From hair clippings and colour to foils, paper and plastics, the salon industry produces a significant amount of waste on a daily basis. So it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of salon owners are looking for ways to reduce or offset their waste by partnering with organizations such as Green Circle Salons to help reduce their carbon footprint.
“Sustainability is incredibly important in our industry because we’re all about creating beauty, and the reality is that if we could see the end result of our beauty services, there’s a really ugly truth behind them,” says Will Simpson, head of corporate accounts at Green Circle Salons. “Many people are shocked to learn that the North American salon industry generates 877 pounds of waste every single minute. If we’re in the industry of making people feel good and look their best, we also have to acknowledge the role that the environment plays in everything that we use.”
Looking to lighten your environmental load? While figuring out where (and when) to begin your sustainability journey may feel overwhelming, organizations such as Green Circle Salons can help make the transition easier by guiding you through the process.
“At first, everything can seem like a massive overhaul, but the reality is that there are groups out there, like us, that are able to support you in making really meaningful changes,” says Simpson.
“I think the journey begins with understanding your waste footprint. From there, salons start to refine other aspects of their business that can help reduce their waste output in areas such as support products and colour lines, as well as their energy and water usage.”
“Waste historically creates massive challenges in landfills,” he adds. “Our mission is to reclaim the value of waste because when you flip the narrative and use waste as a building block instead of an end-of-life challenge, there’s an incredible amount of opportunity.”
On top of reducing your salon’s waste output and energy consumption, there are many other things you can do to start (or continue) your sustainability journey. “Salon owners can talk to their distributor or manufacturer partners to find out more about the products and initiatives they have that are sustainable and environmentally friendly,” says Simpson.
LOOK AT WHAT IDENTIFIERS, THIRD- PARTY ACCREDITATIONS AND/OR CERTIFICATIONS YOUR DISTRIBUTORS OR MANUFACTURERS HAVE WHEN IT COMES TO SUSTAINABILITY. LOOK FOR MARKERS SUCH AS CLEAN, NON-TOXIC, SUSTAINABLE, CRUELTY- FREE, AND VEGAN.
In 2021, Green Circle Salons has made additional contributions to sustainability for the salon industry, and joined more than 40 beauty businesses to form the B Corp Beauty Coalition, a certification that enables businesses to come together and improve the sustainability standards of the beauty industry. Last year, Green Circle Salons prevented 2.2 million plastic bottles from entering the world’s oceans and kept more than 1.2 million pounds of beauty waste out of landfills and waterways. In addition, they prevented more than 48,000 pounds of PPE waste from entering landfills, and introduced their Carbon Neutral Benefit, which offsets the carbon emissions created by their member salons—at no added cost.
The organization has also created a new initiative in which they manufactured recycling bins made from recycled beauty waste (including hair!).
This year, the organization’s goals remain focused on zero waste to landfills, waste recovery, recycling and reusing, and emission reduction, as well as increasing education about sustainability in the industry.
Hair clippings = 63,180 lbs
Residual hair dye waste = 42,122 lbs
Foil and colour tubes = 109,512 lbs
Papers and plastics = 206,392 lbs
Total waste = 421,206 lbs
Generated by North American salons daily Courtesy of Green Circle Salon
Since opening her salon in 2019, owner and advanced master stylist Nadine Seims knew she wanted to channel her personal values on sustainability into her salon space.
In addition to working with Green Circle Salons to recycle the salon’s waste, Seims and her team have implemented their own eco-friendly practices to further protect the environment. Among them: Investing in reusable water bottles for her team. “We also use glass coffee mugs instead of single use, a coffee machine instead of a Keurig, and we’ve chosen to incorporate metal straws, plates and cutlery instead of paper and plastic versions,” she says. “In addition, all of our orders are shipped using recycled packing materials.”
“All of our cleaning products are bought in bulk so we can refill bottles and limit our plastic waste,” adds Siems. “When we can, we use cloth materials to clean so we can wash and reuse them. We also limit the use of air conditioning in the summer by opening windows and doors, and have a lot of recycling bins around the salon to make recycling easier for everyone.”
For salon owners who are looking to implement more sustainable solutions in their space, Seims encourages them to commit to the small changes. “Start with something you’ve been meaning to do for a while and just keep moving forward,” she says. “Ask your team if they have any ideas or if there’s something that they’re passionate about that would help with sustainability. Be sure to sort your recycling from your trash and look into local program options.”
