major part of the spa experience. Write your story at the 10th Anniversary Congress, and discover the most effective ways to inspire action and engage with your community by telling your story.

A unique gathering in the spa industry, GSN’s Congress creates an environment for professional and personal exploration through quality education, collaborative sessions, and networking. Facilitated at resorts that prioritize and incorporate the natural environment, Congress presents an unparalleled opportunity to discover sustainable solutions for your business, evoke your purpose, forge relationships with a nurturing community, and be inspired by nature to support our mission of “Vital People. Vital Planet.”

Convening at Carmel Valley Ranch, located in the sunny foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Congress will offer attendees a multitude of adventures and excursions to experience this beautiful part of the planet we are committed to supporting. As a camp-inspired resort, Carmel Valley Ranch encourages a playful connection to nature and each other.

“You will be inspired to live your best life, recapture your youthful joy, and align your vision to surpass everyone’s expectations, especially your own!” promises Tracie Wertz, GSN Board Member and Congress Chair. “The 10th Anniversary Congress will be more magical than we have come to expect and I would tell anyone interested in elevating their personal and professional story to join us in Carmel Valley to explore the limitless possibilities and vibrate at a higher level in collaboration with spa industry and global sustainability leaders.”

The three-day GSN Congress event is designed to be an interactive experience providing attendees with the inspiration and supportive community necessary for taking action to support sustainable businesses, people, and planet. To find out more visit Registration and Early-Bird prices will open July 15, 2017.

About Green Spa Network:
GSN is a non-profit trade association serving the spa industry in support of action for a sustainable future. Their mission is to promote the vital connections between personal wellbeing, economic sustainability and the health of our planet. Through networking, education, and best practices developed with a membership of the nation’s most innovative green spas, GSN is a resource for vital people building a vital planet.

Contact: Jessica Gilden | Business Manager | 800-275-3045 |

Make Green Happen

By Deborah Fleischer
Originally posted on ‘Make Green Happen: 6 Ways to Empower Your Employees & Make Your Commitment to Sustainability Visible


socialmediaAuthentic engagement of employees in sustainability delivers real value, including an increase in innovative ideas, cost savings and attracting and retaining the best talent.

At a recent talk at Harvard, sustainability author and strategist Andrew Winston estimated that the intangible value of retaining talent is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He points to Unilever, a global corporate leader in sustainability, which LinkedIn has named as the top consumer goods company to work for.

The following six best practices can energize employees, deepen their connection to your sustainability efforts and inspire action. They originate from Green Impact’s new white paper, Green Happens Here: Six Best Practices to Empower Employees and Inspire Action and a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article on employee engagement.

1. See the big picture

Top halfTake the time to step back and look at the big picture. Identify strategic areas where you can capture more value and impact. Greening your operations and facilities and committing to social responsibility can capture cost savings from eco-efficiencies and reduce risk, but these activities often happen behind-the-scenes and are invisible to employees, students, customers and suppliers.

The holistic sustainability framework above encourages you to look at two other aspects that are often neglected, but offer real business value. If you are leaving out these upper quadrants, you are leaving value on the table:

  • Employee engagement: Your employees are potential green champions and collaborators on your sustainability journey. Are they aware of your commitment to sustainability and engaged on a day-to-day basis? Have you created a culture that cultivates creativity and innovation? Are employees looking for ways to build revenues from a sustainability lens?
  • Tell your success stories: According to Winston, companies tend to undersell the good they are doing.

This gets to the upper right quadrant — the value of communicating externally about your successes and (perhaps your challenges). Are your success stories and best practices visible to your employees, customers, community and other stakeholders? Is your sustainability message integrated into your communications channels?

2. Create a culture of creativity

Creativity2To inspire more innovation, create a culture that nurtures creative flow and taking risks. We know that sustainability can promote innovation and push businesses to save money, discover new business models and identify new products and services.

Three particular qualities can cultivate an internal culture that improves and fosters sustainability innovation: leadership from the top; comfort with risk and cross-collaboration.

These tips are more about nurturing innovation at the organizational level, but they don’t directly address the three key blocks to creativity: the inner critic; the comparing mind; and overthinking. These additional tips can inspire you and create a culture of creativity:

  • Make consistent time for creativity.
  • Turn off the inner critic.
  • Use nature to spark creativity.
  • Gather available resources.
  • Dive in and move into the unknown.
  • Take risks and be willing to fail.
  • Ask for feedback.

3. Build off your brand

logoTo increase visibility and impact, stay true to your core brand, yet create a memorable green message.

When you start engaging employees and telling success stories, a tension exists between how to stay true to your core brand, yet create a memorable green message.

In 2013, ecoAmerica launched MomentUs, a strategic cross-sector communications initiative designed to build support for climate change solutions. MomentUs created unique brands and messaging for each key sector.

For example, to engage business leaders, it created America Knows How with the tagline “Better Business, Better Climate.” To engage health care leaders, it created Climate for Health, with messaging targeted around the link between health and climate. Both programs built off ecoAmerica’s core values, but use targeted branding and messaging to engage specific audiences.

