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Britain’s hairdressing sector has potential to drive sustainability in communities

By 3p Contributor
By Sangeeta Waldron — Hairdressing is a sector that talks to more people than any other occupation. With over 40,000 hairdressings, barbering and beauty salons in the UK generating over £70 billion every year, it is a lucrative and influential industry. It is in a unique position to influence sustainable practices in hair care habits. Salons are at the heart of their communities, and the practices they use and the messages they give to their clients about ‘greener’ behaviour have the potential to drive real change – encouraging better, more sustainable choices by both clients and salons.
Over the last two since its launch, Ecohair has gained huge popularity within the hairdressing industry for being a pioneering hairdressing ‘eco’ initiative. It follows on from the Green Salon Makeover project and is led by a team from Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, and is funded by the Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC). Hair and Beauty Industry Authority, the government approved standards setting body for the hairdressing industry, is a project partner alongside the Vocational Training Charitable Trust. There’s also input from Hair Council, National Hairdressing Federation, City and Guilds and My Hairdressers.Com including the All Party Political Group on Hairdressing. 
Ecohair’s mission is to help foster better, more sustainable practices across the hairdressing sector, with a focus on how hairdressers can use their position to advise their clients on less resource-intensive practices. Helping drive Ecohair forward, a new sustainable salon certification has been launched at the University of Southampton. This special ‘certification’ allows stylists and trainees to complete a virtual salon training programme to learn about more sustainable haircare practices.
The certification course is designed like a game, taking 20-60 minutes to complete. Once a salon’s staff are ‘accredited sustainable stylists’, salons can apply for a sustainable salon certificate, showing what sustainable practices they have adopted. This free award has the potential to change the culture of a highly resource intensive industry towards more sustainable practices that are also better for healthier hair. For example, a small four seater salon that adopts the suggestions could save over £5000 year by saving 24150 kWh of energy and 143 thousand litres of water!
Hairdressers have always played a role in giving health information to the public in developing countries. The UN Population Fund, in collaboration with UNAIDS Secretariat, has identified barbershops and beauty salons in Guyana as places to impart information about HIV prevention. In the UK, this industry has a role to play to help people become more ‘eco-aware’.
There has never been a better time to start a hairdressing business, according to the annual Beautiful Britain report. 98% of all salons and mobile hairdressers surveyed said they are planning to hire new staff over the next 12 months, adding 13,951 jobs to the UK economy. That adds up to more, potential ‘eco champions’ to create change.
Photo Credit: Ecohair

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