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04.16.08

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Hair Goo

North Bay salons band together for innovative oil-cleanup program

By Gianna De Persiis Vona


In his letters to me, my father wrote extensively on the superiority of Italian sensibilities in particular and the Italian race in general. If one wanted proof of his theory, one needed look no further than the average American's complete ignorance in the matter of good food. To my father, bad food was more than just an insult to the body and palate; it was a crime against humanity.

For this reason, when I arrive at Fiorini Italian bakery and cafe in order to learn about a hair-recycling program in Sonoma, I am preoccupied with the pastries, the ambiance and my own nostalgia. Rather than interviewing attendees and asking pointed and important questions, I soon find myself buying sweets and doctoring up an espresso, despite the fact that it's almost 5pm and now I will be up all night.

The event, organized by stylist Ally Ox of Bianchi Salon, located just behind Fiorini, is replete with Champagne, delicate pastries and a small panel of speakers. Ox brings stylists together to learn about Matter of Trust's hair-recycling program, and how, with a little organization, North Bay hair salons can do their part to soak up oil spills across the nation.

Matter of Trust has collaborated with thousands of salons throughout the United States and abroad to gather donations of hair clippings, which are then made into mats that soak up oil spills. Salons pay for postage to send their swept-up hair to a recycling depot in California. Bianchi Salon acts as a catalyst, organizing and providing information to other salons in hopes that Sonoma will soon have a drop-off center, so that local stylists can bring in their hair clippings and work together to make the process efficient and sustainable.

While waiting for the discussion to begin, I chat with attendee Leslie Sheridan. Sheridan runs a consulting and marketing company, and is attending this event not because she has hair to spare, but because she knows Ox from Green Drinks, a social-networking group for business people who believe in people, plus profit, plus planet.

After discovering that many of our local Chambers of Commerce refuse to take stands on causes Sheridan holds dear—such as a living wage, the GE-Free Sonoma County effort and affordable housing—she began to look elsewhere for like-minded business associates. She found them at GreenDrinks.org, and she's here to learn something new and support her fellow Green Drinks member.

Once the talk begins, I learn all sorts of things. The Sonoma County Business Environmental Alliance is on-hand to discuss resources for greening your business. What appears to be a cut-off dreadlock that got run over repeatedly by a semi-truck is actually a hair mat made from salon clippings. This hair mat can help deal with the millions of gallons of oil that somehow end up in our oceans. Each hair mat can be used, wrung out and then used again and again. Founder Lisa Craig Gautier tells us that oil spills are not the only use for these mats. Now that California is banning the weed killer Roundup for municipal use, counties are desperate for an alternative, and these hair mats could be just the solution for natural way to reduce weeds.

Next up is Greg Starkman, founder of Innersense Organic Beauty, who discusses the need for hairstylists to move away from chemical-laden professional products to those more organic and sustainable. Keeping dyes and chemicals out of the waterways is one key issue, as well as increasing our understanding of what we are putting on our skin and hair, and how the chemicals included in most products can affect our health.

Back home, I'm too wired from my double espresso to sleep, and so I check out a website recommended at the event by Ox, www.cosmeticdatabase.com. This is a free site that allows you to type in the name of your favorite beauty products and discover where they fall on the "safety" barometer. My face lotion rates six out of 10, with 10 being the most toxic. If my father were still alive, I imagine that he would tell me that the problem is that my face lotion is not Italian. Italian face lotions could never cause cancer.

By this rationale, Italian hair is probably better for making hair mats as well, and I resolve that, the next time I get my hair cut, it will be at a salon that donates the clippings. While the possibility that Italian hair could save the world seems slim, surely the time has come to start believing in the impossible.

For more information on Sonoma's hair recycling program, contact Bianchi Salon at www.bianchi-salon.com. For more information on the Sonoma County Business Environmental Alliance, go to [ http://www.sonoma-county.org/bea/ ]www.sonoma-county.org/bea/.


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