As the services available at salons evolve, waste, pollution and exposure to toxins have increasingly become part of the experience. When one considers that the beauty industry creates 420,000 pounds of waste every day in America alone, it’s not difficult to see why we should be aware of the carbon footprint your hair services actually create. One salon is hoping to change that to help clients feel their best without increasing their carbon footprints.

Benjamin Novak Hudgins of Novak Hair Studios in the Dallas-Fort Worth area took a stand against this waste, and now runs a massive, 10,000 square-foot, zero-waste salon that employs more than 70 stylists and provides hair care for over 5,000 clients each month. Novak Hair Studios has successfully taken steps to remedy the many wasteful practices and is setting an example for other salons around the world.

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person getting hair washed at salon

Water 

Reports have estimated that stylists use anywhere between 16 and 75 gallons of water per hour from rinsing out color, washing hair and cleaning supplies. Most of this is flushed directly down the drain. Multiply that by 6 to 12 clients each day per hairdresser, and you can begin to see the issue.

To handle water consumption, the salon installed fixtures designed to cut water usage by 65 percent. All hair color is collected so that it doesn’t head into the sewer system, and even hair trimmings are put to good use. “We even found a way to repurpose human hair for cleaning up oil spills in rivers, lakes and oceans,” Hudgins said.

person applying hair dye to another person's hair

Hair dye

Ammonia and other chemicals included in hair dyes are rinsed into the drainage system. Although treated, commercial filters do not remove all of these chemicals, some of which have been linked to cancer, before they are reintroduced into the supply of potable water. In addition, the chemical offsetting during application puts the stylist and client at risk for inhaling the toxins.

According to Hudgins, all hair color at Novak Hair Studios is diverted from being filtered back into the community’s drinking water, and the salon uses a plant-based hair product line, Eufora.

person's hair wrapped in foil sheets

Waste

At most salons, trash cans overflow with plastic, foil, tubes, gloves and other waste that totals about 150,000,000 pounds of trash annually for the beauty industry. The average hair color treatment requires around 25 feet of aluminum foil. While foil can be recycled, it is only accepted if it is clean and dry, a step rarely taken in salons. In the trash heap, foil can take 200 to 400 years to break down.

The salon boasts an impressive 95 percent rate of waste being diverted from landfills through its dedication to sustainable actions. In addition to sorting out hair clippings and dyes, all foil is cleaned and recycled; paper products, plastics and hair color gloves are also recycled.

“The most effective solution we have found is partnering with Green Circle Salons, who helps manage all of the recycling solutions,” Hudgins said. “When you pair Green Circle’s resources up with creating accessible recycling stations throughout the salon, it makes sustainability a breeze.”

To reduce electricity waste, the entire salon uses motion-sensored LED lights in addition to an abundance of windows that provide natural light.

hair stylist spraying hair spray on client's hair

Air quality

As part of Hudgins’ Clean Air Initiative, the salon revamped its air system and incorporated air-filtering plants into the space, providing consistent fresh air to the dozens of stylists and clients at all times.

“My first fight was to confront cancer-causing and allergy-inducing products that are so commonly used in salons,” Hudgins said. “The final step to that initiative was the architectural design of our space. By leaving each individual studio’s ceiling exposed, we were able to create an open path for chemicals to directly enter the air filtration system and allow clean air flow into every space.”

Building sign that reads "Novak Hair Studios"

A salon changing the industry standard

The biggest piece of the puzzle is awareness. There is a need for change that can only come about when the industry and clients realize the impact hair services have on the planet and make a conscious decision to do something about it. Consumers appreciate a conscientious business, meaning that sustainably minded salons will likely see an increase in business, which is a win for the company and the environment. Plus, it makes you and me feel better about that visit to the salon.

“I quickly learned Fort Worth cares more than I could have ever imagined,” Hudgins said. “In just a year and a half of being open, we see more than 5,000 people a month. Not a single day goes by without our team being thanked for making a difference in our global impact and giving our clients the opportunity to choose a sustainable future in beauty.”

+ Novak Hair Studios

Images via Novak Hair Studios, Social Butterfly MMG, Maria Geller, Arturs Budkevics and Adam Winger