Did you know…
- the beauty industry sends 877 pounds of waste to the landfill every single minute?
- when hair is thrown into a garbage bag and then the landfill, it produces greenhouse gases as it tries to break down, contributing to climate change?
- that the 42,000 pounds of hair color, lightener and toner that is rinsed down the drain every day eventually finds its way back in our drinking water and soil?
- every day, salons throw away 110,000 pounds of used metal, including hair foils? That’s half the weight of a commercial airplane!
- that making a commitment to the environment can help your salon attract and retain top talent and like-minded clients while increasing revenue? A study found 93% of consumers are concerned about the negative impact waste has on the environment, and 80% said they were willing to pay more for sustainable services.
The Salon Waste Stream
While it has historically been challenging for salons to recycle their untraditional waste through traditional municipal channels, Green Circle Salons (GCS) is a movement that works with sustainably minded salons, spas and barbershops to help them recycle and repurpose beauty waste, connects salons with other sustainable products and services and helps salons with messaging to their teams and their guests encouraging all to be a force for good for the planet. The award-winning program empowers salons to recover up to 95% of their beauty waste. That includes previously unrecoverable materials and hard-to-recycle items like hair clippings, foils, excess hair color, aerosol cans and color tubes.
What happens to the beauty waste when it is collected by salons, spas and barbershops and sent to Green Circle Salons is truly fascinating when you dig into it:
- Hair clippings are sorted and sent to one of GCS’s partner’s facilities where they will either be composted with other organic waste; turned into bio-composite plastic to make new products like recycling bins; or used to research and develop new environmental technology like insulation and stormwater filtration; or made into products to be used for humanitarian efforts like soaking up oil spills.
- Hair color is collected and consolidated then sent to facilities where it can be turned into clean energy or separated into water which is treated and returned to the water system and oil which is blended into fuel.
- Metals are collected and aerosol cans are depressurized before they are sent to facilities that sort the metal by grade and type, melt it down into aluminum sheets or bars, and use those to make new products like car parts and bicycles.
Rebecca Oazem, owner of Casa Prana Sustainable Salon located in Wilmington, North Carolina has been part of the Green Circle Salons family for 18 months. “We are a Vegan salon that carries our own line of products—Aware by Parana,” she says. “We are a wasteful industry, and we knew there was a better way. Green Circle Salons aligned with everything we are trying to do.”
“We’ve always been an eco-friendly salon, and when we found Green Circle Salons they really helped us take our movement to the next level,” says Alexa Cikoja, director at Hernan Prada Hair in Bedford Hills, New York. “We literally recycle everything hair clippings, plastic, color, foil, cotton, they even help us recover our PPE.”
PPE—The New Waste Stream
As salons prepared to reopen after the COVID-19 salon closures, they scurried to find personal protective equipment (PPE) that kept both their team members and their clients safe. At the same time, GCS was hard at work developing a recovery initiative that helped salons tackle the added waste surrounding PPE, which is not recyclable and has the potential to contaminate the space.
GCS has developed a system that keeps masks, gloves, capes, towels and face shields separated and safely disposed of, while allowing businesses to showcase their environmental leadership.
“In today’s world, safety is the new luxury,” says Shane Price, founder of Green Circle Salons. “We’re committed to helping keep the people and the planet beautiful and safe through the pandemic, so we created the PPE Recovery Initiative at cost and offered our members their first PPE Recovery Kit for free. Salons can continue to divert up to 95% of their beauty waste, and now 100% of their PPE waste!”
When COVID-19 forced Chatters Hair Salon group, with 115 locations across Canada, to close, they took a very proactive approach with PPE, even working with the provincial government to help set salon industry guidelines.
While Chatters provides disposable masks for all service guests who are required to wear them, the staff uses resuable masks, which are washed daily reducing the amount of PPE going into the box. When the PPE box is full, the salon simply follows the GCS’ directions to package and apply a pre-paid label to ship to the destination where the PPE will be safely disposed of in a program mindfully structured with carbon offsets to be carbon neutral as well.
“Now we can communicate to the market that we are even disposing of our PPE correctly, ensuring that all the efforts we make to recycle are not compromised,” says Barb Sim, Chatters vice president of franchise operations and vendor relations. “The integrity and safety of our materials remains intact, because we separate out PPE appropriately.”
“Green Circle made the PPE Recovery Initiative so simple and easy,” adds Jessica Berswick, owner of Daughter of Oz in Toronto, Canada. “It’s a separate box that we keep at the front of our salon and all the masks, shields, goggles, gloves, disinfectant wipes and paper towels go it, we tape up the box and ship it off, and we don’t have to worry about cross contamination.”
