With concerns about climate change and the rising demand for eco-conscious products and practices, we chatted with salon owners who are doing their part to create a more sustainable salon environment.
Sustainability, it seems, is a perennial buzzword that continues to grow in popularity while spanning multiple industries. Though attaining maximum compliance may seem like an impossible goal, more and more salon owners and stylists are starting to clean up their act—literally!
“Sustainability can sound like an overwhelming undertaking and can even seem unachievable, but I can wholeheartedly say that it has been worth our time,” says Heidi Epp, co-owner of the Refinery House in Chilliwack, B.C. “The evidence of it being a worthwhile pursuit from both a business perspective and an environmental perspective is becoming clearer and clearer. It’s totally doable and for us, totally worth it.”
A Sustainable Start
While the path to becoming a sustainable salon isn’t clear-cut, it’s all about doing your part to care for the environment and the health of your community.
For Desiree Liley-Paterson, owner of The Beauty Parlour, an Edmonton- based salon that is built with primarily recycled materials and carries eco- conscious products, she makes a concerted effort to create and maintain a healthy environment for all. After working in the industry for more than 20 years, she first encountered the word “paraben” when working with a client who had just finished cancer treatment.
“After doing more research on parabens and other chemicals, I was motivated to find a way to live more healthily in my career,” she says, and encourages others to research and check their resources if they’re truly interested in creating a more sustainable career and work environment. “Get in con-tact with suppliers directly to ensure their values align with yours.”
In addition to working with her salon’s suppliers, Nathalie Lecours, owner of Cléo Coiffure in Montreal, works with Green Circle Salons to help ensure that she and her team are doing their part. “Every year we collect over 200 pounds of waste consisting of hair, foil, paper, cotton, gloves and colour waste,” she says. “And now, with the pandemic, Green Circle is also collecting all of our single-use PPE to ensure it gets properly recycled.”
According to Epp and her business partner Aly McRae, sustainability is multifaceted and spans from the products a salon carries, to the way a business runs. Implement-ing smaller practices into your salon’s routine and being more aware when it comes to the origin of products and ingredients is a good place to start.
“Starting this journey requires a small level of practices,” says Epp. “Asking questions and doing research is a cost- free start. Also, begin by looking at ways to recoup costs so you’re not stuck having to do it in real time.” While it’s important to keep money aside, especially when contemplating any business changes, salon owners should also be aware of the time and energy that comes along with implementing sustainable practices and ensuring that they’re up for the challenge before finally taking the leap. “You have to ask yourself if you have the time and energy to sit down with your team members and go over what matters to you and your business so they can be on the same page,” says Epp. “Educating your team and aligning visions is all part of developing a sustainable business.” Another critical step is ensuring that your clients are also on the same page. “We let our clients know ahead of time that we charge an eco-fee as part of our Green Circle program,” says McRae. “This not only helps keep them in the conversation, but it also isolates the type of client we get, and no one is shocked about our sustainability story. Being upfront about it is important for both your business and the client.”
“OUR CLIENTS ARE VERY PROUD THAT TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND HELP THE PLANET BECOME A BETTER PLACE. IT’S WITH THEIR SUPPORT THAT WE CAN DO WHAT WE DO, BECAUSE WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER.” –NATHALIE LECOURS, OWNER OF CLÉO COIFFURE, MONTREAL
Choosing products for your salon can be difficult, no matter what type of salon you operate. How-ever, if you also want them to meet eco-friendly qualifications, it can be even harder. For Heather Wenman, owner of Studio H Artist Group, an environmentally conscious salon in London, Ont., it was important for her to provide more natural alternatives, such as L’Oréal Professionnel’s Source Essentielle haircare line and INOA ammonia-free and fragrance-free colour, due to the rise in sensitivities to perfumes and other scents that some people, particularly aging clients, are experiencing. “We’re still able to create amazing results but without the added toxins or harsh smells,” says Wenman.
Liley-Paterson, who uses Kevin.Murphy products in her salon, also offers ammonia-free colour services to accommodate individuals with allergies, sensitivities and even for expectant mothers. She admits that it took her awhile to find products that met her requirements, considering she was looking for natural and paraben- free alternatives, but it was well worth the wait.
