Embracing WELLness through Water

WTS International embraces ‘WELLness’ with Sustainability Initiative.


Like many great initiatives, it began with an inspiring speech and a drive to make an impact.


During Scott Harrison’s (Founder of charity:water) 2015 ISPA Keynote, the WTS Executive Team was moved to take action. They had found a message their team could resonate with: ensuring that everyone in the world has access to one of the essential elements – water.

“We take our plentiful supplies of clean water for granted and our spa industry is founded on it, yet many people in the developing world do not even have access to clean drinking water,” – Gary Henkin, President and CEO of WTS.

Once they had aligned around a charity, WTS then asked, “how can we reduce our impact on the environment operationally?” Their answer was to create ‘WELLness Begins with Water’, a project launched last year across all 110 WTS associated properties, with the goal of helping provide those in need with water and making the world a clear place by conserving water and reducing plastic usage at their properties.

To achieve this, WTS reached out to the Green Spa Network for input on the initial concept design and implementation strategy, which started with setting achievable goals that were not intimidating for their managers and directors to implement. Their goals were simple:

  • Decrease water usage by selecting products and developing protocols that minimize the amount of water necessary for production, packaging, and delivery.
  • Decrease the amount of water used during treatments and recommending ways to re-purpose rooms that were originally developed for hydrotherapy treatments.
  • Reduce or eliminate the plastics used within a facility by adopting more environmentally friendly options.

    GSN WTS Visit 2016. From left to right: Susie Hammer, WTS VP of Spa Operations; Paul Schmidt, GSN Executive Director; Mary Pilch Simpkins, WTS Marketing Communications Manager; and Shannon Gale, then WTS Business Development Coordinator


As a teaser announcement at the end of 2015, WTS provided a holiday gift of reusable water bottles to all managers and directors. Serving a dual purpose, the water bottles created initial excitement while encouraging reuse and the reduction of plastic. At the beginning of 2016, WTS began holding Division calls where managers were presented with an ‘Implementation Guide’ that outlined the reduction of water and plastic usage and how to support charity:water.

WTS broke the guide into four relevant categories: plastic supplies; laundry and linen; fixtures and space planning; and treatments and protocols. For each category, WTS provided recommendations for reducing water and plastic, preferred vendors, and how success would be measured.

Plastic Supplies were tracked by comparing the amount of plastic cups and bottled water purchased this year to the properties 2015 total. Properties were recommended to reduce plastic throughout the facility, by offering reusable or recyclable cups, providing glass or stainless steel water bottles for purchase, and incorporating water filling/filtration systems.

For Laundry and Linen WTS recommended properties incorporate fewer towels into service protocols, replace cotton textiles with microfiber, and use lighter weight textiles requiring less water and energy. Vendor options were provided and success was tracked using a laundry audit, which measured laundry volume against guest visits and treatments conducted once per quarter.

Fixture and Space Planning focused on utilizing water-efficient fixtures, water-conserving appliances and retrofitting hydrotherapy elements into other revenue driving services. WTS provided case studies showing a reduction in water usage and increase in revenue from retrofitting several of their spa’s wet rooms.

Treatments and Protocols offered examples of waterless treatments and recommended balancing treatments that require water with drier treatments, using cream masks versus clay masks that require more towels and water to remove, and purchasing ingredients in bulk to make scrubs and masks in-house.

WTS saw an enthusiastic response from their vendors, who participated by providing solutions for properties to reduce water and plastic or donated to the WTS Silent Auction. MJ Corp was a crucial partner, providing a donation program, whereby a portion of the proceeds from purchases of MJ Corp water bottles would go directly to charity:water.

Other examples included:

  • Phytomer’s waterless body treatments using their Showerless Scrub and their Firming Gel Body Wrap
  • Farmhouse Fresh body treatments that can be performed in a dry room, eliminating the need for showers
  • HydroPeptide’s Active Body Scrub which can be used as a ‘dry rub’ scrub, eliminating the need for water
  • ZENTS bulk/dispensary packaging you can order in pouches, saving on plastic and storage
  • Malie Organics gallon refill amenity program, which supplies 16oz bottles to be refilled for use in common areas, reducing waste of travel size bottles

Members of the WTS Corporate team


The preliminary results presented at the 2016 GSN Congress by Mary Lynn Mellinger, Director of Planning and Design for WTS International, provided an amazing example of how “small steps make a big difference.”

Since April 2016 WTS has seen:

  • Plastic usage (via water bottles or cups) reduced by 50% on average
  • Linen usage reduced by 30% on average
  • 70% of WTS properties incorporate water efficient fixtures within the locker rooms or treatment rooms
  • 60% of WTS Spas incorporating new service protocols or adding “create your own” products to reduce water and plastic usage

Water Filtration System at VERDURE

One of the best examples is Taos, the Spa and Wellness Center at The Blake, who implemented water filling stations encouraging the use of refillable water bottles and eliminated hydrotherapy treatments. Harborview Health Club and VERDURE also implemented water filling stations to reduce plastic water bottle usage.

Because of their initial success, WTS feels they can do more and will continue the cause in 2017. “Seeing that our efforts could make a difference, we got very excited about the potential of doing more and helping more individuals get access to clean water.  We have so many ideas, we just needed more time to implement.” – Mary Pilch Simpkins, WTS Marketing Communications Manager for WTS International.


Next Steps

Originally created in the corporate office, ‘WELLness Begins With Water’ has seen a passionate response from WTS properties and a strong desire from their Spa Directors, Fitness Directors and Lifestyle Directors to get involved. So, this year’s ‘2.0 version’ will be led by onsite managers and directors who have volunteered to make the ‘Implementation Guide’ more user-friendly and allow for better implementation in the field. “They are the ones on the ground, finding out what’s realistic and what’s not. And that is the intent of the 2.0 version,” said Mary Pilch Simpkins.

Additionally, the project will be split into two Task Forces, “GSN 2.0” focusing on water and plastic reduction and “charity:water” focused on best practices for supporting the charity. WTS is committed to the evolution of this project and has dedicated a portion of their monthly manager calls to these volunteers to share progress, ask questions, and get feedback.

The 2017 Task Force will be spearheaded by:

‘charity: water’ Task Force

  • Elizabeth Stogden, Lifestyle Director at Oceana Bal Harbour (Bal Harbour, FL)
  • Heidi Freitas, Fitness Director at Skye Canyon (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Sydney Shapiro, Fitness Director at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave (Washington, DC)
  • Trish Mittelstadt, Spa Director at The Spa at Trump (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Crystal Steere, Spa Director at Naples Beach Hotel (Naples, FL)
  • Anaelyse Napoles, Spa Director at Wyndham Clearwater Beach (Clearwater, FL)

‘GSN 2.0’ Water and Plastic Reduction Task Force

  • Catherine Warren, Spa Director at Eau Spa (Palm Beach, FL)
  • Elizabeth Stogden, Lifestyle Director at Oceana Bal Harbour (Bal Harbour, FL)
  • Anaelyse Napoles, Spa Director at Wyndham Clearwater Beach (Clearwater, FL)
  • Trish Mittelstadt, Spa Director at The Spa at Trump (Las Vegas, NV)

As with most projects, the first year was about trial and error. WTS Corporate laid the ground work, empowering their managers and directors to take action. Now with ‘WELLness Begins with Water 2.0’ they are taking the initiative to the next level, further reducing WTS’s global usage of plastic and water and increasing global access to safe drinking water by supporting the charity that inspired it all.

Taos, the Spa and Wellness Center at The Blake

Do you have an initiative that supports a vital planet or vital people? We would love to hear about it! Email us or submit your story here.