Think you can’t go green with your salon? Think again. The trendy “green lite” movement takes environmentalism to a do-able level, providing you with small — but effective — ways to do your part in helping the environment.
You acknowledge that the “green” or environmentally-friendly movement could use your help. But, let’s face it, with a full book of clients and new salon promotions to develop, you’re already strapped for time as it is. It goes without saying that making a lot of inconvenient changes at your salon — even if they’re good for the environment — really isn’t high on your list of priorities. But you can’t stop that nagging feeling that it might be time to do something, if you could just come up with something easy. This is where the new “green lite” movement comes in; green lite is the idea that taking even a baby step or two in the environmentally friendly direction is a way to make a worthwhile difference.
In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we’ve already compiled a list of 17 easy ways you can go green lite with your salon. Why not choose the 12 that seem most convenient for your salon, and implement one a month? By next Earth Day, you’ll see that even a little change goes a long way.
1. Let’s start with a change that’ll actually save you money. (We told you this wouldn’t be so painful!) Replace all of your salon’s conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). CFLs use 75% less energy to provide the same amount of light, last up to 10 times longer, and generate less heat than incandescent bulbs (this means you’ll start seeing a cheaper electricity bill). These days, CFLs can be purchased pretty much anywhere conventional bulbs are sold. Also, turn off lights (like the ones in the breakrooms and bathrooms) and equipment when not in use, even unplugging them when feasible.
2. Your clients love flipping through the latest issues of Star and US Weekly as they’re waiting for their nails to dry; just make sure they’re not throwing them in the trash when they’re done. Set up a recycling program for the magazines, plus all allowable glass, plastic, cardboard, and other paper items. To get started, just call the company that handles your trash pick-up and ask about recycling options.
3. Install an Energy-Star qualified programmable thermostat to automate your air-conditioning system and save energy when the salon is closed. These thermostats automatically adjust temperature settings based on your salon’s schedule, but can still be overridden when needed (like for a Sunday morning spa party).
4. Clean your salon using non-toxic cleaning agents. To find out what products are considered non-toxic, visit websites like greenspanetwork.org, responsiblepurchasing.org, and greenhome.com. (Make sure you’re still following your state board’s guidelines for cleaning pedicure thrones, implements, and other regulated items.) A bonus: Your salon will smell fresher and won’t have that antiseptic-y odor of harsh cleaners.
Elizabeth Ashton uses items from the grocery store including sliced lemons, sliced ginger, chickpea flour, sesame oil, plain yogurt, and powdered milk. Click here to see the steps.
5. Switch out one of your spa-type pedicures for an all-organic option. Just go to the grocery store (especially grocers that specialize in organic foods, like a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s) and pick up ingredients that double as spa products. For example, combine organic brown sugar and organic honey for a “Go-Green Sugar and Spice Foot Scrub” or use organic yogurt as a natural foot mask.
6. Call your salon’s electricity company and ask about “green power” options, meaning electricity that’s generated from renewable energy sources such as the wind and the sun. For a slightly higher electricity rate, you may be able to switch your salon over to a better energy source.
7. The next time you order new salon menus, make sure you print them on recycled paper and be efficient with your use of space (i.e. don’t leave the entire backside of the menu blank). Also, make sure your new menu is on your website and available as an e-mailable PDF, so that clients have electronic options for viewing and passing the menu along to their friends.
Succulents, like this one at ROB|B salon in Studio City, Calif., can retain water and don't need to be watered as often.
8. Keep the fresh flowers that add a fun ambiance to your salon, but switch over to the real thing — potted flowering plants — as an environmentally-friendly alternative. Check with your local garden store on what plants will work best in the temperature and location of your salon, and set up a watering schedule with your employees.
9. The next time your salon needs a new computer, printer, refrigerator, television, or other appliance, buy an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star-qualified product. These appliances use 10% - 50% less energy and water than standard models (you’ll pay a premium for them, but over time, your energy and water savings will usually make up the difference in price). Visit energystar.gov for help finding these products or just look for the “Energy Star” sticker when you’re shopping.
10. Continue to offer your clients beverage options, but offer them in dishwasher-friendly glass or plastic cups, instead of paper cups. Also, if you offer bottled water, replace it with filtered water instead (in addition to producing less waste, it’ll save the salon money). If your salon serves coffee or juices, choose Rainforest Alliance Certified-beverages, which come from farms that have met rigorous standards for the conservation of wildlife and the welfare of local communities. For help finding these products, visit rainforest-alliance.org/marketplace.
11. Turn up the salon’s thermostat an extra 3 to 5 degrees in the summer, and use a ceiling fan instead. Circulating air will make the higher temperature or humidity feel more comfortable to you and your clients, while each degree of higher temperature saves you about 3% on cooling costs. The ceiling fan cools people — not the room — so make sure to turn the fan off when your salon is closed.
12. In the salon bathroom, instead of using wasteful small plastic amenity bottles, install larger dispensers by the sink and fill them with all-natural soaps and lotions. Buy the largest-size refill packages possible and recycle those when they’re empty.
13. Have the salon’s HVAC (heating-ventilation-air conditioning) system tuned-up once a year with a HVAC contractor to make sure it’s working as efficiently as possible. Also, change (or clean if reusable) HVAC filters every month during peak cooling or heating season.
14. Start buying paper towels that contain recycled or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)--certified fiber. For washable salon towels, ask your towel vendor if it offers environmentally friendly ones that require less time in the dryer (just make sure you run a full dryer-load each time, not just one towel at a time).
15. Use low or zero VOC (volatile organic compound) paints when doing touch-ups. These are better for the environment and often have low-odor, making them better for the salon. Examples include Sherwin-Williams’ Harmony Interior Latex Low Odor Coatings and Benjamin Moore’s Pristine EcoSpec.
16. Offer employees an incentive, like an extra free service a month, to take public transportation or carpool to work. This also translates into more room for client parking, which is especially handy if your salon has a small parking lot.
17. When it’s time to redo your outdoor lights, choose solar-powered lights instead of conventional ones Another outdoor lighting option to think about are motion-detector lights; that way, the lights aren’t on all the time, just when employees or clients are walking to and from the salon. Ask the experts at a home improvement store, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, to walk you through your options.
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