In a bold, brave move, Chicago's Marianne Strokirk Salons submits its operation to a team of sustainability strategists for a green evaluation and carbon footprint analysis, then shares the data and recommendations with SALON TODAY readers.

Going Green: Analysis of Marianne Strokirk Salons

As many good salon ideas do, this one started with a conversation at the chair.
Marianne Strokirk, owner of Chicago's Marianne Strokirk Salons, was cutting the hair of Georgy Oliveri, a client of 14 years. As a sustainability strategist and president of GO Initiatives, Oliveri helps companies of all sizes develop realistic sustainability strategies for competitive advantages.
"I asked Marianne where the salon industry was in its journey toward sustainability," says Oliveri. "She responded that with the exception of some product companies focusing on natural ingredients and salons decorating with eco-friendly furniture, she didn't know if the industry had gotten too far."

For more green ...

Going Green: Analysis of Marianne Strokirk SalonsClick here to download entire report from SEDAC (PDF)
Going Green: Analysis of Marianne Strokirk SalonsClick here to download Carbon Footprint: Brief Summary from Facilities and Employees (PDF)

A native of Sweden, Strokirk grew up in an environment where energy costs were very high. "By comparison, gas and electricity in the United States are so cheap that in the past conserving hasn't really been a concern for most business owners here. But I believe they are precious commodities, and we have to change our views."

With the idea of sharing lessons learned in various markets, Oliveri approached SALON TODAY about developing a case study focusing on a high-profile Chicago salon resulting in a suggested salon approach to sustainability. Realizing an opportunity to report on what we believe is groundbreaking research, our editorial team naturally said, "Yes!"

Oliveri suggested the case study focus on opportunities with maximum impact. As a tenured LEED-accredited professional and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Oliveri shared that more than 70 percent of greenhouse gases contributing to global warming are attributed to buildings. Conserving resources, through energy savings from the salon's facility and reduction of its carbon footprint, logically presented the salon its most significant opportunities.

"With reason for fresh introspective, the beauty industry has an opportunity to look to the future while gaining valuable insight from business sectors that have successfully established sustainability programs," says Oliveri. Early adopters in diverse markets, including the chemical, forestry products, office equipment and machines, computers and suppliers to the green building/construction industries, have pioneered voluntary agendas to conserve resources and ensure environmental protection."

The Case Study Subject

Established in 1989 by Marianne and her husband John, the Marianne Strokirk Salons, with two locations in downtown Chicago, have become nationally known as top destinations for hair care services. This case study evaluated the company's Chestnut Street location, which employees 35 staff members and sees an average of 1,500 clients per month. It is one of several rental tenants in a 1950s-era building, and occupies 3,800 square feet on the first floor. The location is operated 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, or 52 hours per week.

Strokirk's managing partner, Jason Frieman, provided expertise on the everyday management of the business, the salon facility, and financial implications of proposed recommendations.

The Energy Conservation Evaluation

Going Green: Analysis of Marianne Strokirk Salons

A site visit and in-depth audit of the salon's energy consumption and expenses was conducted by Robert Nemeth, a research architect from Illinois Smart Energy and Design Assistance Center (SEDAC). Funded by Illinois Department of Commerce and managed by the School of Architecture at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, SEDAC's mission is to encourage communities, small-business owners, design professionals and building contractors to incorporate energy-efficient practices and renewable energy systems.

"Most commercial buildings use 10 percent to 30 percent more energy than necessary and have abundant opportunities to save," says Nemeth. "Cutting a building's energy use by 30 percent yields the same bottom-line benefits as a 5-percent increase in net operating income."

Nemeth was complimentary about several of the energy-savings initiatives the salon already had implemented. For example, the salon had installed programmable thermostats to control temperatures and the stylists were required to unplug appliances at the end of the day. Because most of the salon's exterior is surrounded by other occupied spaces or the building's interior, the space is well insulated.
"Several factors contribute significantly to the salon's energy and cost savings, the largest of which is the turning off the HVAC system during time periods when the salon is closed," says Nemeth. "The next largest contributor to savings is maximizing the use of outside air for cooling purposes and only running the AC when necessary. Additionally, the HVAC and water heating equipment at the salon is fairly new and well maintained, which contributes to efficient operations."
Through his evaluation, Nemeth found opportunities for significant improvements and proposed detailed recommendations complete with 15-year life cycle costing. SEDAC also introduced ideas for available energy efficiency incentives, tax incentives and rebate opportunities.
The audit identified four energy-cost reduction measures that offered attractive economics. Together, the measures would result in a 20-percent reduction in annual utility costs, or a savings of $3,772 per year, after an initial investment of $17,225. Currently the salon spends $4.85/square foot/year on utilities (it pays for gas and electric, but the landlord pays for water) and implementing the recommendations would result in almost a $1/square foot/year savings. The recommendations included:

  • Lighting

The salon has a variety of lighting fixtures, including 50 150-watt Linestra incandescent bulbs; 95 50-watt halogen ceiling directional spots; 70 34-watt fluorescents; 21 100-watt regular incandescent and three 150-watt spot halogens. Overall, lighting constitutes 46 percent of the salon's electrical costs.