PRO TIP: LILEY-PATERSON SUGGESTS FORMING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DISTRIBUTOR WHO KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT AND HAS A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF PRODUCTS THAT WILL ALIGN WITH YOUR GOALS.
“RESPECTING YOUR CLIENTS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE SUSTAINABILITY PROCESS. I DON’T WANT TO JUST SELL THINGS TO MY CLIENTS TO TAKE THEIR MONEY, I WANT TO SELL THINGS THAT I THINK ADD VALUE TO THEIR LIVES. I THINK THEY REALLY APPRECIATE THAT AND IN TURN, IT HAS HELPED OUR BUSINESS BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEY CAN TRUST US.” –HEIDI EPP, CO-OWNER OF REFINERY HOUSE, CHILLIWACK, B.C.
Some salon owners may be intimidated to start implementing more sustainable initiatives in their salon because they think it will cost them more money. While this isn’t entirely untrue, many say it is completely worth it, even if it costs slightly more.
“There’s not really a way to be super sustainable and simultaneously keep costs down,” says Liley-Paterson. “But small things we’re doing, like using ultra-efficient LED lights in the salon, which cost more in the moment but are more environmentally friendly, are worth it. We haven’t changed a lightbulb in two years. That’s going to help us [and the planet] in the long- term and there’s value in that.”
“It could cost more to be sustainable if you’re not careful, but it doesn’t necessarily have to,” adds Wenman. “You have to compare all your factors and do a cost analysis. Leverage and learn ways to be sustainable without breaking the bank. It takes a lot of practice and sharing of tips and ideas.”
One idea that’s worked well in Wenman’s salon is opting to not use disposable towels. Instead, her compromise to be both eco- friendly and cut costs is to send clients home with their towels after their service so they can reuse them. “We compared the cost of purchasing disposable towels versus washable towels and everything. Towels, which we would need to maintain with bleach, detergent, washing ma-chines, hydro and people to taking them in and out of the wash and folding them, it was a lot cheaper to get the disposable ones,” she says. “But we’re sustainable with them as we order the amount we know we’re going to need and never waste them or throw them out. Clients get to use them forever.”
Decor & More
When it comes to sustainability, some salon owners may not necessarily consider how the decor of their salon fits in. Yet for some, being sustainable stems all the way back to the way they designed their salon and the types of furniture found in it.
For Liley-Paterson, having an eco- conscious salon was non-negotiable when she opened her business, so the process started as soon as she began sourcing furniture. “We used reclaimed recycled goods—old chairs and old sinks that have been refurbished,” she says. “We hired a designer to source wood that’s totally raw. Our eco-consciousness is reflected in the design of our space. What you see is what you get.”
At Studio H Artist Group, sustainability is a common theme that can be found throughout the space. From a Wellis Air purifier, a product refill program and a salon interior decorated with natural wood counters, the team is purposeful about their dedication to eco-consciousness. “We also have a program in place for clients who want to purchase L’Oréal Professionnel’s natural products from us, and we allow them to bring back the bottles to refill them,” says Wenman. “If they refill with us, they pay 20 per cent less the second time.”
She says it’s important to build loyalty and customer relationships, and to encourage the use of natural products whenever possible. She also chooses to work with suppliers that have recycled packaging, since being a paperless business with less waste is important to her.
PRO TIP: WENMAN ALLOWS HER CLIENTS TO BRING BACK EMPTY PRODUCT BOTTLES THAT THEY DON’T WANT REFILLED, WHICH SHE THEN RECYCLES VIA GREEN CIRCLE. IN RETURN, CLIENTS RECEIVE A COUPON OR CREDIT TO USE IN THE SA-LON THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. OFFERING THIS SERVICE NOT ONLY ENSURES THAT CLIENTS WILL PURCHASE SOMETHING ELSE IN THE SALON, BUT IT’S GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. WENMAN ADDS THAT IT HAS INCREASED BUSI-NESS AND HELPED FOSTER CLIENT LOYALTY.