In choosing a greener lifestyle, we’re being more conscious of ways to reduce our environmental impact on the planet. As we become acutely aware of how our purchases and lifestyle habits affect the environment, we will spend the time evaluating the eco-friendly and sustainability aspects of products.
What should we be considering as natural, eco hot tub options?
First, let’s get on the same page with some brief definitions of how we’re using these phrases.
“Eco-friendly” means earth-friendly or not harmful to the environment, according to Merriam–Webster. For consumer products that means keeping both environmental and human safety in mind, as well as considering the impact of all aspects from raw materials to packaging.
Eco-friendly product attributes include:
- Sustainably grown or sourced elements, produced in ways that don’t deplete the ecosystem
- Made from recycled/reclaimed or renewable materials
- Low carbon footprint
- Biodegradable, e.g. materials or waste decomposes naturally and is less taxing on landfills
“Sustainable” is defined as “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Sustainability practices guide us in maintaining our environment. It assumes that resources are finite and should be used conservatively. Sustainable living means ensuring that we don’t deplete the earth’s natural resources with an eye to the needs of future generations.
Let’s look at nine considerations for a more eco-friendly hot tub:
1 / Energy Efficient
Electric hot tubs consume a wealth of energy in order to heat the water 24/7/365. Many oversized models have terrible energy profiles because the water is constantly kept hot, ready to go at a moment's notice.
When electric spas with all the bells and whistles are in use - lights, jets, music - it bumps up this energy draw. The effects of heating a hot tub in the winter in a cold climate is reflected in your energy bill too. If the hot tub’s electricity is derived from dirty energy sources such as coal and natural gas, the situation is even less eco-friendly.
A great eco-friendly hot tub option uses solar powered electricity. A similar solution is a heat exchange panel, but this technology only suits sunny climates (it requires 6 hours of sun per day). You could research the most energy-efficient electric hot tubs available – as you would with any home appliance – but better yet, you could go off the grid completely and use the only truly sustainable resource for heating – a wood burning hot tub - you heat it when you need it.
2 / Chemical Free Hot Tub
It’s safe to say that a chemical-free soak in a hot tub is high on our list of prerequisites.
A non-toxic soaking experience is hypoallergenic, eliminates skin and lung irritations, and banishes the intense odor of chlorine and chemical additives. Additionally it makes the disposal of dirty water less taxing on the environment.
In recent years ‘eco-chemicals’ like natural enzymes and natural sanitization systems have been developed to help prolong the hot tub water’s life and keep it safe, i.e. manage bacterial growth levels. However, by choosing to buy a natural water hot tub instead you’ll save yourself the hassle, expense, and continual upkeep with complicated sanitization systems.
There are several ways to extend the life of your chemical free hot tub water and still keep it clean. The best way is to cleanse your body before soaking (similar to the Japanese bathing tradition). Another way is to regularly clear the tub of debris with a pool skimmer and to use a hot tub cover when not in use. In the GOODLAND aluminum-lined hot tub, the untreated water can be used for 1–2 weeks of regular daily use.
3 / Salt Water Hot Tub
Treating and replacing hot tub water regularly to keep it safe adds up to significant water use for hot tubs—and wastage, if the water cannot be recycled.
Salt water hot tubs are a non-toxic alternative to chemicals. Salt water has a gentler feel and provides a sense of buoyancy.
There’s a range of salt water options depending on your type of hot tub, from using actual seawater to installing a salt water system. The former option is the most eco-friendly since seawater is a plentiful renewable resource. The latter option produces a natural chlorine through its generator which keeps the tub clean. If you’re considering a wood burning hot tub, ask if it functions with both salt and fresh water (the GOODLAND hot tub accommodates both types of water).
4 / Recyclable Water
Natural water hot tubs use water from the tap, lake, river, and rain. Depending on your hot tub type and local bylaws, you may be able to recycle chemical-free hot tub water. Old hot tub water (also known as ‘gray water’) can be put to good use for washing the deck or watering the garden.
5 / Uses Sustainable Materials
Sustainable materials refers to a resource being renewable in a way that the supply can keep up with the demand. It also encompasses the level of effort involved to maintain the materials for a certain period of time.
In hot tub manufacturing, sustainable material options are wood and metals. Unfortunately most hot tubs in Canada and the United States are not made from sustainable materials, don’t have the expected product lifespan, and require considerable upkeep. For more detail on this topic, read our article comparing hot tub shell materials.