"Dividing the total wattage by the salon square footage equals 4.63 watts/square foot," says Nemeth. "For lighting, this is very high use of energy per square foot."

SEDAC made two lighting recommendations. The first was replacing the existing 50-watt halogen lamp with 35-watt lamps. "This represents a 30-percent reduction in energy consumption, resulting in an annual savings of $564," says Nemeth. "However, the lumen output also reduces, so before implementing this measure throughout the salon, a trial-run should be conducted on only a few fixtures to see if they provide enough light."
The second lighting recommendation was to replace the current Linestra incandescent bulbs framing the client stations with 30-watt fixtures, which would save the salon approximately $1,845 a year. These specialized lights contribute heavily to the salon's electrical draw and input heat into the space that requires cooling.

Carbon Reflections
David Gardiner and Associates determined the Marianne Strokirk Salons' carbon footprint equaled 98.37 metric tons per year. To give this number some perspective, the salon's total annual greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to:
  • CO2 emissions from 11,166 gallons of gasoline
  • C02 emissions from 229 barrels of oil
  • CO2 emissions from the electricity use of 13.6 homes for one year
  • Carbon sequestered by 2,522 tree seedlings grown for 10 years
  • Carbon sequestered annually by .69 acres of forest preserved from deforestation
  • A Desuperheater

Air conditioning systems typically eject heat to the environment. Desuperheaters, which can be installed between the compressor and the condenser, transfer energy from the refrigerant to the domestic water system. Water heating is thus accomplished with waste heat, while the efficiency of the air conditioning is increased.

SEDAC recommended the installation of a desuperheater. Although the price for the unit and installation can cost up to $3,725, the salon's gas and electrical savings were estimated to be $1,154 per year.

  • Commercial Washing Machine

As all salon owners know, laundry needs at the salon are constant. Although the Strokirk salon does not pay for water, it does pay for heating the water. Installing a new Energy Star-certified washing machine would reduce water consumption, saving heating costs and electricity. Drying costs would also be reduced since new washers extract more water out of laundry through high spin cycles. SEDAC estimated a conservative savings of $200 per year.

  • Carbon Footprint

Going Green: Analysis of Marianne Strokirk Salons

Once SEDAC completed the energy audit, the data was sent with additional
information provided by Freiman to David Gardiner and Associates in Washington D.C. There, Senior Research Associate Ryan Hodum scrutinized the data and developed the salon's carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the new efficiency standard, and is defined by UK Carbon Trust 2008 as, "The total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product."

This process helps determine the salon's baseline. "Like they say, you can't manage what you don't measure," says Hodum. "Once the size of the salon's carbon footprint is identified, we can develop a strategy to reduce it."

In addition to the quantitative energy efficiency data gathered by SEDAC, Freiman also shared with Hodum detailed information regarding staff transportation, including energy purchase, mileage, fuel usage and the number of occupants in each car.
With the data, Hodum determined the salon's carbon footprint equaled 98.37 metric tons of CO2 (carbon) emissions. "We couldn't find many carbon footprint measurements for other salons out there, but when you compare the salon's results to those of other small business, which typically average between 60-75 metric tons, it was on the high side for its size and number of employees," says Hodum. Though Hodum agrees the result wasn't surprising when you considered a salon's unique needs for appropriate lighting and hot water.

Hodum's initial findings support SEDAC's suggestions for capital investments enabling the company to set internal targets for improvement. It was the staff transportation analysis that yielded surprises and additional opportunities for improvement. Almost all of the employees drove to work and drove alone. One employee drives 11,500 miles annually, using 575 gallons of fuel. Hodum suggested the employees participate in a car-pool program to help reduce the salon's carbon footprint. "As an incentive, many corporations are now providing financial rewards for employees carpooling," adds Oliveri.

  • Moving Forward

A few weeks after the reports were released, Strokirk, Freiman and Oliveri began considering the salon's next steps:

SEDAC Recommendations
The salon's first step was to purchase a new, energy-efficient commercial washing machine to replace the salon's existing aging machine.

Although the lighting was one of the biggest areas identified for energy-savings improvements by SEDAC, it also presented the biggest concern to the salon. Since lighting contributes significantly to the salon's ambiance and the appearance of the client's hair, skin and clothes, and is a critical factor in delivering a superior color service, both Strokirk and Freiman stressed that any changes would have to be critically examined.
So, Oliveri arranged for them to meet with lighting expert Mark Horning of Lightology in Chicago. Horning toured the salon and recommended that for new salon construction or major building renovations, a lighting designer can provide fluorescent solutions with maximum aesthetic qualities and significant energy/cost savings. Horning shared that new developments in fluorescent bulbs now feature up to five color temperature options. They can be a very effective, warm and inviting light source when layered properly, and the draw produces 75-percent energy savings and extends bulb life eight times longer than incandescent bulbs.