4. Tap into values

To capture attention, connect with your audience and inspire action tap into the values of your target audience and use values-based messaging. The more you can hone in on who you want to reach and what they care about, the more successful engagement efforts will be.

Here are three examples of this idea in action:

  • Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 2.52.38 PMScreen Shot 2016-10-03 at 2.53.08 PMMomentUs’ Climate for Health campaign recently released Let’s Talk Health with suggestions on how to message climate change. Understanding your audience’s priorities and talking about their values, including of family, community or even fairness, can open hearts and minds.
  • Another health-related example is University of California, San Francisco’s most recent campaign, Climate Changes Health. To reach faculty, staff and students, working to promote world health, the messaging makes the connection between climate solutions and improving people’s health.
  • Building on its Jesuit roots, University of San Francisco’s Beloved in Nature, a short video created to inspire action on climate change, emphasized the message that we are part of nature, not separate from it.

5. Make sustainability visible

To amplify your impact, make sustainability visible internally and externally: Put a face to it and highlight success stories.

Several social cognition models point visibility and salience playing a role in changing people’s beliefs and attitudes and influencing behavior. Here are a few ways to make sustainability more tangible and visible:

  • Highlight success stories and green champions: Consistently integrate success stories and best practices into  communications. For example, each month the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) posts three such highlights on its sustainability website.
  • Use video: To promote sustainability to faculty, staff, and students UCSF created a fun sustainability video built on its core mission to protect world health. The main character, Dr. McGreeny, delivers the message, “A healthy planet means healthy patients.”

6. Identify and empower green champions

Identify employees with a passion for sustainability and empower them to move into action. Top‐down vision and commitment is critical. However, all employees should be engaged.

I love earthAn effective strategy for embedding sustainability deeper into your organization is to identify green champions or ambassadors, employees who can help support new sustainability initiatives. Clothier Marks & Spencer, for example, has sustainability champions in its 1,380 stores. Here more such programs:

  • Bloomberg’s BCAUSE program includes ambassadors to support green initiatives; Bloomberg also has extended its program and events to employees’ families, engaging spouses and dependents to increase impact.
  • At Genentech, 500 GreenGuides volunteer to serve as a peer resource to support new green initiatives.
  • Mattel has identified green champions at over half its American Girl stores as part of a green team effort know as SEEDs: Sustainability for Employee Engagement and Development. For Mattel, a key to effectively scaling green teams to multiple locations has been to empower green champions to take action by providing them ongoing resources, activity ideas, collateral and support.

One of my favorite activities to activate green champions? Ask a values-based question. This gets employees thinking about why environmental stewardship matters to them. Learn more about this activity HERE.

Other great entry points for engaging employees include promoting sustainable food, reducing waste, recognizing green champions and engaging employees’ kids.

Going deeper

One route to happier, more engaged employees is to offer a meaningful and strategic purpose. Find ways to connect your purpose to employees’ values and day-to-day work, and it can become a competitive advantage. Another way to go deeper is to embed sustainability more directly into employee’s goals and compensation.

And if you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, begin with a good story and a clear call to action.

Reclaim Your Creative Confidence

By Deborah Fleischer
Originally Posted on ‘Spark Creativity and Innovation: Seven Tips for Reclaiming your Creative Confidence

We know that sustainability can promote innovation and push businesses to save money, discover new business models, and identify new products and services. Yet, how do you create a culture of creativity that inspires inspiration in others? According to Cultivating Purpose: Sustainability Innovation and Employee Engagement, three particular qualities can cultivate an internal culture that improves and fosters sustainability innovation:

  • Leadership from the top: Leadership sets the tone and helps promote a culture of engagement and innovation;
  • Comfort with risk: Allowing employees to take risks contributes to outside-the- box inventions; and
  • Cross-collaboration: Collaboration, whether internally, externally, or both, is a key element inspiring innovation.

Creativity2These tips are more about nurturing innovation at the organizational level, but they don’t directly address the three key blocks to personal creativity: the inner critic; the comparing mind; and overthinking. Below I detail seven additional tips for reclaiming your creative confidence and reconnecting to why caring for the earth is important to you:

  1. Turn off the inner critic
  2. Leap and dive into unknown
  3. Dare to take risks and be willing to fail
  4. Use nature to inspire
  5. Make consistent time for creativity
  6. Gather available resources
  7. Ask for feedback and conduct a postmortem

If you want to try a fun exercise, check out my worksheet for  Reclaiming Your Creative Confidence. I’m available to facilitate this process at your next conference or retreat. Check out the short video above for highlights from the workshop.

Creativity Tip #1:  Turn Off the Inner Critic

According to the classic book Creativity in Business: Based on the Famed Stanford University Course that has Revolutionized the art of Business, “…your creativity has been inhibited by fear, negative personal judgement, and the chattering of your mind.” It continues, “If you lack the confidence to create, you are undoubtedly tuned into the Voice of Judgement that all of us have within.” There are many approaches to destroying judgement and taming your inner critic, but the one I find work best is a mindfulness approach where you pay attention to your thoughts and bring a curiosity to them, without buying into them.

