Last year, while saving my trash in my basement one of the early aspects I needed to tackle was my hair. Around the end of the first month, I went to get a haircut, and sitting in the chair reading my copy of Vanity Fair, it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to take my hair with me when I left.
Now this is not a situation that most people find themselves in every day and certainly not one I had considered. What to do with the hair was one thing, but how to get it without seeming like a total freak (perhaps it was a moot question at that point) was an entirely different scenario. There was the question of what to do with it (I ended up putting it in a reusable bag I carry with me), how to explain it to my barber whose native tongue is Korean (I didn’t do very well with that one), and finally what to do with it when I got home (my daughters and I put it outside for the birds). Ahh the problems of being a garbage hoarder.
Now I’m the first to admit that landfills are not filling up due to an overabundance of human hair. Even if they were (that’d be kind of wild wouldn’t it?), hair, which is essentially dead skin to begin with, will eventually break down and not cause much of a problem for the environment or the planet as a whole. Having said that however, perhaps there is a better end to our fallen follicles than leaving them to decay in some giant pit.
For starters, if you are heading for a trim today and feel like taking your fallen comrades with you, two simple ideas are to put them out for the birds, or feed them to your worms. Both are great uses for something that seems to have little life left in it.
Moving up the ladder, if you are reading this and happen to own a salon or barber shop, there are a few uses for bulk hair as well. First and foremost, there is Matter of Trust, an organization that takes used hair, weaves it into mats and uses them to soak up oil spills. I kid you not. Apparently human hair has the ability to soak up oil. How cool is that? Another option, although maybe not as noble, is to turn all that hair into a sweater and use the proceeds to buy yourself something nice.
Finally, let’s say you’ve got some nice long hair, you’re getting tired of it and thinking of going with a little lighter look. Well don’t throw that hair in the trash! Instead, why not check out Locks of Love or Wigs for Kids. Both organizations accept lengths of hair and turn them into wigs for kids who are suffering the effects of cancer. It’s a great way to pass on some good will, and a great learning lesson for your kids. Both of our kids have done this and as parents, we couldn’t have been happier.
So there you have it. Proof that there can be value in almost anything.
Human hair, who would have thought?
Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. “Give people the facts, and they’ll choose to do the right thing.”