Green & gorgeous: Eco-responsible haircare
Words— Clay Sandhu
You are probably not aware that the hair industry is a significant contributor to global climate change. It's not really something that comes up in conversations surrounding the protection of the planet, and the industries that are causing harm. But, according to a study conducted by Green Circle Salons, a company dedicated to improving the impact that the hair industry has on the planet, salons in North America produce 955 pounds of waste per minute. This waste directly contributes to the overfilling of landfills and the pollution of water sources as countless hair products, and hair is sent to landfills, and chemicals from dyes are washed down the drain.
But before you shave your head and swear off shampoo, there is a way you can have great hair and not only not harm the planet, but actually contribute to the protection and proliferation of eco-conscious practices in the hair industry.
We met with Mike Chako and Ewelina Wnek, the owners of Freyja, a hair salon in Montreal that operates 95% sustainably, while simultaneously being considered one of the best salons in town, bar none. After many years working together in some of Montreal’s best salons, the two joined forces to open up their own shop. After seeing the amount of waste that one salon alone can create, they sought out better, more eco-friendly solutions, some of which you can bring home and use to improve your own routine. Here are three ways to reduce your hair’s impact on the planet and how to make your hair care routine more eco-friendly.
1: Visit a Green Circle Salon
You’re not going to start cutting your hair at home, and let’s face it, when it comes to your hair you want a pro. Freya is one of 1500 members of an amazing North American organization called Green Circle Salons (GCS). Through GCS, Freya is able to repurpose 95% of the salon’s waste, and repurpose it in ways that actually benefit the planet. For example, all the hair that ends up on the floor is kept and sent to GCS where it is cleaned and packaged into booms, which are barriers linked together that float on water and act as sponges to absorb petroleum in oil spills. In the 2010 oil spill that devastated the areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, 22 tonnes of hair were sent to be used in booms which absorb up to 6 times their weight, and can be reused up to three times. After fulfilling this vital function, they are washed and repurposed into insulation that can be used in housing, and mixed into concrete to add flexibility. Because hair doesn’t decompose, GCS is even working on developing a hair based bio-plastic.
And that’s just the hair; the chemicals from dye are separated and combusted to create energy, and the aluminum is recycled and sent back to the salon to be reused in an infinite loop. Just by visiting a Green Circle Salon, all the chopped off bits of hair you never think about might be insulating a home, or helping clean the ocean, instead of sitting in a landfill insulating garbage and helping promote the production of methane gas, the leading cause of climate change.
2: Stop Over Consuming Products
While you’re at the salon, take the time to talk with your stylist. Most people buy too many products and mostly ones that don’t actually have the effect they’re looking for. Trust your stylist and talk to them about what you want from your hair and let them guide you to the right products. The benefits are great. For one: you’ll get rid of all the junk you bought from the drugstore that’s crowding your shelf, and second: you’ll have good hair products and a haircare routine that actually works for you.
At Freya, they’ve partnered with Davines from Parma, Italy. A member of the Italian slow food presidia, and a registered B-Corp company, the mostly plant-based product line is as eco-conscious as it comes. Davines supports local farmers who work biodynamically, meaning they farm organically while also committing to nourishing and maintaining the farmland, leaving it healthier and more fertile in the process. On each container of Davines products, the plant extract is sourced back to the type of plant, the farmer who grew it, and where the farm is situated. For those of you who are hesitant about spending a bit more on salon products versus the products at the pharmacy, Davines products are actually concentrated so a small bottle will last you twice as along, sometimes actually working out to be cheaper in the long run.
3: Buy Better Appliances
The drug store hair dryer you have is junk. Its heating element is cheap, and let’s face it, if you’re using it regularly it will have to be replaced in a few months. I know what you’re saying, it only cost me 40 bucks, who cares if I have to replace it? You do, that’s why you’re reading this. At salons, they’re using hair dryers 8 hours a day 5 days a week, and those hairdryers are tough as hell. You’ve already struck up a conversation about hair products, why not slip in a question about good appliances while you’re chatting. A lot of the professional appliances conduct heat more evenly and efficiently, meaning less time drying and less power to do it. Using a brush on longer hair actually spreads the hair out, so you’re drying more hair at once, again saving you time, and money on your electricity bill. The best part is if you invest in a quality product, you can have it repaired—cheaply. Ewelina’s hair dryer has lasted 15 years, with only a few minor repairs here or there. Probably more than you can say about your $40 Conair.
Like with everything in this guide, choosing the right product is important. When shopping for appliances and tools, make sure to look for brands that are durable, and if available, either support local business, are energy efficient, or eco-friendly. Ideally, look for all three. Mike and Ewelina suggest looking into Ibiza Hair products that are made with natural materials like cork, and ceramic all sourced within Europe (where the products are made).
Changing your hair routine doesn’t mean changing your life, but it can mean changing the planet. The hair industry is enormous, and the more you can do to actively participate in changing the industry’s bad habits, the better off we’ll all be. I know, you’ve developed a relationship with a stylist; someone who really understands your hair, and you’re not going to up and leave and spend, God knows how long, finding a new stylist. Loyalty is important, and building relationships are important too; but make sure to ask questions. Ask if they’re part of Green Circle Salons, and ask if they’re using sustainable products. Because at the end of the day, keeping the conversation alive and talking to stylists and salon owners, you open up the door for the movement to grow so that we can all do a bit more for our planet.