Wood is a sustainable resource when it's harvested responsibly from managed forests, and trees can be continually replenished. Sustainably managed forests are a crucial part of reducing the impacts of climate change. Look for recommendations and forest certification from organizations such as FSC and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Western red cedar is one of the best woods to utilize as it comes from the most sustainably managed forests in the world in British Columbia, Canada.
Metals are some of the most sustainable and efficient materials available, and can be recycled infinitely.
The topic of hot tub ‘afterlife’ or recycling is important to note here. A hot tub will have a large environmental impact if its parts aren’t recyclable. The fibreglass and plastic spas are the hot tub shells that end up in the landfill.
As natural materials, wood and metal are fully recyclable. Metal’s recovery rates are very high at close to 100%.
But who’s going to recycle a handcrafted wood hot tub? It’s going to be passed down through the family—sustainable hot tubs have the huge advantage of longevity.
7 / Manufactured Domestically
Many hot tubs are made overseas and shipped to North America. Large, heavy jacuzzi tubs are costly to package and transport.
Seek out a hot tub that’s built either in your region, country, or continent, from materials sourced locally, to lower the carbon footprint involved in the manufacturing process.
8 / Insulation
Just like an energy-efficient home that’s insulated effectively, your hot tub needs insulation too. When properly insulated, the hot tub requires less energy to keep the water warm when you’re in it.
Look for insulation surrounding the tub sides and underneath. With the addition of an insulated hot tub cover (rigid foam floating on top of the water, topped by a fitted canvas cover), you’ll keep the water at a higher temperature so it heats up more efficiently the next time you use your tub—especially when you're soaking in the winter.
9 / Reasonable Size
Large hot tubs require approximately 400–500 gallons of water, a limited resource in some areas particularly during drought season.
Buy only the hot tub size that you need and keep the environmental impact low from water and energy consumption (whether it’s electricity or burning wood) to transportation costs.
Purchasing any type of hot tub is an investment that requires careful consideration—especially when it comes to making greener lifestyle choices.
What About Smoke?
As wood burning hot tub fans, we get asked about producing smoke and its effect on the environment. Our short form response: if you manage the fire properly there should be no, or minimal, smoke.
In recent years, there’s a tendency to consolidate all smoke as ‘bad’, but smoke from a coal-burning factory or other industrial byproduct is not the same smoke from a small, controlled stove fire. In other words, naturally-occurring smoke is different from unnatural smoke.
Smoke consists of a mix of gases and tiny particles (‘soot’) produced by the material or fuel that you’re burning. The gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, and water vapour but may include other things depending on the material, e.g. sulphur dioxide with coal and hydrogen cyanide - among many other harmful gases - from a building fire.
When burning wood, the presence and concentration of each gas depends on the wood type and its condition. Find more information on this under “How to Avoid Smoke . . .” below.
With firewood combustion, the CO2 emissions are considered “carbon-neutral” because the amount of CO2 emitted is essentially equivalent to the amount of CO2 trees need to grow the same quantity of wood. The combustion of wood does not contribute to the net increase in atmospheric levels of CO2 in the same way as the combustion of fossil fuels.
The solar energy that supported the tree’s growth and was stored in the tree is also released, adding to the natural balance of the climate rather than introducing an excess of CO2 into the atmosphere. In other words, wood-burning stoves are carbon-neutral.
Small wood burning appliances like a hot tub wood stove tend to use less wood and generate less smoke than an open fire in a fireplace, fire pit, or chiminea.
How to Avoid Smoke with Your Fire
When you learn how to efficiently burn wood, it reduces the smoke. This involves choosing the right firewood - dry seasoned or kiln-dried - and setting it correctly so that air can circulate. A smoldering fire causes smoke.
Smoke from a fire is often the result of burning the wrong wood. Don’t use:
- Wet wood
- Green wood (newly chopped down)
- Wood covered in moss/lichen/fungus/sap
- Forest debris (if not bone dry)
- Building materials or household garbage
- Softwood - best as kindling or firestarter, it burns faster
When you gradually build your fire up, slowly adding slightly larger pieces, and adjusting the ventilation, you can avoid the smoke. Please don’t overstuff the fire so you can ignore it—enjoy the process of maintaining the fire, it’s part of the bathing experience. Learn more about the best firewood to burn in the Resources section of our Journal.
This video shows you how to do this with the GOODLAND Wood Burning Hot Tub.
We understand that some cities have air pollution issues and wood smoke can be subject to municipal or regional regulations. Be sure to follow the regulations outlined in your area.