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Hair helps clean up oil spill

Created date

June 22nd, 2010

When a catastrophe occurs like the oil pipe bursting in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 many want to do something but feel helpless. That is not the case at Ann s Choice, the Erickson Living community in Bucks County, where residents are determined to make a difference, one strand of hair at a time.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Generally, when people think of salons, they envision a place where clients go to get pampered and groomed. But thousands of salons around the country, seeing the benefit of each strand of hair, offer much more than services to their immediate clientele. The salons atAnn s Choiceare just that sort. Susan Uccellitti has managed them since the dayAnn s Choiceopened in 2003. At first, there was only one, but the need increased, so the number grew to three, and the offerings expanded from hair care to massages and facials, manicures, and pedicures. Recently, Uccellitti saw a greater need; after the oil spill in the Gulf, she realized that she could put the cut hair to good use. So instead of throwing it all away, she decided to donate the hair clippings from all three salons atAnn s ChoicetoMatter of Trust, a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to research and create sustainable systems. Since 2000,Matter of Trusthas collected hair to create booms and hair mats that have helped clean up the 2,600 oil spills that happen each year.

How does hair help?

Booms and hair mats absorb oil. Booms are constructed by stuffing hair into nylon stockings, and mats are made from hair sewn together into tight mats. Created by Alabama hairstylist Phil McCory, the idea for hair mats was born while he was watching coverage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 and noticed how difficult it was to get the oil out of the otters fur. There had to be a reason for it. The explanation? Hair absorbs oil; that s why we shampoo to get rid of the excess oils emitted from the scalp that collect on our hair.

Resources at our roots

While 60 million pounds of hair are disposed of in landfills each year, it looks like there may be less waste in store for 2010. Since the April 20 incident, Matter of Trust has set up 19 warehouses along the Gulf coast to process the large volume of hair donations, including those fromAnn s Choice. We are very happy to donate to the Gulf crisis instead of just throwing our hair away, says Rita Hahn, who lives and gets her hair cut atAnn s Choice. All three of the community s salons are participating in the effort: The Village Hair Salon, Liberty Commons Spa/Salon, and the Renaissance Gardens Hair Salon. Knowing they will be helping, says Uccellitti, our clients are excited about collecting hair for the cleanup. I think anything that we can do to contribute to this desperate situation is great, saysAnn s Choiceresident Pat Raup, who has let go of some locks for the cause. It s wonderful, adds Peg Fry of theAnn s Choiceeffort. I just wish I had more to contribute! If you want to help To donate stockings (even the holey ones) or hair (pet hair is welcome too), call 415-242-6041 or visit