Beauty with a green ethos

It’s no secret that the hair and beauty industries produce a lot of waste but Amy Church, owner of Tulip Hair in Stourbridge, is on a mission to change that.

The team at Tulip Hair in Stourbridge
The team at Tulip Hair in Stourbridge

Three years ago, during a visit to the remote Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, she was upset by the amount of rubbish being washed up on the beaches from 850 miles away.

“It broke my heart because I knew we threw away a lot of rubbish and it got me thinking about how much we use and waste,” says the 34-year-old.

When Amy returned home she was determined to make some changes and ensure her business was doing its bit to help the environment.

“When I returned I vowed to make a difference – we stopped using single-use plastics, recycled all paper, plastic and card, changed our lighting to LED, and focused on stocking products that were packaged in recycled plastic.

“The only thing we weren’t able to recycle were our foil and tint tubes, as they are contaminated with chemicals, and short hair that we couldn’t donate to the Little Princess Trust,” says senior stylist Amy who opened the salon in 2010.

Owner Amy Church with a vaccum for picking up hair and the recycling box that they put it in for collection

Unfortunately, her efforts to go green suffered a setback with the arrival of Covid-19.

“The use of PPE pushed our waste through the roof. Before Covid we were using reusable gloves and capes but now we have to use disposable ones and everybody is wearing face masks,” she says.

Still determined to stop everything ending up in landfill, Amy decided to join The Green Salon Collective (GSC), an initiative that reduces salon waste through recycling and education programmes.

Around 550 salons across the UK and Ireland have signed up to the scheme during the past 12 months.

Traditionally, most hairdressing rubbish has been sent to landfill and very little can be recycled.

But the GSC, which was founded by environmental experts, hairdressers and eco-campaigners, is committed to turning every item of waste into something useful, from new products to clean energy.

Charlie Mullett with the signs showing there is a £1 green fee, which customers can opt out of

Amy takes all of the salon’s plastic, paper and card home with her to sort and recycle – and the GSC collects the items that would normally have been thrown away as general rubbish such as hair clippings, used foils and empty colour tubes.

“By collecting purely salon-use foil and tint tubes, they are able to process and recycle it, meaning foil that would have been sent to landfill is recycled and can be reused," says Amy.

“It can take 400 years for foil to start to biodegrade in landfill but if we send it to The Green Salon Collective it can be recycled and reused over and over again.

“They will collect all of our hair clippings, to make hair ‘booms’ to absorb oil from oil spills in the sea or in the canals.

“They put the hair inside cotton socks and because hair is hydrophobic, it repels water and absorbs the oil. Hair is also good for composting because it has a high nitrogen content.

“Lastly they incinerate all our PPE to avoid it ending up as litter or landfill. This generates clean energy and electricity,” she explains.

The GSC donates 100 per cent of any money raised from recycling raw materials or new products made from collected waste to charities, which currently include FoodCycle, where volunteers turn surplus food into meals for people at risk of food poverty and isolation.

The scheme is also supporting Haircuts 4 The Homeless, where hairdressers donate their time and skill sets to give rough sleepers a haircut, and Mossy Earth, which restores wild ecosystems, supports wildlife and biodiversity and helps fight climate change.

“For every large cardboard box they collect, The Green Salon Collective will plant a tree for us. We call them when we are ready for them to collect the waste. It’s usually one box a month and it’s all stuff we weren’t able to recycle before,” says Amy.

Before signing up for the scheme, which comes at an extra cost to the business, it was important to the salon owner and her team to find out if they had the full support of their customers.

“Everything we do is led by our customers. Customer service is very important to us," says Amy.

"We surveyed 185 of our clients, and 92 per cent said they would be happy to donate a £1 ‘green fee’ to help. The fee is optional so clients can opt out, if they don’t want to pay it. Overall, the feedback has been amazing and everybody is really happy to pay.

“Customers can also leave their facemasks with us when they leave so those don’t end up in landfill or floating in the sea,” says Amy.

Since joining the scheme, the whole team has noticed the positive impact it’s having at the salon.

“We hardly have any rubbish going in the bin now. It’s a good feeling, knowing that all of the waste is being recycled or reused and isn’t going to end up in landfill.

“I just hope it inspires other salons and businesses to do the same and it catches on,” Amy tells Weekend.

For more information about the GSC see greensaloncollective.com

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