AS YOU MAKE DECISIONS for your business, what’s good for the environment can be good for your bottom line. As the founder of the National Association of Eco-Friendly Salons and Spas (NAEFSS), it’s Tamara Jercha’s passion to show salons and spas the path to sustainability, from both an environmental and economical point of view. In fact, she even has a certification program.

ST: What environmental improvements can a salon or spa owner make without investing too much additional capital?

Jercha: “While every space is unique in regards to design, age and functionality, there are many ways a salon owner can realize savings. Here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Energy efficiency:

• The use of high efficiency power strips to protect computers and styling tools against power surges eliminate phantom energy loads that continually draw energy from appliances when not in use.

• Inexpensive fixes, such as installing daylight sensors designed to make lighting corrections on sunny days, and motion sensors designed to turn off lights when a space is not in use are also great ways to utilize energy efficiently.

• Lighting is the first thing that comes into everyone’s mind when it comes to saving on energy use, but switching lighting fixtures is not for owners looking for a short-term return on investment. However, I did interview a cosmetology school that reported a three-year return on investment for specialized salon lighting, and that seemed like a relatively short period of time for him so it depends on your view. Lighting is one of the stylist’s most important tools, especially when it comes to color, and will also increase the salon staff’s levels of energy. I consider these facts to be a bonus ROI which will relate back to salon profits.

2. Water conservation:

• Let’s talk about free. It doesn’t cost money to change habits. Try to remember to turn off water when not in use. Don’t let it run while you’re working in color or conditioning treatments. Pretend water is our most valuable resource, because it is.

• Look into water-saving nozzles for shampoo bowls that have been shown to save 30-60% water use.

• Purchase a water heater blanket which will reduce heat loss 25-40%, which directly results in energy cost savings and less time waiting for water to heat up.

3. Waste reduction:

• If you are charged by the volume or weight of your waste, you will experience savings by reducing salon waste. The best way to reduce waste is to use less.

• More to the point, if the salon operators are conscious of the amount of product they are using thereby eliminating waste of product containers, the salon will also experience a savings by not having to replenish supplies.

• Durables are always better than disposables in cases of dishware, and hand dryers save over continually purchasing paper hand towels. (These strategies may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how much waste happens by people who are not responsible for paying the bill!)”

ST: If an owner is negotiating a lease on a space, what sustainable items could he or she consider in the negotiations?

Jercha: “If the space you are leasing was built before 1992, chances are many of the plumbing, HVAC and electrical fixtures do not meet current standards in efficiency. For instance, a toilet installed prior to 1992 will use four-eight gallons of water as opposed to today’s standard of 1.5 gallons per flush. Be sure air ventilation systems are working at peak performance to ensure staff and guest safety. Also be sure that exhaust systems expel air at the proper rate for the services being rendered in the space. Don’t settle for an inadequate ventilation system, doing so may increase the occurrence of illness and absenteeism among your staff. Make sure your landlord provides documentation to certify systems in place are correct and working properly.

As you buildout:

• Look for building materials for flooring, walls and ceiling made to LEED specifications.

• Buy quality built-to-last furnishings made with eco-friendly materials, especially when it comes to high usage furnishings. Remember cheap furnishings just take up more space in landfills and are more expensive to own in the long run.

• Use space planning to best utilize natural lighting.

• Choose paints with no or low VOCs.

• Consider building materials and furnishings made from recycled or rapidly renewable materials or use your design skills to repurpose old materials creating new life for a previously discarded item. Doing so ensures the uniqueness of your salon’s design image.

• Last but not least, begin a record-keeping system to record energy, water and product consumption. You cannot improve upon that which is not measured and measuring will alert you to problems with mechanical or staff performance.”

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