Last week we finally got around to going to a spa for a rhasul steam temple couple’s experience my husband had bought as a “zero waste” experience Christmas gift, influenced by my efforts at natural cleaning/haircare.
So, how zero waste did it turn out to be?
We arrived early at Henlow Grange Champneys Spa. I’d been anxious to set off early – it’s a 45 min drive away along a busy route and we had been given a 9am start time which I had (incorrectly it turned out) presumed was the time of our rhasul treatment . This meant we were the first there for the day. We were welcomed with an information pack in a resealable plastic wallet (which was practical for keeping the information dry) and shown through to a lounge where there was unexpectedly some breakfast and a juice (in a glass but with a plastic straw in already).
Someone came through to explain everything to us – really helpful as it was our first time there. I had to interrupt as they launched into the promotions on haircare treatments and beauty products ( given the rhasul clay was all I was planning on using).
Then we were shown to the spa area and given dressing gowns (to return at the end of the day) and a pair of white plastic Champneys flip flops each (in a sealed plastic bag) – ours to keep at the end of the day.
Our treatment wasn’t actually until midday so we had plenty of time to use the pool, steam room, sauna etc until then. There were plenty of water dispensers around to keep drinking after the sauna etc but I hadn’t thought to bring a water bottle along with me – there were disposable plastic cups, individually wrapped in plastic – so the best I could manage was to pop the cup into the pocket of my robe so I could reuse it for the duration. There was also a gym, and a range of exercise classes we could have attended during our day although as we were there to relax we focussed on the pool.
We visited the cafe and I ordered a Green Goddess smoothie – a mix of broccoli, spinach, mango, pineapple, banana and apple juice. I know – a broccoli smoothie sounds a bit weird – but it tasted really good. However, I was disappointed to see the smoothie was in an individually plastic bagged portion from the freezer – I really should have learnt this about ordering smoothies out by now. I did manage to stop the plastic straw going into the glass though, and tried to explain that I was trying to avoid single use plastics. I obviously didn’t explain it properly as the waiter then offered to get me a plastic glass to pour it into!
Anyway, on to the main event, the rhasul clay steam temple. I had been looking forward to trying this, in particular to trying the clay as a shampoo alternative. I had been saving washing my hair until this so was a bit concerned when it wasn’t until the end of the morning but my hair already felt pretty cleansed by the time I had used the steam room a few times. The staff member who explained the process to us had never heard of using clay to wash your hair but happily gave me a bit extra so I could try ( you otherwise get a small bowl containing 2 different clays for face and body). What we weren’t expecting, having come prepared in our swimwear, was to be told to strip off and just wear some very skimpy paper knickers! Suddenly I was very glad we had exclusive use of the steam temple. The steam temple is a hot steam filled room with low lighting (lights twinkling like stars in the roof) and gentle music, with Moroccan decor. You cover yourselves with clay and then relax as the steam cleans you – at least it was relaxing until I managed to drip the clay into my eyes while using it on my hair and then wiped red clay all over the white towels and the white robe I needed to wear for the rest of the day. The attendant did come in to provide fresh water for us to drink a couple of times during the 45 minutes which I suspect meant I ended up using a few more plastic cups. Towards the end of the time warm water pours down from the ceiling to rinse the clay away (there was also a shower hose I used to rinse my hair).
I then headed off into the changing room showers to do a vinegar rinse on my hair – needed to balance the PH of the clay, before we headed off for a buffet lunch and a coffee.
All in all it was a really enjoyable relaxing day, particularly as son was away on a residential school trip meaning we didn’t need to rush back for the end of school.
In terms of waste, it wasn’t too bad overall but there clearly were a few things that could be avoided were we to go again, which we hadn’t thought of this time. Definitely take along a water bottle (they were trying to sell their own plastic branded ones). You may be able to take your own flip flops as well as we did see some people wearing different types. I think I will be inclined to avoid smoothies now unless they are clearly freshly prepared (as they seem to do in Wagamama) rather than frozen. And I guess we could have refused the paper pants and stuck with our swimwear.
The clay cleaned my hair well and gave it a lot of volume, although I did find the texture rather strange and dry for a few days. It’s now 9 days later and I have only used one vinegar rinse on my hair since and it still feels pretty good so the clay is something I might well add into my hair routine as an occasional alternative to the soapnuts I have been using lately.