We think it’s safe to say that no one enjoys a hair-clogged drain. You’re just taking an innocent little shower, then suddenly all of your shed hair matts up, and now water is pooling around your feet. Bummer, right? Or what about this: you finish up with an appointment, then instinctively start sweeping up the hair on the floor. You take the hair to the trash, and a waste management worker picks up the trash, and the hair gradually makes its way to a dump or a body of water with pounds and pounds of hair from other salons, and...well...clogs the proverbial drain. Or worse.

The thing is, this stuff doesn’t have to happen. Clogged drains and hair pollution are the products of waste mismanagement—namely, not really doing anything about hair waste at all. So here are some tips for becoming a more eco-friendly salon (and person!) by turning that cut, shed, or used hair into something useful, like:

Test Strands. This is something you’re likely to use often to test the effects of a color job or chemical treatment on a client’s hair. And, the best part is, you can label the hair with the name of the corresponding client, so you can test how a process will react specifically to their own hair. All you have to do is compile the hair into little strips and bind them together, either by sewing, tying, or clamping. We recommend making several for each client to use over a period of time, and some extra for new customers, too.

Compost. It should come as no surprise, but hair is actually biodegradable (when utilized in small quantities) and chock-full of useful elements like carbon and nitrogen. So why not use it for composting, or donate it to companies like Smart Grow that will use it to create gardening mats that fertilize soil and deter weeds from within the ground? Fun fact, Smart Grow was started by a former hair stylist.

Oil Spill Cleaners. Also no surprise, but hair absorbs oil, which means it’s a useful addition to any oil spill cleanup procedure. Take it from the guy who started Smart Grow, and also patented the OttiMat for this exact purpose.

Pillow Stuffing. Pillows, stuffed animals, you name it—if it needs stuffing, hair can play a part. This is also a great application for cut or shed animal fur!

Nest Fodder. If you can’t find a use for the remaining hair in your salon (or bathroom), then give it to some critters who can. Birds are always on the hunt for materials they can use to build their nests, and hair is a great candidate. Leave little bundles of hair sitting outside, preferably by a bird house, bird bath, or bird feeder (wherever birds are likely to find them), and maybe even with other nest-worthy materials, like dried tea-bags or straw.

If there’s anything you take away from this post, it should be this: throwing away hair is bad for the environment. Burning hair is even worse. Do the world—and your salon—a favor by reusing the hair, instead! Once you get used to it, it’ll make for some handy work-place habits.

Let us know what you think in the comments below! And, for further reading, check out:

Salon Waste Management - for what to do with foil and plastic in your salon.
Human Hair “Waste” and Its Utilization: Gaps and Possibilities - for an in-depth look at human hair waste.