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Local salon uses hair to help cleanup oil spill

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Published on May 5, 2010

While crews work to clean-up the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a hair salon in Grover Beach has found an easy way to help.

It seems too simple to actually work, but experts say this way of cleaning up oil is tried and true. And you can find the proof, right on your own head.

"I was very surprised that we could use it in this way," said Before and After Salon owner Amber Calhoun.

Just snip, sweep, and send it away. Calhoun says it really is that easy to help in the oil spill cleanup effort, and the only cost is the postage to send the box.

"You can tell everybody that you're a spill helper," she said.

A San Francisco non-profit called Matter of Trust collects hair clippings, then creates mats and nylons stuffed with hair to send to oil spills.

The man who invented them says the idea is basic. You shampoo your hair because it collects oil, so why not use hair that would be going in the garbage to sop up oil spills?

And Calhoun says it gets even greener than that.

"Its awesome because after the hair is used to soak up the oil in the oil mats, all of the hair is layered with oyster mushrooms which actually eat the oil and the hair so it's compostable."

Calhoun has been a hair stylist for many years, but never knew hair clippings could actually be re-used.
When her clients heard the news they were happy to help.

"I should have cut my hair shorter and added a little more to the pile," said client Dianne Mattiuz. "I'm an animal lover and it makes me sad, you know, really sad when I see these things. I try not to even look at them but just knowing that this might help a little bit makes me feel good about it."

Calhoun says other salons probably don't even know their trash could be treasure on the Gulf Coast. She says most salons throw away about a pound of hair a day.

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