With Earth Day nearly upon us (April 22) you’ve probably at least considered how your salon business is affecting the environment. You know that reducing your carbon footprint is good for the planet and good for you personally, but you may have more immediate concerns, like protecting your bottom line. In reality, going green can actually boost revenue. It’s also a feature your salon can promote in order to develop loyal customers who appreciate your green efforts. And with so many options and resources available, you’re sure to discover at least a few easy, affordable — even profitable — changes you can make now. So get ready to take your green initiatives off the back burner and see a big difference by next Earth Day. Let’s start by saving money with energy costs.
A simple way to start seeing a lower electricity bill fast is to replace all of your salon’s conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). CFLs last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, provide the same amount of light, use 75% less energy, and generate less heat. Remember to turn off break room and bathroom lights when not in use. Solar powered options are a great choice for outdoor lighting, as are motion-detector lights. Motion-detector lights will illuminate only when employees or clients are walking to and from the salon, thus saving energy.
Upgrading HVAC (heating-ventilation-air conditioning) systems can also save money in the long run. Consider installing an Energy Star-qualified programmable thermostat. These thermostats make it easy to automatically adjust temperature settings and save energy when your salon is closed. The latest trend in heating and cooling is the “smart thermostat.”
According to www.kootenyabiz.com, smart thermostats transmit accurate, up-to-date utility data about live energy use via your smartphone. Have the salon’s HVAC system checked for efficiency once a year and clean or change its filters every month during peak cooling or heating season. Another cooling option is to use a ceiling fan in the summer and turn down your salon’s thermostat. Each degree of higher temperature will save about 3% on cooling costs, but be sure to turn the fan off when your salon is closed.
Make sure your salon is adequately ventilated. Indoor air can be polluted by chemicals used in nail care products and cause health problems when inhaled. “Indoor air quality is a big concern in nail salons,” says Tamara Jercha, president and founder of National Association of Eco-Friendly Salons & Spas (NAEFSS). “Exploring HVAC operations and air cleaning alternatives will not only create a safe working environment, it will also cut down on the spread of everyday viruses that impact employee attendance.”
Remembering to shut down and even unplug computers and other equipment at the end of the day will save a lot of energy too. And the quality of your appliances counts as well. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star-qualified products are the way to go the next time you buy an appliance for the salon, such as a television, refrigerator, computer, or printer. They cost more, but over time your energy and water savings will make up for the initial investment, as these appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models.
If you’re really committed to saving energy and don’t mind paying a slightly higher electricity rate, you may be able to use electricity from renewable energy sources such as the wind and the sun. Call your salon’s electricity provider to learn about your options.
As long as you’re following your state board’s guidelines for cleaning implements and other regulated items, you can switch to non-toxic cleaning products such as Simple Green. Look for paper towels that contain recycled or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified fiber. Use recycled paper for salon menus and fliers, and post your menu on your website, making sure it’s available as an e-mailable PDF. Replace bottled water with filtered water, and offer your clients beverages in dishwasher-friendly glass or disposable plastic cups. If your salon serves coffee or juices, choose Rainforest Alliance Certified-beverages. These come from farms that have met rigorous standards for the conservation of wildlife and the welfare of local communities.
Nail products themselves can be problematic. Conventional nail polish and nail care products still contain a host of chemicals — such as acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and formaldehyde — that are known environmental pollutants and can be a health hazard when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. But many nail care products are now labeled as water- or plant-based or low-VOC, and are safer for the environment and human health. Sheila Garrison and Kristin Heaton-Peabody, co-founders of Hiatus Spa + Retreat, with locations in Dallas, Austin, and Plano, Texas, utilize a holistic approach and are aware of the impact that products have on our bodies and on the earth.
“Our most requested nail treatment, the Mani-Pedi Retreat, is an 80-minute service that incorporates SpaRitual, an eco-friendly vegan nail care line,” says Garrison. “This treatment features rituals that restore the health of our guest’s nails with certified organic ingredients. Additionally, we opted for Orly’s Eco-Gel alternative. The wear-ability of the Eco Gel is the same as other gel-polish, but is free of harsh chemicals and nourishes the guest’s hands with vitamins A, E, and B5.”