Not ready to make the capital investment in new lighting fixtures they were concerned wouldn't meet the salon's needs, Freiman and Strokirk instead decided to replace bulbs in the existing fixtures to the bulbs Horning recommended. This gives them a chance to save energy, while evaluating the new lighting options, before making a bigger investment in replacing the fixtures.

Although the idea of the desuperheater was the most intriguing to Freiman and Strokirk, it also would take seven years for the savings to outweigh the upfront investment. At this point, the salon has a few more years left on the lease, and they don't yet know whether they will be resigning or looking for another location that will better meet their needs.

Being armed with the information in hand is a powerful tool though, stresses Bill White, senior vice president of David Gardiner and Associates. "Today, landlords are increasingly amenable to making upgrades, especially when they are cost-effective and they raise the asset value of the commercial building," he adds. "If there are other tenants interested in similar improvements, going together to talk to the landlord strengthens your position. Sometimes, you may agree to share in the cost of improvements, or agree to pay a slight increase in rent that would more than be offset by the improvements."
In addition, there are a number of programs that provide incentives for energy-efficient commercial upgrades. White suggests searching online or contacting utility providers to see what programs might be available.

  • Transportation

The salon's next step could be to look at employee transportation and evaluating how they might help schedule work times to accommodate employees who are interested in carpooling with one another, says Oliveri.

Click here to download entire report from SEDAC (PDF)
Click here to download Carbon Footprint: Brief Summary from Facilities and Employees (PDF)

But then she takes it one step further in the thinking. Now that we know the carbon impact of employee transportation, can you imagine the impact if you evaluated transportation of the clients which the salon draws from a wide geographic area, including the city and surrounding suburbs? Oliveri herself drives 45 miles each time she has an appointment with Strokirk.

"The beauty industry is known for its creative approach to business-why not consider establishing invitational dates for social networks based on geographical areas," she recommends. "For example, North Shore Days every third Tuesday; South Side Suburban Days every third Wednesday, and West Suburban Days every third Thursday. Carpoolers could get a free service. Not only would that help reduce the salon's extended carbon footprint, but it could improve customer loyalty and introduce new clients to the salon."

Green Steps
As president of GO Initiatives (, Georgy Olivieri helps organizations develop sustainability programs centered on their customers. "We know consumers are willing to pay a little more for products if they believe they are healthier, safer or better for the environment. As sustainability strategists, we help companies establish direction building on their existing capabilities of their people, products and processes. Then, we build momentum for change throughout their organizations, and we promote accomplishments to internal and external customers."

Based on the Marianne Strokirk case study, Oliveri was able to suggest a number of steps all salons could take toward sustainability:
  • Become educated on sustainability and what it means to your clients. Suggested readings include Cradle to Cradle and Natural Step.
  • Develop your leadership vision of sustainability. "Make it personal," she recommends. "Perhaps you are an outdoors lover and enjoy hiking-invite your staff to join you on a beautiful day this Spring."
  • Routinely communicate sustainability with your team. "Consider starting your staff meetings with a ‘green moment' with someone sharing an interesting new idea they saw or heard about," she says.
  • Initiate a Green Team and designate a Green Guru to lead the team and empower them to recommend and deliver actions.
  • Recognize and reward accomplishments, such as carpooling, biking to work and other innovative ideas.
  • Integrate sustainability into your business strategy, focusing on your clients. Create a dialogue asking them about what they have done at work or home to help protect the environment. Share great green suggestions on the salon website.
  • Actively promote your position, aspirations and successes. Create a dialogue with local press and green organizations to build your profile.
  • Help other members of the beauty industry and fellow salon owners learn from you. Take a leadership role in the industry. "You can make an exponential difference by helping your competitors to develop their contribution," Oliveri concludes. "Sounds strange, but it works."

Carbon Offsets

Both White and Hodum stress that the first step in a sustainability program is to use tools like energy audit and carbon footprint to develop a baseline. The next most important step is taking action to reduce energy usage and lowering the carbon footprint as much as possible.
Interested businesses can take a third step by purchasing carbon offsets, which are projects and programs, such as solar and wind power or reforestation, that attempt to mitigate carbon emissions. "It's a good way to consider using your cost savings from your energy-efficient investments," says Hodum. To help evaluate different programs, Hodum also recommends Clean Air-Cool Planet's Consumer Guide to Carbon Offsets, which can be found at

"A word of caution, though. This is a relatively new area; it is unregulated and there are a number of companies sprouting up making claims," says White. "Another option is to explore green programs in your community or contacting your utility company about the possibility of purchasing green power."

"Overall, the research and the process has definitely been an enlightening experience," concludes Freiman. "We have always tried to be environmentally responsible and do our part by doing things like developing a recycling program that recycles all packaging and plastic shampoo bottles. This information helps take it to another level."

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