The Hair Industry Takes on Waste

It’s no secret that I have a standing 7 a.m. weekly blowout appointment. Even when I’m on the road, my hair appointments are booked. I have to admit that I’ve never stopped to think about how much energy and waste hair salons consume. That’s why for Earth Day, I wanted to bring you this hugely inspiring story of a hair salon — Graeber & Company — in Boise, Idaho that is amplifying the green movement as the first of its kind in Idaho.

The salon partnered with Green Circle in January 2019, after #Firestarter and stylist Annie Estvold (who also teaches social work at Boise State University!) couldn’t stomach throwing things away anymore. “All the waste was eating me alive, and I knew there had to be a better, more responsible way to do things, from my personal life to where I work.”

She did the math on how many hair color foils the salon went through each month. It was enough to fill the Boise State football field. And the statistics for the beauty industry as a whole were equally shocking. Every minute, the 250,000 hair salons in the U.S. produce 800 pounds of hair. It all goes into landfills – except the hair from salons like Graeber & Company, which is all recycled. (What can you do with human hair? Read on to find out!)  

Mission + Movement

Annie then researched recycling programs for salons and found Green Circle, whose mission is to make the North American salon industry sustainable by 2020. Since 2017, the company has diverted over 955,000 pounds of salon waste from landfills and water streams. Green Circle partner salons ship their waste via UPS to distribution centers for reuse and recycling where it’s turned into all kinds of things. So about that hair…first it was being used to create hair brooms for oil spills-—human hair is excellent at absorbing petrochemicals. Now that plenty of those have been made, Green Circle is turning hair waste into bio-composite recycling bins.

Annie pitched the idea of partnering with Green Circle to Shelby Bills, the salon’s owner, who was immediately hooked. Social consciousness is part of the salon’s DNA. They were already partnering with Aveda, an eco-conscious and socially responsible brand. Graeber & Company’s customers now pay a $3 eco fee for each visit to help cover the costs of shipping recyclable materials to Green Circle and to fund future eco projects at the salon. They have plans to switch to LED lights and low-flow faucets.

Annie thought the biggest hurdle to implementing these changes would be her colleagues. As a stylist, she knew all-too well how jam packed their days already were. What if this added more time onto services and was just too inconvenient? “Everyone embraced the change, though,” says Annie. “It was so inspiring. One of the keys turned out to be listening and making people comfortable raising issues. When a problem surfaced, like a hair collection box being too close to someone’s station, we made changes immediately.”

Leaders Turn Moments into Movements

Annie’s story, and by extension, Graeber & Company’s, offers great lessons in how to set up movements for success. As part of her pitch, Annie emphasized not only the personal impact her colleagues would make but also the extraordinary impact they could have in their community and on the beauty industry. And she shared that statistic about the football field to bring her stats to life. Write that down, ladies and gentlemen. A compelling visual will really drive your point home.  

The salon has done a great job educating customers about the change and why it’s so important. Annie’s colleagues participated in training to learn how they could message this to their clients so they’d feel comfortable answering questions when they came up. And the salon is all over social media promoting what makes their partnership with Green Circle and the social consciousness that makes them so unique.

And Graeber & Company is taking it a giant step further. For Earth Day, they are hosting an event for other salons in the area to educate them on their impact on the environment and take away any fear and anxiety they might have about the potential impact going green could have on their business. The proof is in the pudding as they say: Graeber & Company’s eco-friendly practices and zero waste goal has been a huge selling point for customers.

I can’t wait to follow this movement’s progress in Boise and beyond. Fingers crossed that other nationwide salons like @DryBar or @BloMeDry go green, too!

Key Take Aways for #MovementMakers

#Firestarter, here is your lesson of the day. These five steps will help you build your next movement.

  1. Use powerful visuals to reinforce statistics, especially ones anchored in your community. The BSU football field was perfect for Boise. What would work for your community?
  2. Become a subject-matter expert. Research and internalize that research so you have compelling sound bytes whenever you’re asked your why and what exactly you’re doing.
  3. Evaluate what pain points the change can create and come up with a plan to mitigate them.  
  4. Provide messaging training to the people you’re counting on to help implement the change.
  5. Create a safe space for people to share feedback. If you’re open to ways you can do better, your customers, change agents, etc. will be open to what you’re trying to do.

Let me know if these tips work for you. I’m always cheering you on and want to follow your movement. Please share these tips with others and tag us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

One more thing, “Happy Earth Day!”

Copyright (c) 2019 Williams Strategies, LLC. All rights reserved.