The textile products you purchase are also important — you can help make changes to the environment just by changing your clothes. It may come as a surprise that the fashion industry leaves a hefty carbon footprint, using more water than any other aside from agriculture. It also uses at least 8,000 different chemicals to convert raw materials to synthetic textiles. When purchasing salon uniforms and aprons, look for fabrics that come from natural, organic sources rather than synthetic ones. Some options to consider are organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and even seaweed.
Monique Mathieu Uniforms uses 100% non-GMO organic cotton grown mostly in Texas to produce fashionable salon and spa wear. It’s then exported to Japan, where it is converted to fabric via environmentally responsible processes. The fabrics are free of contaminants such as nickel, lead, formaldehyde, amines, pesticides, and heavy metals.
“People with allergies and chemical sensitivities benefit from organic clothing,” says owner Monique Mathieu. “Even if someone doesn’t have sensitive skin, organic cotton feels better than synthetic clothing. And uniforms made from it are naturally resistant to odors, mildew, and dust mites.”
Custom Uniform Company also produces a line of green garments and uniforms made from natural fabrics such as 100% organic cotton, converted soybean, bamboo, and hemp. Hemp especially is extremely durable; it is also naturally antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-static.
If you’re starting from the ground up, consider building a LEED-certified nail salon. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC)’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (more commonly known as LEED) green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. If you’re interested in building a LEED-certified nail salon, you’ll need to hire the right help for your project — a LEED-accredited professional with solid experience. LEED certification is available both for new construction and for remodels, but it does involve a considerable commitment of time and money.
Even if you aren’t seeking LEED-certification, there are still eco-conscious materials and products you can use in your decor and remodel efforts. If you’re repainting or doing touch-ups, for example, use low-or zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints. Not only are they environmentally friendlier than conventional paints, they are also low-odor. Examples include Sherwin-Williams’ Harmony Interior Latex Low Odor Coatings and Benjamin Moore’s Pristine EcoSpec.
Celebrity television home improvement host Bob Vila has listed practical suggestions on his website regarding materials for healthy and sustainable building. Included are new materials for floors and countertops — such as Paperstone, Sqauk Mountain Stone, and Richelite — that mimic the look of other solid-surface countertops but are made from composite materials like post-consumer recycled paper or plastic resins. These formaldehyde-free materials don’t release harmful levels of VOCs into the atmosphere.
One of the easiest ways to green your salon is to set up a recycling program for old magazines, glass, plastic, cardboard, and other paper items. Contact the company that handles your trash pick-up and ask about recycling options. You may need to explore your recycling options for other salon items.
“Your salon can affirm its commitment to the earth by recycling items that are not recycled by your local municipality, like rubber gloves, foils, and empty make-up containers,” says Jercha.
Kim Anton of Anton Designs in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada is a member of the Green Circle salons in Canada. They recycle all the salon’s leftover dyes, plastics, paper, and metals. They are limited on how many nail products they can recycle, but they are continuing to grow and may one day be able to handle all the chemicals salons discard. Anton says her salon adds an environmental fee to each service to cover the costs, and her clients gladly pay.
Finally, it’s important to educate employees and share your knowledge with other nail techs. A new guide is available from NAEFSS aimed at taking the mystery out of terms such as sustainability, eco-friendly, green, and eco-consciousness, specifically relating them back to individual business models. The NAEFSS Salon & Spa Sustainability Packet is also available on the website. It includes one to two hours of free phone consultation and specific details to create a plan for impactful changes.
EARTH DAY HONOR ROLL
Check out the following links to learn more about reducing your salon’s carbon footprint:
Green Salon-Specific Organizations:
> The National Association of Eco-Friendly Salons & Spas (NAEFSS): www.naefss.org
> The FAB PRO Green Conscious Salon Certification Program: fabprofessionals.org/fab-pro-green-program
> Green Circle Salons in Canada: www.greencirclesalons.ca
> Green Spa Network: greenspanetwork.org
> The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED): www.usgbc.org/leed
> Bob Vila: www.bobvila.com
Recycling and General Sustainability:
> Earth911: earth911.com
> UGA GreenWay: www.fcs.uga.edu/green
> Personal Care & Beauty Brigade at TerraCycle: www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades.html
> Energy Star: www.energystar.gov
> Responsible Purchasing Network: www.responsiblepurchasing.org
> Greenhome: www.greenhome.com
> Rainforest Alliance Certified Marketplace: ra.eximware.net/RA
Is your salon green? E-mail your pictures and stories to email@example.com for a chance to make NAILS’ Earth Day Honor Roll next year.
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