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EARTH DAY: Recycling helps salon stay green

Trail hair studio making a difference every day by filling recycle bins instead of trash cans.
Luca Hair Studio is the only West Kootenay salon to be certified “green” under the Green Circle Salon program. All hair and byproducts are repurposed

A downtown Trail salon is on the cutting edge of green every time they put scissors to hair.

Luca Hair Studio was recently certified a Green Circle Salon, which means no more snippets swept into the garbage, no more washing left over chemicals into the waterways and all foils end up in a recycling bag no matter what colour the aluminum is stained.

Now, all the salon’s byproducts of a great cut and colour plus spa tools like wax, gloves and applicators are sorted into respective bins then shipped to Vancouver for innovative reuse and environment-friendly recycling.

“It used to be that we had no choice but to put our hair, foils, colour tubes and other salon specific waste into the landfill,” says studio owner Nancy Armour.

“At our salon, we pride ourselves on the beauty we create every day and we want to protect the beauty of the place we live and work.”

Two weeks into the green initiative, Luca staff has already diverted up to 95 per cent of its waste from the landfill, says salon manager Stacey Chartres.

“The great thing about Green Circle is that on our own, we couldn’t do any of this,” she explained.

“We don’t create enough volume to recycle, but as a member of Green Circle we join a collection of salons, and that way we make the biggest impact.”

Instead of being destined for the trash bin, all hair that hits the floor is scooped into a cardboard container that once full, is sent to the coast.

That’s where the eco-friendly program grows into a human interest story.

The clippings end up in the hands of women housed in a low security prison, who repurpose the waste into oil booms (nylon tubes packed with hair) for use in oil spill clean-up.

BC Corrections partnered with us to create a project where the women could be employed in a meaningful capacity and where they could make a difference,” explained Green Circle’s Will Simpson.

“It’s a pilot project, but the goal is to roll this out across the Canadian corrections system so that everywhere hair is being cut it can be made into oil booms as well.”

Because human hair is porous, it adsorbs oil. That is, instead of bonding with the hair, the oil gathers in layers on the hair surface, allowing for easy recovery and reuse of the oil by squeezing it from the nylon tubes.

“The booms can be rung out and reused until they get to the point that they don’t absorb anymore,” explained Chartres.  “At that point they send them to power plants to be burned for energy, so in the end, the booms are completely used.”

Aside from hair, Luca now recycles all products made from aluminum including colour tubes and aerosol cans.

“The cool thing about aluminum, again is that we couldn’t possibly recycle that on our own,” said Chartres. “It goes to a warehouse until there’s enough of it to send to a recycling plant.”

She explained that aluminum doesn’t lose its properties when recycled, which means the metal-based products can withstand the process numerous times.

“We just take off the plastic cap off the colouring tube and in it goes,” she said. “It’s horrifying that aluminum is going into the landfill because it can be broken down and reused so many times.”

Another waste product of certain colouring techniques is used foils. Previous to the Green Circle program, the salon’s trash was filled with the crumpled metal squares. Within two weeks, Chartres said Luca staff has collected two large bags packed with the used product.

“This was a simple solution. When the ladies come and get their full head foiled – all those foils are pulled off and put in the bag, not the landfill.”

She also displayed a large clear bag half filled with left over colour – waste that was previously washed down the drain.

“They pull out the water which is then recycled and reused,” she said pointing to the bagged chemicals. “Then they neutralize what they can and the left over is burnt for energy.”

Another service Green Circle recently added is the recycle of salon waste.

Wax paper, wooden applicators, gloves and wax can’t be recycled in a traditional way, said Chartres. “So again they are compiling it and eventually burning it for energy.”

Luca Hair Studio is the only salon in the West Kootenay that is part of the green movement.

“We are hoping other salons might say, ‘Hey this sounds good,” said Chartres. “That’s why we are doing this. It is good for us and we want people to know what we are doing. But more so, I am hoping we inspire other salons because the impact we are having is really huge.”

In 2014, Green Circle Salons diverted almost 390,000 pounds of waster from landfills and waterways, said Simpson.

All it takes is a commitment, and the simple action to place waste into recycling bins rather than garbage bins.

“It’s very straightforward and something we’ve been doing for decades in our homes,” he said. “We are just trying to bring this specific industry waste into that kind of mentality or mind set where the waste is being properly converted because we know it can be.”

At the end of Luca’s first year in the program, the studio will be presented a certificate showing how much waste solid and liquid waste was diverted.

To cover the cost of shipping waste to the coast, Luca is charging a $1 enviro fee on haircuts and $2 on a chemical service.

“We know our clients have a green mindset,” said Armour. “Now, our clients can look good and feed good too. They can leave knowing they’ve contributed to a positive environmental initiative with their hair and we are taking care of all the waste from their visit. It’s a look good, feel good experience.”

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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