Lockdown has not only affected our businesses and the economy, our jobs and our mental health; it has brought changes to the environment as well. Mainly good ones. It’s a fact that pollution is dramatically reduced, the cities’ air is cleaner and fresher, the wildlife is thriving, sea-water in harbours has started looking crystal clear, and the absence of cars and planes has slashed greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. If there is something positive to take from this crisis, it could be the taste of the air we might breathe in a low-carbon future.
On the other hand, there is a rising number of plastic used, since pandemic has forced us using single-use PPE, bags and a huge amount of packaging. What is more, cleaning and disinfecting sprays are our key ”accessory” at the moment, which raises the question ‘how sustainable and eco-friendly is all this chemical and plastic production really?’
And if this could be an issue for a household, you can only imagine how unsustainable it could be for salons and hair professionals after the reopening. Salons will need to order a big amount of single –use masks, gloves, all kind of PPE, cleaning products, sterilizers etc . For businesses that were strong on sustainability and an eco-friendly future, this may look like a nightmare right now. And to be fair, the majority of businesses had started (or should start) moving into that direction, since it’s the only way forward.
It may not be as bad as it looks though. There are still eco and ethical solutions for the post-lockdown days, it just needs a bit of research. Hairdresser Anne Veck and her husband and business partner Keith Mellen had a chat with the hostesses of the Respectfully podcast and they spoke in detail about how they are transforming their successful salon in order to be ready for the reopening while remaining eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable which is a core of their business.
Anne and Keith have installed electronic infra-red taps that release water on the detection of movement; these are very popular in commercial premises for hygiene reasons; no touching needed. So the spreading of germs becomes a much harder task. At the same time, they are better that plain taps as there is a big amount of water saved.
When it comes to sterilising, there are non-chemical and more efficient methods. The use of UV sterilization, or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, has been found to be extremely effective. Sources of UV sterilization can kill over 99% of viruses, bacteria, and fungi in an extremely short amount of time and it is already being used in hospitals. The couple use UV sterilizing wands and units. ”I was very worried about the amount of detergent that we would need to use cleaning after every client; they re not exactly brilliant for the environment. Then I came across these UV sterilizers, they’re very easy to use, way more environmentally friendly and sterilize all tools in 30 mins. I have put them between the stations so that clients can see them and know they are safe” says Anne.
Another important thing is to use recycling materials where and when possible. You can find so many brands and suppliers online that can provide you with recycled paper and recycled cleaning products. Anne and Keith made some suggestions of the ones they use, like Who gives a crap (loo paper and tissues) and Eco Vibe (cleaning products), but there are so many more if you just look online. Switching from cotton towels to biodegradable towels is also another good idea. ”We need to run in a more eco and a more responsible way. I am worried about all this extra equipment we will need but I hope we can get reusable and sustainable solutions so we don’t increase the amount of our waste. There are many brands/suppliers that offer alternatives” they say.
Finally, it’s worth to mention that the couple have made their salon carbon neutral. They have been using green energy by installing a power generator called Blue Gen power that has the same impact as solar panels; it turns your gas into electricity. This has cut the salon’s energy use by half and their carbon footprint by 40%. And they have changed all their lightning to LED that cut another 10%. Every business can check and calculate their carbon footprint through companies like Carbon footprint LTD and make any necessary changes to improve.
”Its’s all the little things – step by step- and then you climb the mountain. It requires a little bit of effort and then it becomes a habit” says Anne. And Keith adds ”Hairdressing should be professional – it should be ethical – it should be sustainable. UK hairdressing needs to change. This situation we are in now is an incredible opportunity as we have the time to think what we’re doing and how we can do it better. Business as usual is not an option. We need to be more aware – take this crisis as a lesson and change our ways. For a better future.”
It’s true. The pandemic could show us how the future might look with less pollution, or it may just indicate the scale of the challenge ahead. At the very least, it should challenge governments and businesses to consider how things can be done differently after the crisis, for our planet’s sake.
Listen the whole podcast with Anne and Keith giving practical sustainable solutions and talking life in lockdown HERE
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