Helping a hairy situation: salons ship clippings to help soak up gulf oil

Fred panted happily as Kim Beach ran her clippers through his coat, taking off a thick mass of winter fur. Clump by clump, the hair piled up next to him.

Normally the hair would be thrown out to decompose in a landfill, but this time the hair would be bagged, boxed and shipped.

Fred – a black, one-eyed dog – may not have realized it, but his glossy coat will soon be used to soak up oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Fred's daddy recently passed away, but his legacy is that his pup is helping out with the spill in the gulf," Beach said.

Klips by Kim in Buckley and several human-oriented hair salons on the Plateau are doing their part to combat the 2.5 million gallon-a-day oil spill by saving hair trimmings and sending them to a San Francisco-based nonprofit, Matters of Trust.

Hair and fur are naturally designed to soak up oils like those excreted by the scalp. One pound of hair is able to soak up to a quart of oil. Matters of Trust puts this feature to practical use by stuffing hair into panty hose to create "hair mats," logs of hair that resemble stuffed sausages.

The hair mats are then floated out to sea to soak up free-floating petroleum and recovered at a later time.

Leslie Bley, the owner of Hula Moon Salon in Enumclaw, has donated hair to the nonprofit for four years, well before the April oil spill. Her associate Jenny Lindstrom discovered the cause while searching online for a way to recycle aluminum foil. Hair mats are just one of the salon's green business practices, including giving discounts to customers who refill shampoo bottles, serving refreshments in washable glasses and recycling of product packaging.

With the onset of the gulf spill, Bley networked with the owners of six other salons to collect hair for shipment. Those salons are Salon Kathleen, It's All About You, The Hair Gallery, Beautiful Hair, A Day At The Spa and Salon 790.

"There was already someone else collecting from the big chains, but I didn't want us little guys to be left out," Bley said.

Oil company BP and the U.S. Coast Guard task force assigned to the spill have declined the use of hair mats in the official clean up. However, there is still a use for the mats in state and local governments' efforts, meaning the mats could be deployed on coastlines to fend off the spill at its beach-creeping edges.

Matters of Trust notifies its network of donors piecemeal when it has the need or the warehouse space to collect more donations, as well as when it is not accepting hair. Klips by Kim and Hula Moon were separately preparing to send off several pounds of hair and fur to the organization by the most recent June 16 deadline.

The businesses incur the cost of shipping the donations to warehouses, which Beach estimated at $14 per each of her own boxes. The shipping can be written off as charitable donations come tax time.

For her part, Beach gives each dog back to its owner with a certificate of appreciation for its donation to the gulf.

"People are really getting a kick out of it," she said.

Klips by Kim is at 729 Main St. Buckley. Hula Moon is at 1530 Cole St. Enumclaw.

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