Hair that becomes pollutant-absorbing carpets, aluminium strips that can be reused indefinitely, leftover paint that ends up in the power grid rather than in the sea: the Green Circle Salons principle gives hair salon waste a second life. Mélissa Achouri has also decided in favour of more recycling.
If a hairdresser washes a customer's hair every day for a whole year, he or she uses over 14,000 litres of water and 1,252 kilowatt hours of energy per year. The carbon footprint per customer is therefore 579 kilograms, according to calculations by Eco Hair and Beauty, an initiative for greater climate awareness among hairdressers at Southampton University in the UK. If you extrapolate the consumption to the actual number of salon visitors per year, it quickly becomes clear that the impact of the hairdressing industry on the environment is enormous, not to mention the many waste products that are produced when cutting, colouring and styling hair.
Over one million employees work in around 400,000 hairdressing salons across Europe, according to estimates by the Dutch Green Salon initiative. Considering that around 350 million customers regularly have their hair cut or styled here, this creates a network whose social impact could actually be ground-breaking – could, because in reality, the benefits of this reach are limited and salons work alone, not collaboratively. Nevertheless, "hairdressers are in a unique position to tackle climate change, " says Dr Denise Baden, Professor of Sustainable Business at Southampton Business School at the aforementioned university.
Little room for innovation
The lecturer and head of the Eco Hair and Beauty project analyses how the hairdressing industry's impact on our climate could be positively influenced by easily implementable changes to hairdressers' daily routines that make a big difference. Washing hair only once instead of twice and using lukewarm water instead of warm water saves the planet around 286,000 litres and 24,150 kilowatt hours of energy per year – and the industry's coffers around £5,300 (the equivalent of €6,182). A win-win situation, if there wasn't a catch.
"Early adopters of social innovation tend to have more years of formal education, greater rationality, higher IQs, higher ambitions and higher status occupations than late adopters, " Dr Baden told The Guardian in a 2014 interview. "None of these characteristics are typical of hairdressers. So it's not surprising that our pilot study found no examples of hairdressers leading the way in sustainability innovation."
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