Casa Prana leaves its PPE collection box outside the front door of the salon with a sign that encourages passersby to safely dispose of the PPE they use at home, as well as when they are in the salon.
In addition to offering affordable safe disposal kits, the PPE Recovery Initiative contains education around offsetting financial costs related to PPE, and marketing support to communicate the environmental leadership of businesses that responsibly manage their waste. GCS recently added a Health and Sustainability Calculator tool to help beauty businesses understand the new costs of goods related to health and sustainability, and how an Eco Fee could be implemented to offset these costs and retain pre-COVID profit margins.
“Safety and sustainability do not equal expensive,” stressed Will Simpson, GCS head of corporate accounts. “Our simple tool supports businesses to make health and sustainability a priority while also maintaining the business’ profits
Before COVID-19, both Daughter of Oz and Hernan Prada Hair had implemented a sustainability fee that is added to each client’s service ticket to help offset the costs of the recycling efforts. “In our salon, it’s a flat fee per client of $2.50 that is built into our pricing structure,” Berswick says. “Not only does it offset our recycling costs, we put it back into our business by integrating other sustainable products and service into, like LED lighting and we use Ecoheads nozzles on our shampoo bowls to reduce energy and water usage while keeping pressure strong.”
Casa Prana also has a $2 per client visit sustainability fee, but they allow their guests to opt in. All new guests get a thorough understanding of the salon’s efforts during their introductory tour.
“For our product line, we are making as much of the packaging out of glass or metal as possible and we have a refilling station where guests are encouraged to bring in their empties, reusing the packaging,” Oazem says. We also give them a 10% discount when they bring in their retired hair tools and dryers and recycle them.”
She continues: “On the tour, we talk about our energy-efficient lighting, sustainable floors, water-saving shampoo nozzles and the fact that we built our furniture out of materials damaged in Hurricane Florence. We also show them our GCS recycling area and talk about what we’re doing. By the end of the tour, we’ve never had a guest not want to pay the fee—plus understanding what we do often leads to referrals.”
As the leader of a green community, GCS is constantly bringing education about new salon products and services to its army of waste warriors, including things like Ecoheads professional nozzles, the Ping Color Mixer and the Vish color management technology.
Becoming An Eco Magnet
Not only is sustainable stewardship good for the planet, it’s good for the salon business. A 2020 study Green Circle Salons conducted in partnership with Modern Salon Media surveyed both beauty professionals and consumers, discovering that both were attracted to an environmentally conscious salon, spa or barbershop.
In the study, 93% of salon professionals stated they are concerned about the impact salon/spa/barbershop waste has on the environment, and when asked about choosing a place to work, 90% or professionals think it’s important that the salon be environmentally conscious.
“While we see consumer demand driving more salons and spas to become sustainable, it’s also driven by staff,” Will Simpson recently told Mangla Bansal (or M) on her podcast on The Sustainable Life App. “It’s a challenge right now for salons and spas to find and retain good, loyal help, but people whose values are being represented in the workplace are more likely to stay with a brand long term.”
“I worked in a Green Circle salon before I opened my own,” says Berswick. “All of the staff we have brought in have been amazed by what we are doing with the GCS program, have committed to reducing waste and be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
Consumers are equally willing to support a salon committed to sustainability. The study found that 93% of consumers are concerned about the negative impact waste has on the environment, and 80% said they were willing to pay more for sustainable services.
Being a sustainable business can set a salon apart and make it unique. Existing clients love knowing their beauty waste is being sustainably recovered and recycled, while the salon, spa or barbershop can attract new environmentally minded customers.
When Hernan Prada Hair signed on as a Green Circle Salon they sent a press release to the community media and threw a party for their clients to educate them about the movement. Since then they have created posts of social media to offer tips to clients about living more sustainably, while encouraging clients to bring in their empty product packaging to recycle in the salon.
“Since we started six and a half years ago, we’ve gained many clients through our sustainable efforts,” Cikoja says. “Many new clients come to us because they are looking for something that is good for the environment, and they believe in making an impact.”
Oazem agrees that sustainability is the perfect new client magnet. “When we started marketing ourselves around our sustainability, it absolutely turned the switch on attracting clients from a much younger demographic,” she explains. “We find clients in their 20s and 30s are really seeking sustainable beauty services, and there aren’t that many options for them.”
“Hairstylists touch so many people not only through the beauty services they provide, but also by sharing stories,” Simpson says. “Ideas can be spread very easily, and we’ve repurposed that to help stylists have meaningful conversations about sustainability, and to help clients take those messages into their daily lives.”
To learn more about Green Circle Salons, visit greencirclesalons.com. Sign up today and receive a free PPE Recovery Kit. Follow other Green Circle Salons on Instagram to see what these waste warriors are up to.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.