When Tamara Jercha was getting her MBA, she decided to draft a Strategic Sustainable Business Plan on a salon as a final project in her sustainable business class. She reached out to longtime friend and former colleague Larry Kane, asking if Jonathan Kane Salon and Spa, the salon Kane owns with his wife Kathleen in Flossmoor, Illinois, would serve as her guinea pig. The Kanes agreed, and the sustainability plan examined everything about the salon from the materials it was constructed from to the energy, water and bulbs it used to the waste it produced.
From that experience, Jercha developed a 12-stage model that could help any-sized salon be more sustainable. “Creating and implementing sustainable business practices is no longer the domain of big corporations,” says Jercha, who went on to become a sustainability consultant and the founder of The National Association of Eco-Friendly Salons & Spas. “Salon industry professionals are taking notes from their business partners in manufacturing, paying special attention to energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction.”
About a year ago, Jercha was watching a program about Terracycle, an international recycling company founded by Tom Szaky, which collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and repurposes the material into affordable, innovative products. She again called Larry Kane, asking if he’d be interested in pursuing sustainability further by conducting a waste audit of the salon with the goal of creating a zero waste salon and spa environment, and he quickly agreed. “I have always been a conservationist at heart, and being an Aveda concept salon, the Zero Waste Project fell right into our mission,” Kane says. “We feel strongly that consumers will seek those products and services that follow a principle of environmental awareness.”
Setting up trash collection boxes in the basement of the free-standing salon, Kane and Jercha collected and audited four weeks’ worth of trash to create a benchmark of the typical waste produced by the salon. Once they’d established the benchmark, both Jercha and Kane researched the different municipal waste collection vendors to find out what could be recycled through the current system, and they partnered with TerraCycle on the more challenging items, such as hair and used cotton strips/pads, foil, wax strips.
In addition, the salon installed hand dryers in the bathroom to reduce the use of paper towels, started using dryer bars instead of softener sheets in the dryer, repurposed old towels by donating them to a local pet grooming salon, and collected color boxes to be recycled into business cards. When it came to the study, Kane says his staff went out of their way to participate. “It was amazing to see someone standing over a trash can, contemplating whether something was trash or a recycled item,” he says. “They loved seeing the weekly tally of ‘stuff’ we had saved, and our clients became involved through our weekly posts of our waste audit results.”
But the process wasn’t without its challenges. Kane says Terracycle has yet to come up with a solution for recycling the used wax applicators depressors with wax and hair on them. “Besides Sushi Saturdays, that was the worst part about sorting through the trash,” he says with a laugh. “In the end, there are some things you just have to throw away.
The whole team was surprised to learn how much they were able to reduce their waste to the dumpster, as well by how many things can be recycled. “We cut down the amount of our trash by 75 percent,” says Kane. “I also was able to save money by reducing our frequency of trash pickup, and we are saving points through TerraCycle which can be used to purchase their products or be donated to charities.”
Want more details? CLICK HERE to view and download the study.