“Sometimes it feels like an impossible task,” she adds. “However, as long as we stay focused and mindful of improving sustainability, we can keep working towards little everyday changes that can make a big difference.”
To help keep air clean in the salon, Salon Society is full of plants, which are nourished with the used coffee grounds from guests’ coffees!
After working together in a previous salon, Mike Chacko and Ewelina Wnęk discovered that they shared similar personal and professional values, and particularly when it comes to sustainability. The duo eventually teamed up and became business partners, launching Salon Freyja in 2018.
“When thinking about cost- effectiveness and efficiency, I could see how people would waste things in the salon and disregard the cost of things while not being receptive to change, which is a huge part of sustainability,” says Chacko. “It’s about always being able to adapt, be agile and remain open to new processes.”
When building their salon, Chacko and Wnęk sourced their furniture and décor locally to reduce their carbon footprint, working with Quebec steel, aluminum and ash wood. Their salon also features custom-made LED lighting, along with chairs that are made in the Plateau.
“More than 95 per cent of the stuff we have was procured within a five-kilometre radius of us, and we made the choice to work with a bunch of local artisans to create our space,” says Chacko. “We definitely noticed our start-up costs were higher than expected but it was non-negotiable for us; we had to work this way to get the best materials and to source as transparently as we could. We’re proud of our commitment to the environment and it’s a huge part of our story.”
“We decided to invest in good quality, long-lasting materials to prevent having to dispose of things like tools and to avoid having to buy new ones regularly,” adds Wnęk. “We also invested in proper plumbing that regulates the water pressure to reduce our water consumption. Using Ecoheads with this type of system ensures that you’re using a fraction of the water you would normally use.”
“LISTEN TO YOUR CLIENTS. IF YOU DON’T TAKE SUSTAINABILITY INTO PERSPECTIVE AND PRIORITIZE UNDERSTANDING IT, THAT’S A HUGE MISTAKE. WE EDUCATE OUR CLIENTS ABOUT WHAT WE DO. IT CAN SPARK SOMETHING IN THEM, TOO.”
— MIKE CHACKO, CO-OWNER, SALON FREYJA
What advice would they offer to salon owners looking to initiate or bolster their eco-friendly practices? To start, they say it’s important to understand and accept that the path to sustainability isn’t always linear.
“It’s not a simple change,” says Wnęk. “It took a lot of dedication and discipline; even a cut in profits because it’s a big financial investment, as well. Year after year it does cost more to be a sustainable salon, but we know it’s going to pay off in the long-term.”
“A lot of people think you have to go all in or not at all, and that’s a big mistake,” she adds. “You can’t just jump in and do everything. It can be discouraging and scary since there’s a lot to think about.”
IF YOU’RE UNSURE OF WHERE TO START, CONSIDER CONTACTING A LOCAL SALON THAT’S PART OF GREEN CIRCLE SALONS TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW THEY STARTED THEIR SUSTAINABILITY JOURNEY AND HOW YOU CAN, TOO.
“People often don’t know where to start,” says Chacko, adding that their salon started working with Green Circle Salons early on, which helped tremendously in their sustainability journey. “Partnering with Green Circle Salon was huge for us because they’ve created a whole system that allows salons to recycle 95 per cent of their waste. I almost think it should be mandatory for salons to work with Green Circle.”
In fact, the duo is so passionate about their participation with Green Circle Salons that Salon Freyja was part of the pilot Carbon Neutral Certificate program in 2021 and is now the first carbon neutral-certified salon in Montreal. This means they calculate their hydroelectric and other energy outputs and offset those emissions with clean water programs from ClimatePartner, a climate action organization. In addition, Chacko and Wnęk are working toward their goal of becoming B Corp certified.
Citrus Hair Salon
From products to services, salon owner Antonella Biefeni-Olevano has always been mindful about implementing sustainable practices in all areas of her salon. So much so that she even based her design choices on their environmental impact.
