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What actually is a sustainable salon?

Photography By @fortheeveryday
Published 22.04.22

If we could visit the hair salon every week, we would.

While hairstylists recommend booking in every eight weeks to maintain a cut, most people probably only get to their local hairdresser three to five times a year. But a new trend has inspired us to make our salon visits more frequent.

We’re not talking about the latest hairstyle you saw on Instagram, rather a new wave of “sustainable” and “eco” salons taking over the algorithm. These salons are actively reducing their environmental impact and they’ve not only landed on our radar, but also on the radars of the It Girls we usually show our stylists for inspiration (looking at you Sarah Ellen, Phoebe Tonkin and Yan Yan Chan).

@organikahair

WHAT IS A SUSTAINABLE SALON?

Hair salons are intrinsically tricky places to make eco-friendly. They use a lot of resources and create huge quantities of waste, most of which is difficult to correctly dispose of or recycle and so ends up in landfill.

Sustainable salons work to keep the waste out of landfills. One of the ways they do this is by joining salon-specific social enterprises. Australia has two such enterprises: Sustainable Salons and Waste Free Systems. Both offer recycling programs and have services that collect salon waste (for a fee) and make sure it’s disposed of correctly or used or upcycled to benefit the environment or people.

Sustainable Salons co-founder Paul Frasca has signed up over 1,500 locations and so far recycled 38,440L of chemicals and diverted more than 251,000kg of metal (a lot of that being foil) from landfill. Brisbane hairdresser Kristi Lauren told the Guardian that, after signing up to Waste Free Systems, her salon was able to recycle 1.25 tonnes of rubbish (the weight of a Volkswagen Golf) in just a year.

Sustainable salons also work on preventative measures and low-impact solutions. Many have installed “eco heads” on all of their basins (which can help save 60 per cent of water compared to a normal wash), use organic and biodynamic products to reduce toxic chemicals (hair dyes alone have more than 5,000 chemical components, some of which are carcinogenic) and fit their salons with LED lighting to save power. Some are even installing their own solar panels or switching their electricity to renewable sources.

If environmental impact isn’t enough to excite you, many sustainable salons go the extra mile to make your experience too good not to return. Think organic treats, crystal combs, natural prosecco and collagen shots added to your sparkling water. 

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE WASTE?
 

You might be wondering where the waste that is collected by enterprises like Sustainable Salons goes next. Some of the recycling is straightforward: paper, cardboard, metal and glass are sorted and sent to Australian recyclers. Chemicals such as bleach and hair colouring are collected, stored in bulk tanks and then neutralised and turned into recycled water. Through a partnership with Dresden Vision, the enterprise also turns a portion of plastic shampoo bottles into spectacle frames. They’ve even been able to use hair clippings to clean up oil spills – which is a pretty ingenious way to use waste to combat other forms of waste. 

@fortheeveryday

HOW AUSTRALIA’S BEST ECO SALONS ARE CREATING A SLEEK ALTERNATIVE
 

ORGANIKA HAIR – CARLTON/ELWOOD, MELBOURNE

Not only is this salon endorsed by well-loved author, podcaster and comedian Sarah Davidson, but also by RIISE’s deputy CEO Elizabeth Roberts. “Not only did Organika provide the best blowout I’ve very had, the team there were so friendly and welcoming. The whole experience was so considered and thoughtful,” she says.  

Organika is a leader in the latest trends on style and colour, and it uses only natural, organic and biodynamic products. As a Sustainable Salons member, it also donates ponytails to people with cancer and those experiencing alopecia, recycles all metals with proceeds donated to community-based organisations and makes sure any tools that reach end of life are broken down and repurposed. But the best part about the Organika experience is choosing a crystal comb to use throughout your treatment and then lying back for a beautiful chakra balance. 

SESSIONS HAIRDRESSING – MCMAHONS POINT, NORTH SYDNEY

Sessions is the first B Corp–certified salon in Australasia. It’s also carbon negative and plants a tree for every customer (and has done so since January 2020). Since 2015, it has been able to save 29 wheelie bins of waste from being dumped into landfill and created 69 hair booms for oil spills. While its eco-credentials are impressive, it also received five stars from Gritty Pretty for its light-filled interiors and beautiful results.
 

PALOMA – PADDINGTON, SYDNEY

This is one of the sustainable salons converting Sydney’s style-focused crowd one cut and colour at a time. And it’s no wonder when you’re greeted with a welcome massage with essential oils and a Beauty Chef probiotic elixir (a blend of fermented, nutrient-dense ingredients) served in a Maison Balzac T carafe.

Since relaunching under a new name in 2018, founder Paloma Rose Garcia has invested in making sure her salon is 98 per cent recyclable through Sustainable Salons. She’s deeply passionate about climate change and its impacts and often holds in-salon workshops with environmentalists on how we can avoid devastating tipping points.
 

EVERYDAY SALON – BRUNSWICK, MELBOURNE

As the name suggests, Everyday Salon’s approach to colour and cutting is natural and minimal, embracing low-maintenance styles that link back to its ethos of creating hair for the “everyday”. First and foremost, the salon is a colour specialist, renowned for balayage and blonde colouring. But it’s also known for being the first low-carbon salon in Brunswick, recycling 95 per cent of its waste and supporting charities that benefit the community. It also doesn’t hurt that Everyday is a pet-friendly salon, which means you can bring your dog along to your appointment.  

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