Deirdre Mathias

Deirdre Mathias

6 July, 2012
Sweet retreat
General Manager at The Retreat, Hong Kong

Going for a spa treatment is a perfect getaway whether you are travelling or just want to escape for a moment the busy buzz of the city. But with all the resources such as water, electricity and beauty products that are used in spas, the industry can have quite an impact on the environment. However, there are also exceptional examples of spas that are acting to reduce this impact. One such spa is The Retreat. We talked to Deirdre Mathias, General Manager at The Retreat in Hong Kong’s Repulse Bay, to find out more about the environmental and social initiatives The Retreat participates in as well as trends in the eco-spa industry.
ECOZINE: How did you get involved with the spa industry?
DEIRDRE: Out of interest, I picked up a book called The Wellness Revolution: The next Trillion Dollar Industry by Paul Zane Pilzer. After reading this, from a business perspective I thought it would exciting to be involved in an industry that was going to be on a continuous up-curve of growth and change over the next decade, alongside the aspect of helping people to a healthier way of living. I spent the next two years studying the spa model and industry in Asia, and this led to the opportunity to manage the Retreat.
ECOZINE: Could you share more about The Retreat? What makes it stand out from other spas?
DEIRDRE: The logo at the Retreat is based on the “ Fibonacci Curve” which lends to the philosophy that understanding natural processes helps us to gain control over our own lives. Learning how to take time for ourselves, to relax, to feel good, to trust our intuition and have time to reflect allows us to grow naturally. The Retreat offers an ideal environment to do this. In combining a Spa, Nail Salon, Lifestyle Practitioners, and a TONI&GUY Hair Salon, our approach is a holistic one that incorporates treatments for both inside and outside beauty. We believe we are the first in Hong Kong to bring together this connection.
ECOZINE: What kind of a role does the spa industry play in helping the environment?
DEIRDRE: Spas typically see a large user of water, towels, and disposable items and with a shift to environmental practices from many spas within the industry, including the large hotel chains, a significant savings in environmental wastage have been made. Many spas now carefully consider their environmental impact, from how much water is used on a daily basis to the types of lighting used. Regional Industry awards such as Asia Spa promote an award category of “Eco Spa of the Year”, and many spas are now making a conscious effort towards more sustainable long-term environmental practices, that are built into the fabric of their operations. The spa industry is able to set an example in sustainable practices in its operations, and also educate the customer at the same time, by providing products that support the environment, such as using materials from sustainable resources like bamboo. The “greener” a spa goes, the more sustainable the business will be over a longer period of time.
ECOZINE: Does The Retreat incorporate some of these environmental features in its operations?
DEIRDRE: When The Retreat was first established, extensive research was completed into water systems that allowed recycling. The showerheads were chosen because they emitted a higher level of droplets per second, thus consuming less water per minute, saving approximately nine litres per shower and reducing electricity consumption. Enjo, an Austrian based company using the latest micro fiber technology for cleaning, trained all our staff in the use of these unique products that trap and lift dirt and bacteria. This has cut out the use of harsh chemicals for cleaning. We are currently further refining with the change of lighting, re-chargeable candles, and bamboo-based products such as towels.
ECOZINE: What sorts of environmental spa products/treatments do you recommend people use?
DEIRDRE: There are a large range of treatments and new spa products on the market, especially in terms of organic products. Based on the needs of the individual in both beauty and wellness, the products and the treatments will differ. An aromatherapy massage using natural oils that stimulate the mind may be ideal for one person, whilst a stress release and pressure point may be ideal for another. The goal in each case is to help that person seek a higher level of relaxation and wellness. Brands that have a long term commitment to personal beauty though treating specific skin care issues and concerns, such as anti-aging, should work within new environmental norms, taking measures such as biodegradable/recyclable packaging and sustainable farming practices for herbs/aroma oil production. When choosing products for our spa, all of these factors are taken into consideration, as we seek a product and a company that is as committed to the environment as it is to the customer.
ECOZINE: ACan you describe some of the healing methods incorporated into the treatments at The Retreat?
DEIRDRE: The Retreat consultants offer the first step towards lifestyle advice and the path to wellness though many healing modalities. Ayurveda is widely regarded as the oldest form of healthcare in the world; these treatments comprise a dynamic blend of nutrition, and herbs, body treatments and self-care tailored to the individual need. BodyTalk is a simple therapy that allows the body’s energy systems to be re-synchronized so they can operate as nature intended. Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine that addresses the whole person taking into account their emotional and physical wellbeing. All of these are offered at the Retreat alongside the spa treatment menu. The philosophy of traditional healing encompasses the concept that the human body is an organism with self-healing properties. All of the above aim to support this with the prevention of disease and to assist in the maintenance of optimum health and longevity.
ECOZINE: The Retreat often supports charitable events. Could you comment on the social sustainability aspect of the business in helping communities?
DEIRDRE: Any business is in a unique position to be able to contribute to its community. Part of The Retreat’s philosophy is if we get back to our natural self, we will grow exponentially on our path and thus be able to help others. Social sustainability allows The Retreat to encompass this philosophy and have a positive impact that may lead to new opportunities and growth for others. We support a wide variety of charities such as tree planting events in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong International Coastal Cleanup Challenge, and annual sponsorships for an organization that is aiming to stop the slave trade of young women for service. The flowers for the spa are provided by the Hong Kong Federation of Handicapped Youth. Not only do we have beautiful flowers, but the money goes to support this charity’s activities. The ability to be able to give to these charities embraces another side of the wellness philosophy, that of abundance for all. We hope that these small gestures can have a large and lasting positive impact on many lives and bring greater awareness of the need to respect the environment.
ECOZINE: Are there other thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
DEIRDRE: The environmental issue may seem overwhelming and many hesitate to contribute, questioning if what we do make an impact. No matter how small the step or the action may seem, it will have a positive incremental result in the future. A small action today starts us all on the right path to preserving, valuing and creating a sustainable environment and an emotionally abundant future for all who choose to embrace it.
For more information about The Retreat, visit

By: Ecozine Staff


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