“I wanted to take things one step further, so I started to think about the furniture in our salon as well as the design process. I was trying to find as many ways as possible to reduce our waste and keep the air clean,” she says. She made the decision to utilize second-hand furniture throughout the salon with the only exceptions being the styling chairs, and was able to find each piece locally by networking with other hairstylists and salon owners. “We looked on Facebook groups for hairstylists in our area, and many times people would post about salon furniture they were selling because they were renovating or closing down,” she says. “All of the stuff we get rid of goes into the landfill unless somebody else takes it on. It’s just really wasteful to keep purchasing brand new furniture,so everything that we can get second- hand, we do. I always recommend trying out the items first to make sure they work properly before you buy them, but other than that the risk factors are very low. You can save a lot of money and help other stylists by taking things off their hands.”
WHETHER YOU’RE SELLING OR IN SEARCH OF SECOND-HAND FURNITURE OR TOOLS, CONSIDER POSTING ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA OR IN FACEBOOK COMMUNITY GROUPS TO EXPAND YOUR REACH.
Since Biefeni-Olevano moved to a new salon location in 2021, she was trying to find ways to implement sustainability into the design. “We used a low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint for our walls and kept the concrete floors as they were to reduce any toxins created by the glue used to install flooring,” she says. “We also have a lot of wood elements that were created with reclaimed wood, and we installed energy-efficient lighting to reduce our energy consumption.”
“BECAUSE WE USE AND CARRY SO MANY PRODUCTS IN THE SALON INDUSTRY, WE’RE LARGE CONTRIBUTORS TO THE PROBLEM. THAT MEANS WE ALSO HAVE TO BE A LARGE PART OF THE SOLUTION.”
— ANTONELLA BIEFENI-OLEVANO, OWNER, CITRUS HAIR SALON, VANCOUVER
“I always try to carry brands that have some sort of sustainability factor, and always keep clean and natural ingredients in mind, as well as recyclable packaging,” she adds. “When trying to be more sustainable, you need to consider every element. We’re always thinking about the air and how to make it as clean as possible because, historically, hairstylists have always been breathing in chemicals. In addition to the paint and design process, we use non-toxic and natural cleaning products.”
Toronto and London, Ont.
Since opening his first location in 2009, Tyler Moore has strived to prioritize the environment. Before joining Green Circle Salons, he began his sustainability journey by working with Matter of Trust, an “eco-enthusiasts” organization for renewable resources that would collect hair clippings for oil boons.
“We knew sustainability was going to be important before everybody thought it was, and thankfully now a lot more people are on the same page,” he says. “I think it should be important to every industry. It’s quite clear that we can see the direction of where everything is heading, especially with climate change, so it’s important for everybody to be accountable for their actions.”
For Moore, making the decision to join Green Circle Salons early on has helped engrain the importance of the sustainability into his salon’s culture. “It’s a great partnership,” he says.
“We recycle plastics, metals, hair clippings, chemicals and PPE. It’s not difficult; it’s just having people remember where everything goes. There are different bins with a lot of separation of waste, so everybody has to remember to dispose of it correctly.”
As for all salons that work with Green Circle, there is a monthly fee based on the size of salon, number of guests and other factors, which many salon owners have added to their customers’ services and receipts as a way to offset the costs. While Moore says there were only a handful of clients that questioned the additional charge, he’s decided the incorporate the fees directly into the cost of the service.
“People shouldn’t get to opt out of it to be part of the community,” he says, adding that while the fee can fluctuate based on the traffic in the salon, it’s well worth it. “It’s not that much and I’ve never been shocked by a monthly bill I receive from Green Circle,” he says. “You can send them pretty much everything; foils, aerosol cans, old tools, etc. The more you recycle, the more you really save.”
“Chemicals going down the drain is a big one. It’s clear that it’s bad for the environment, so it’s fantastic to prevent that,” he adds. “As a salon owner, it can really affect your bottom line, so it helps you monitor how much waste you have so you can work with your team to make sure they’re measuring and using the proper amounts to save money and product.”
Moore, who has four salon locations, says all of them have the same code and culture when it comes to the environment. “Working in a hair salon that helps people look and feel beautiful, there are chemicals and waste to that, so it’s just doing your part. Everyone should pull their weight.”
In addition to the bins they’ve implemented with Green Circle, Moore recycles paper and plastic as much as possible, and uses eco-friendly paper towels and cleaning products. He’s also installed Ecoheads at all of their sinks and energy-efficient lighting throughout the salon.
As for what’s next, Moore says he would love to bring in solar panels and more greenery, such as a green roof. “Technology is always changing, so I always keep my eyes out for things that can help our industry.”