The beauty and hair industry is going green…
Consumer demand for green products and services is growing, as well as, the expectation that businesses make a conserted effort to be more sustainable. I want my niece and nephew to live on a clean planet, so any company that is making strides to make the planet beautiful, deserves as much attention as possible.
Here is our chat with Shane Price, President & CEO and Will Simpson, Sales and Marketing of Green Circle Salons.
Tell us how Green Circle Salons (GCS) got started.
Green Circle Salons started in 2009; it was born out of a desire to see the Canadian haircare industry become more responsible, in an age where most businesses seem to be striving to lessen their environmental impact. We didn’t see a long-term waste management solution inside the salon industry. For those who work in salons or are in touch with the industry, it’s not surprising to hear that it can be extremely wasteful and (until recently with the development of lower impact products) there has been a lack of environmental consciousness.
What is the mission and philosophy of GCS?
Green Circle Salons is on a mission to make the Canadian salon industry sustainable by 2020.
We believe that small steps, taken over time by large groups of people, can have a phenomenal impact. What this means is that if everyone puts in that very little bit of effort, we can accomplish terrific things. This is the power of numbers. Right now, most salons have little knowledge about how their waste is processed, and even less opportunities to change this ugly truth. We provide a solution where everyone is involved and everyone wins!
While our core is recycling and repurposing as much waste as we can from salons, we also highlight important environmental and social causes through different outlets. One of these is our annual Earth Month initiative, in which salons across Canada are given an opportunity to empower their employees and salon guests for a good cause. This year we collected the newly retired Canadian penny in order to plant trees. Over 500 trees will be planted in Canada next spring as a result of everyone’s efforts!
You are based out of Toronto but the GSC program is spreading across Canada. How many provinces and cities are you currently in?
We’re currently operating in Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, the “Golden Horseshoe” area, London, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, and surrounding areas.
I really like your Online Member Directory – I think it benefits members and their clients. Tell us about some of the features of the directory.
The GCS Green Salon Directory is designed for salon guests who are looking to strike a greener balance in their lives by choosing sustainable salons for their beauty needs. It allows them to easily access important information about the greenest salons in their area. The Directory offers salon guests quick access to important information such as hours of operation, types of services offered, and the products carried at all of our salons. It then takes things a step further by giving access to the Members’ facebook and twitter pages, google maps, and there’s even a promotional offer, which is designed so that participating Members can reward guests (discounted or free services, retail offers, and more) for choosing local and sustainable beauty options. Every GCS Member Salon has committed to reducing the impact of their business through our recycling and repurposing program!
What are some of the benefits of becoming a GCS member?
GCS Member salons benefit in a number of important ways;
1) Going green; Green Circle Member salons divert up to 95% of the waste created through their business (hair, metal, paper, plastic, liquid chemicals, and more).
2) We know that it’s all about the bottom line. A funding mechanism is established so that the salons aren’t actually paying to be green, like they would with a traditional recycling service. Beyond this, they may actually be saving money that would otherwise be spent on their waste output. In many areas, businesses pay a per-bag fee in order to use municipal garbage services; in other cases, the cost for dumpster removal can become much more manageable as the need for frequent pickups decreases.
3) A green piggy bank: salons are encouraged to use the money they save on our program, by investing in sustainable products and services. These can be short or long term, ranging from everyday needs such as coffee and cleaning products, to LED lighting, air purifiers and other energy-efficient opportunities. The bigger the salon’s commitment to “go green”, the more money is saved over time! Green Circle Salons has a network of best-in-class product and service providers who offer a discount to GCS Members.
4) Good marketing and promotion is key for salons. Green Circle Members are promoted for their commitment to sustainability – inside the salon, in local media, through social media, and through the GCS Member Directory.
Your program benefits salon professionals but it goes beyond that. Clients can leave the salon looking and feeling beautiful and know that they are supporting a salon that is helping keep the planet beautiful too. Can you share with our readers some highlights of the recycling and repurposing program – for example what GCS does with discarded hair and your collaboration with the University of Guelph?
In August, GCS will be launching a pilot project with BC Corrections to create oil booms inside the prison system. The goal is to create meaningful work and pay for non-violent female offenders, so that in the event of a large scale west coast spill, booms will already be on hand and ready for deployment. The real payoff here is that these women can be trained in HAZMAT oil spill remediation as well, so that they can be the first responders on the scene. It’s a way to safeguard our environment while also empowering women. It’s a true win win!
In 2010 GCS sent the entire contents of our warehouse (approximately 1000 lbs) of hair clippings to the Gulf of Mexico following the BP disaster, to be made into booms for oil absorption and spill remediation. Volunteers onsite coordinated a massive cleanup effort using predominantly hair clippings and used stockings.
At this time there was a lot of skepticism about what citizens could do. We were horrified to sit and watch it on the news day after day. GCS Members (who were among the very first here in the GTA) were able to tell their clients that hair from their salon was being used as a natural part of the cleanup process, empowering everyone in that chain of connectivity.
For the last 3 years, GCS has gotten involved with kids camps and the “Milkbags Unlimited” group to repurpose hair into pillows for victims of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. When we heard about the fantastic work this group was doing by keeping milkbags out of landfill and making them into useful bedding – for people who have absolutely nothing – we were amazed. We thought “why not give them a nice, soft pillow to go with that emergency bedding mat?” So we set to work sterilizing hair and putting it into these same donated milkbags as a natural pillow stuffing. We used donated fabric to create the feel of a real pillow case. This has been an incredibly meaningful initiative for our team to get involved with.
GCS is working with the University of Guelph to determine alternate uses for hair. Believe it or not, people have built furniture, sunglasses, and even home additions using hair as a filler! It is a natural, local, and stronger alternative to fibre glass, which is in so many everyday items and has been known to cause so many health problems. Other opportunities for hair include use as a growth enhancement tool for agriculture, an animal repellant, and the University of North Carolina is even looking to see if the keratin in hair can replace damaged nerve cells. The sky’s the limit with this stuff!
In 2011, GCS was one of the Recognition Recipients for the Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence, under the Ontario Ministry of Environment. That is incredible, considering that GCS was founded in 2009. Tell us about that experience and the impact it had on the GCS mission.
The Minister of the Environment’s 2011 Environmental Excellence award was based on very interesting criteria: toxics reduction, and water protection/conservation. This recognition was important for two reasons.
Firstly, it allowed us to step back and affirm that this program was having the intended effect. It was an indication that people, at every level, were benefitting from what our Member salons are doing. The local municipalities benefit from the awareness that’s being raised about our limited resources and improper dumping of chemicals; the people who enter salons every day benefit by taking these meaningful steps to reduce their waste, and in turn become better at living waste-free in their own homes, at work, and abroad. The salons also benefit through the important resources (like dyes and liquid chemicals) that are being more carefully measured and rationed.
Secondly, this recognition was a reminder that we should continue to forge new pathways for the haircare industry. Every year we begin collecting more and more items in each province, and it is important that we find and offer solutions for every possible waste item that exists in salons. This is what we love to do, and this is what the industry needs.