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Greening the Industry

Stacey Soble | March 31, 2015 | 7:33 AM
Shane Price, founder of Green Circle Salons.

Have you ever assessed what goes into your trash? Have you counted the number of bags that hit the dumpster every night after the salon closes? Maybe it’s time you should.

When a Toronto salon owner told entrepreneur Shane Price how much trash the salon generated every day, Price was astounded. Not only is it bad for the environment, in Canada, you pay a fee for every bag of trash you need picked up.  

“The owner told me they were unable to recycle things like hair, foils, etc.,” says Price. “So I brought some people together and created Green Circle Salons.”

In the past five years, more than 700 salons across Canada and the U.S. have signed up for the program, and Price, who is founder and CEO of Green Circle Salons, wants the entire industry on board by 2020.

Going Green in a Big Way

Many salon owners keep their businesses “green” through recycling, LED lighting, energy conservation and other eco-friendly practices. But there are still a lot of materials that go to waste every day, including hair, leftover color and foils.

Green Circle Salons has set out to make salons fully sustainable businesses. “We looked at all the elements of the business and created a set of solutions that work well in the salon industry,” he says.

Green Circle focuses primarily on three things: helping salons be genuinely green, helping them build revenue and helping them gain new clients through its green salon directory.

When a salon signs on with Green Circle Salons, a one-time fee of $99.95 is required, and if the owner wants the salon to be in the green directory, an additional one-time fee of $149.95 is paid. “We need that initial fee to pay for shipping materials like marketing kits, shelf talkers and bins out,” says Price.

After a salon is on board, a representative from Green Circle Salons comes in and does a 45-minute orientation with the team. “We explain that being green means you’ll recycle hair clippings, foils, chemicals, paper, plastic, batteries, lights—that’s 85 to 95 percent of salon waste we’re able to divert,” says Price.

“All of our salons charge an environmental fee to each client that ranges from $1-$2,” he explains. “A portion goes to Green Circle to run our program, and the remaining money stays in the salon to reinvest in technology—like LED lighting or solar panels—to make the business more sustainable.”

Price adds, “There are all kinds of things salons can do to reduce their footprint—we create a funding mechanism for that.” Green Circle suggests salons set up a “green” savings account specifically for these funds and at the end of the year—before taxes—go spend it on technology.

How it Works

When Jeff and Tiffany Groenenboom, owners of Studio Luxe in Naperville, Illinois, heard about Green Circle Salons through PSC, their distributor, their interest was piqued. “Seeing all the garbage that was thrown out was frustrating,” says Jeff. “We didn’t have a lot of recycling options before Green Circle and even ended up loading up the trunk of the car to recycle elsewhere.”

Now recycling is simple at Studio Luxe. Green Circle came into the salon, did a presentation, then set them up with all the materials they need to successfully recycle almost everything.

Cardboard boxes, labeled for metals, plastics, paper and hair, are on the salon floor and in the back room. The Groenenbooms simply put stickers on the boxes to indicate what they are for and explain to guests that they’re a sustainable salon.

Jeff and Tiffany Groenenboom, owners of Studio Luxe in Naperville, Illinois.

As for all the hair color and other chemicals they were flushing down the drain—that waste is also recycled now.  “The chemicals, bleach and overusage of color formulas we were putting down the drain wasn’t even quantifiable before,” says Jeff. “Now, right next to our sink by the color bar, we have a small garbage container with a thick plastic bag lining it. Anything that used to go down the drain gets swept out of the bowl with a brush into that container.”

For the colorists at Studio Luxe, this is a great visual for how much waste is being created, which helps them be more efficient. But where do all these excess chemicals go?

Amy Goei, regional director for Green Circle Salons explains the process that’s used in the U.S.: “The company we work with comes and collects the chemical waste material that salons are diverting,” she says. “Once at the warehouse, depending on the batch of chemicals, it can go through one of two processes. The first is when clean water is removed and returned to Illinois' water system (lakes, streams etc). The remainder that cannot be broken down further goes to a lined landfill facility where it is properly housed. Or, the chemical goes through a process of incineration to create clean energy.”

What about all those other boxes of foils, hair and other materials the Groenenbooms are collecting? Green Circle has a process for those, too. “The size of the salon and how much recycling they have determines how often we come to pick up their boxes,” says Price.

A week's worth of color waste from Studio Luxe in Naperville, Illinois, which will be collected by Green Circle Salons, also serves as a visual reminder to be more mindful when mixing formulas.

Whether it’s once a month or twice a week, Green Circle has two programs for picking up the materials. “One is ‘hair mail,’ and one is pick up,” says Price. “In some regions, Green Circle has trucks that do a regular pick up for salons; in the ‘hair mail’ program, the owner packs up the materials in cardboard boxes, calls us, and UPS picks up within 24 hours.”

Next, the materials are taken to one of Green Circle Salon’s five warehouses (four in Canada, one in Chicago). “We bring all the materials into one location and then work with specific places to recycle,” Price explains.  

For example, to recycle hair, they work with Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.  We pay a wage to the women in the penitentiary, and they make boons to absorb oil,” he says. “They get stored in our warehouse and we send them out for oil spill purposes when needed. There are lots of prisons around the world, so our intention is to roll this program out.”

For other materials, Green Circle looks for very specific recyclers who can properly dispose of the waste.  “We’re talking about thousands of pounds of aluminum that was going into landfills, now being recycled,” says Price. “It’s staggering.”

Marketing Your Message

Once a salon has committed to Green Circle Salons, they get put in the green directory, which consumers can use to look for eco-friendly salons in their area online or with an app.

Just like their offices and warehouses, Green Circle’s app is operated with wind power. Price explains, “It’s for the owner and the consumer and includes a green report we publish twice a year as well as the directory.”

The directory links not just to salons’ websites, but also to social media, including Facebook, and videos, if provided.

“We also give salons a digital welcome kit when they join so they can link back to us” says Price.

Once a salon is part of Green Circle, they can take their message out to clients and staff via shelf talkers, mirror clings and stylist/client conversations.

At Studio Luxe, Jeff Groenenboom has found his clients are excited to feel they are a part of something, and when he talks to other owners about what they’re doing, it’s a slam dunk.

“At the end of the night we used to have three or four garbage bags of waste. Now it’s a half a garbage bag,” he says.

And of course, the Groenenbooms also had the added benefit of their “green” savings account last year. “We put in LED lighting thanks to partnering with Green Circle Salons,” says Jeff. “Our electricity bill has dropped by 40 percent.”  

“There’s just a tremendous opportunity in the salon industry to make a difference,” he adds. “When you talk to salon owners about it, you see they’ve been thinking the same thing and are thrilled for the opportunity to divert waste.”

Jeff Groenenboom agrees, “When you look at a week’s worth of what used to go down the drain, it is mind boggling in the coolest way. You wonder, ‘how was I not doing this before?’ “We are super passionate about it. My wife and I have two little boys and want to be thinking about our carbon footprint and what we’re leaving in this world.”

To become a part of Green Circle Salons, visit greencirclesalons.ca.

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