Author and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown in her TED talk Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count suggests an approach for our critic and our own self-doubt–tell it, “I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.” One way to embrace creativity, according to Brown, is to let go of comparison.  There is nothing more vulnerable then creativity.

According to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, mindfulness is one of the key habits of highly creative people. In addition, a recent article in BrainWorld listed meditation as one of five key habits of creative people. Tara Brach, a mindfulness teacher, provides four steps for being less hard on yourself RAIN:

  • Recognize what is going on;
  • Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
  • Investigate with kindness;
  • Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.

Patrick O’Neill of Extraordinary Conversation’s recent blog post, The Fable of the Harsh Master, talks about the self critic and three remedies for interrupting it:  self-love, self-trust, and self-respect.

Below are a few online resources if you are looking for ideas on how to get started with a mindfulness practice:


Creativity Tip #2: Leap and Dive into the Unknown

Vida CreativityThis tip gets to the block of overthinking. When I am standing in front of a white canvas, I don’t plan it out, create a sketch, or “think” about it. I follow what ever impulse arises in the moment. What color am I drawn to? What is here right now that wants to be seen? Without overthinking, I dive in.

Creativity in Business: Based on the Famed Stanford University Course that has Revolutionized the art of Business has a chapter titled, “If at First you Don’t Success Surrender,” which quotes a business man saying, “To me, surrender doesn’t mean to quit or give up, but rather to let go of any emotional attachment to the final outcome…My mind is set free and a feeling of expansion prevails…Don’t try, just surrender!”

Don’t overthink it; follow your initial impulse and see where it leads you, without pressure and expectations of creating a masterpiece. 

Creativity Tip #3:  Dare to Take Risks and be Willing to Fail

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 5.00.48 PM

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within us All stresses “…creative geniuses, from artists like Mozart to scientists like Darwin, are quite prolific when it comes to failure–they just don’t let it stop them.” It also highlights how permission to fail and even embracing your failures will promote innovation.

According to 18 Things Highly Creative People do Differently, creative people “take risks” and “fail up”.  Part of the risk  is being vulnerable to being seen and risking failure. As an artist, I know my best art comes from being willing to “ruin” a piece and push the limits.  How often do you let yourself learn from a failure and build upon it? After my first art class, I spent hours on a painting that didn’t do much for me.  So the next semester I continued to work on it–a willingness to silence the inner critic and keep going. I ultimately sold the painting that emerged (Emerging Heart). According to Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, “If we as leaders can talk about our mistakes and our part in them, them we make it safe for others.”

Creativity Tip #4:  Use Nature to Inspire

According to the Greater Good Science Center, nature can make you kinder, happier, and more creative.  The more you get away from the stresses of daily life and the more time you spend outdoors, the greater your level of creativity. Being in nature has an impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress, and increase our attention capacity, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people. While you might not have time to hit the trails for a four-day backpacking adventure, try this one-hour nature-based ‘Sustainability Score’ to spark new insights.

Creativity Tip #5:  Make Consistent Time for Creativity

When I committed to a weekly art class and put the time on my calendar, the consistent practice of painting each week amplified my creativity. Brendon Burchard, a motivational speaker, suggests, “Schedule the change.”  Consider putting some weekly creative/innovation time on your calendar each week. According to Burchard, if it’s not in your calendar, then you won’t do it. This could look like brainstorming a long list of ideas on how to solve a key problem you are struggling with, clarifying long-term goals, identifying resources you could build upon, taking a walk in nature, listening to music, or brainstorming a list of who you could be collaborating with.

Creativity Tip #6:  Gather Available Resources

Get clear on what resources you have available to create with. As a multi-media artist, my palette can range from old wrapping paper to discarded bubble wrap to molding paste and stencils. Invest in new tools–when I finally invested in some large, high-end brushes, my work went in a whole new direction. Part of the creative process is playing with the resources you have and seeing where they take you. Resources can include time, physical materials, other people, ideas, and limitations. Resources as a key component to the creative process developed by Anna and Lawrence Halprin known as the RSVP cycles.

At the spa at Cavallo Point they decided to reuse the plastic laundry bags for guests to use as bags for their wet bathing suits. Based on an employee suggestion, this idea took an existing resource and turned it into a solution that saves the spa money, reduces waste, and makes visitors happy.

Creativity Tip #7:  Ask for Feedback

In reviewing the literature on creativity, one common theme is the practice of feedback.  In art class, this comes in the form of a critique, which some avoid like the plague. But it can be invaluable to open yourself to feedback.  What works?  What should be kept?  What could go? How may I develop this?

Once a project is complete, the other practice is to conduct a postmortem. In Creativity, Inc. Catmull talks about the postmortem process at Pixar–a process where they explored what did and didn’t work and attempted to consolidate lessons learned. He lists five reasons to do postmortems:  consolidate what’s been learned, teach others who weren’t there, don’t let resentments fester, use the schedule to force reflection, and pay it forward.

Learn More

Here are a few of the best books I can recommend on creativity in business:

TED talks to inspire creativity: