What’s A Zero Waste Hair Salon?

By Chere Di Boscio

Zero waste living is taking off in many areas.

In food, we all know that the best kind of shopping is plastic free shopping. Purchasing bulk items like lentils, spices, cereals and sweets is best done in reusable baggies we take with us ourselves to fill up again and again.

In the world of fashion, zero waste designers like Daniel Silverstein, Karen Glass and Charlotte Bialas are cutting fabric into shapes that waste no materials, and are using the tiny scraps they do generate to make accessories like hair ties, bracelets and bags.

Beauty brands are producing refillable compacts, and some are even going as far as ‘sub zero waste’ policies that involve offsetting the environmental cost of their production and ensuring all packaging follows a circular economic cycle.

But….what’s a zero waste hair salon?

We asked hair expert Benjamin Novak Hudgins (who made the stunning headpiece below from waste human hair in his salon) to explain.

What’s A Zero Waste Hair Salon?

Hudgins explained to me that human hair is a hugely underused – indeed, wasted – resource. Whilst long, healthy hair can and is often sold to be made into extensions, the scrappy bits of hair that litter barber and hairstyling salon’s floors every day is almost always thrown out. And that’s a shame.

The ornate headpiece in the photos in this article was constructed from repurposed hair clippings from Hudgins’ hair salon, Novak Hair Studios, in Fort Worth, Texas, for example. But there are many other elements involved in zero waste hair salons.

A team of more than 65 Luxury Solo Artists™ including Novak Hair Studios, have committed to the zero waste principles of a group called Green Circle Salons, which advocates for:

  • sending all hair clippings to fight oil spills in the oceans (yes, it works!)
  • donating longer hair clippings to create wigs for those with cancer
  • recycling all hair foils, razors and aerosol cans
  • using non-toxic hair dyes
  • responsibly disposing of broken electrical tools like blowdryers and curling irons
  • collecting, recycling and repurposing colour tubes, excess hair colour, papers, glass and plastics

Green Circle Salons also help stylists to implement energy and water saving systems through a unique funding tool that actually helps salons afford these potentially expensive changes. It’s definitely worth it, according to Hudgins:

“Before opening the salon, my husband and business partner, Justin, and I had committed to a fully-sustainable lifestyle,” he said. “We wanted to take that to the next level by bringing eco-friendly practices into our daily professions. What I found was that it’s overwhelmingly difficult to do hair and avoid contributing to the growing waste our industry produces. In the U.S. alone, there are nearly 420,000 pounds of salon waste every single day.”

Hudgins researched for days, months, then years to devise strategies that would achieve a completely zero-waste, fully-sustainable hair salon policy, and is happy with the Green Circle Salon’s solutions. But he wasn’t the only stylist thinking along these lines: the Australian beauty experts behind sustainablesalons.org have called on conscious stylists to undertake the same eco-responsibilities as Green Circle Salons, but additionally asks that hairdressers volunteer their time and skills at community events for those who don’t have the means to access basic services for themselves.

The impact of salons is much larger than you’d think: around a million kilos of aluminium foils are used each year, and hairdressers generate a whopping 400,000 kilos of hair waste in Australia annually. Salons also go through enormous numbers of plastic shampoo, styling product and hair conditioner bottles all the time – and finally zero waste hair salons are addressing these issues.

Whilst these facts may seem bleak, I was absolutely delighted to learn what zero waste hair salons were, thanks to Benjamin Novak Hudgins. Not only did he wake me up to the importance of using a sustainable salon, but through the beauty of the headpieces he made for the shoot in this article, he also demonstrated beyond a doubt that far from a waste product, cut human hair can actually be a valuable resource!

For more information on Novak Studios’ zero waste beauty salon, please click here.

Chere Di Boscio

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