From salon to shore: Your hair could help clean up an oil spill

Vanity Belle Beauty Boutique in Costa Mesa is turning trash into treasure.

The local salon, owned by husband and wife Victoria and Jonathan Nino, accumulates hair trimmings, leftover hair dye, empty aerosol cans and stained foils that would typically be thrown into the garbage, in order to reduce their environmental impact. The couple's vision is to make clients look good while doing good.

"Growing up, my father stressed the importance of recycling," Victoria said, as she stood in front of three white bins marked with each recycled material. "We know no other way, and I knew I wanted that to be a part of my business."

The Ninos partnered with Green Circle Salons, a Toronto-based company that is aiming to make the North American salon industry sustainable by 2020. Green Circle Salons recycles and repurposes human hair into booms that could be used to help clean up oil spills. It also collects dye at certified salons to divert excess hair chemicals from being rinsed down the drain.

It began five years ago in Toronto. Founder Shane Price was sitting in a hair salon and noticed the trash being taken outside. He asked the salon owner how it could avoid waste.

In Toronto, recycling is an education campaign. The city is committed to reducing its dependence on landfill and is moving closer to the goal of 70% waste diversion.

Price took the opportunity to research how to recycle materials used by beauticians. He founded the project with 20 salons and expanded to over 500 partnerships all over Canada.

In April, the company brought its vision to the United States, with its headquarters in Chicago, and has secured 40 salons in eight states. Illinois has the highest amount of U.S. certified Green Circle Salons.

Vanity Belle is one of two hair salons in California in Green Circle. The other is in Sebastopol.

Victoria, a certified makeup artist for over seven years, learned of Green Circle through a friend. Her friend was a customer of Birchbox, an online beauty shop that sends personalized samples with a monthly subscription. One of the samples was a shampoo and conditioner made by Davines, an award-winning line known for its environmentally-friendly products.

Once Victoria had tried the shampoo, she knew she wanted to use the cleanser in her salon.

"I was so amazed by the packaging, and the product was good," she said. "We didn't want to cut corners on the outcome by being environmental."

Davines is one of the product lines with which Green Circle formed a partnership. The Ninos joined the companies' like-minded mission to make their business sustainable.

"It's not a luxury, but the end product of the hair is so wonderful," said Amy Goei, regional sales director of Green Circle Salons. "We'd much rather have a solution that's helpful and, at the very least, not leave a footprint."

Vanity Belle, which opened Oct. 4, is tucked in a suite behind Irvine Ranch Market on the Back Bay in Eastside Costa Mesa. Inside are a variety of beauty services, including massages, makeup and eyelash application, hair cuts and styling, spray-tanning and a blow-dry bar.

Crystal chandeliers dangle over a marble beauty bar. Plush white chairs sit before full-sized mirrors. A bridal suite for bridesmaids, mothers and in-laws boasts a bell to be pressed for Champagne.

"We wanted it to be upscale," Victoria said. "But we wanted to help make people feel beautiful and help the world."

Because Green Circle cannot pick up the recyclables, it sends Vanity Belle shipping boxes and labels to mail the collected waste to the company's warehouse. Once the material reaches the warehouse, it's separated. The hair is sent to Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in British Columbia, where incarcerated women are paid to create hair booms for oil spills. Because hair and fur absorb oil, the donated clippings are stuffed into nylons to let oil and water in and out.

It takes a minute to make one hair boom. And each boom can be used five times. For now, finished booms are housed in the warehouse in British Columbia. Goei said Green Circle currently has about 2,700 hair booms available for use along the western seaboard. In 2010, the company shipped collected hair to Louisiana, where volunteers created hair booms to use as a blockade along the shoreline.

Goei said the company has received interest from almost every state. Because Green Circle doesn't rely heavily on advertising, word-of-mouth has helped its growth.

With 40 American salons participating in its campaign, Green Circle still has opportunity plenty to expand. In 2012, the Professional Beauty Assn. reported that more than 974,000 salons conducted business throughout the country, and the industry's annual sales exceeded $40 billion.

"Getting the word out is the next step," Goei said. "It's very exciting to be working with a salon sharing those goals."

And for the Ninos, that's keeping people and the planet beautiful.

Information: (949) 650-2355 or thevanitybelle.com

If You Go

What: Vanity Belle Beauty Boutique

When: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: 2651 Irvine Ave., Ste. 144, Costa Mesa

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
87°