The story of two female entrepreneurs who became warriors to fight climate change. Their secret weapon? Bags of hair.
Two warrior women do not live on Themyscira and are not Amazons. Their home is not an island and not a fictional feminist utopia, but a real place that exists in the heart of downtown Flagstaff. In fact, they fight their battles from Heritage Square, at a hair salon called Wildflower. A double-tribute name (to both the legendary singer and songwriter Tom Petty as well as to one of his greatest fans, these two Wonder Women’s mom who passed in 2018), Wildflower Salon is not just eco-friendly because of its ecological sounding title. Founded by sisters Lauren and Kaylie, it is what is known as a “certified sustainable salon”. This means that the salon recycles every piece of waste it produces—from the hair clippings, to the foils and color tubings, to the plastics and cardboards that the color and foil come in. Its devotion to recycling stems from its membership to the GreenCircle Salon Foundation, a program based out of CA in which enrolled participants pledge to recycle, recover, and repurpose most of their waste products.
Lauren stands inside her and her sister Kaylie’s salon holding bags of beauty waste before they are shipped to the GreenCircle Foundation to be recycled and repurposed.
According to the GreenCircle Salon Foundation, “the beauty industry creates over 877 pounds of waste every single minute”. The foundation’s mission is to turn this waste into new products or clean energy, in order to “help make beauty beautiful” and “keep the people and the planet beautiful at the same time”. As such, they repurpose 95% of their waste, partnering with over 40 environmental companies in North America to ensure that any waste one sends to them will not end up in landfills or waterways (a promise they label as their “Green Guarantee”). Instead, they send leftovers such as hair clippings, used foils, color tubes, extra hair color, personal protective equipment, nail files, and waxing strips to various “green” locations. These locations could be anything from recycling or chemical waste facilities to bio-composite plastic makers. For example, one’s hair clippings might be composted and transformed into bio-composite plastic towards new products, and one’s extra hair dye might be changed into clean energy, the oil recycled into fuel and the water returned to the water system. (info courtesy of greencirclesalons.com)
A “mirror talker” inside Wildflower summarizes the beauty waste’s journey from the salon to the greencircle office, and finally to environmental companies for recovery.
Salons that register under the program are dubbed “waste warriors,” and, for an added $2 to every client’s service, each designated waste warrior salon is able to purchase the boxes to pack and ship the beauty waste off to the foundation, thereby saving it from ending up in landfills or down drains. Lauren and Kaylie send waste monthly, storing it all in lawn bags in the salon basement as the weeks build up. By the end of the month there are 15 huge yard bags consuming their basement floor until they pack them up and send them off to the foundation headquarters in California. Once the waste arrives, is sorted, and then recycled and repurposed, all the cardboard boxes are usually recycled locally too. “It makes us feel like we are able to do our part, especially in an industry that produces so much waste. It is such a huge problem in our world, and GreenCircle Salons lets us do our part in a safe and sustainable way,” Lauren commented on enrolling her and Kaylie’s business in the program. “They ship us their boxes and drop them off at our salon; once we fill it up with our trash and ship it off to their facility they recycle it and get rid of it in an eco-friendly way, which is awesome because we produce hundreds and hundreds of pounds of waste every single day”.
Foil and hair scraps collect in cardboard bins inside the salon before making their way to the building’s basement in mega-sized lawn bags. From the large bags, the waste is finally shipped off to the GreenCircle Salons Foundation headquarters in CA, where the recycling process begins.
For Lauren and Kaylie, eco-friendliness did not start with Wildflower. Rather, engaging in green-focused business practices has always been an important part of their careers. Ever since the two Wonder Women have worked together (for the past eight years, when they started doing hair right out of cosmetology school), they have been inspired by eco-friendly methods. This is because they started doing hair at an Aveda salon, whose entire philosophy was to use more natural products and cut down on chemical usage. It wasn’t really until the next salon that they worked for, which did not use Aveda products and thus did not emphasize natural, environmentally friendly strategies, that the two sisters truly realized how important sustainability in the beauty industry was to them. “It was really inspiring to do things that way, especially when it comes to hair,” Lauren said about using Aveda’s more environmentally oriented products. She vowed from then on to be more involved in eco-friendliness, and began to do her own research on how to stay involved with green product usage, particularly paraben and silicone-free products.
They finally decided to start their own sustainable salon when the last salon they were at went up for sale. They had one month to find somewhere else to work, but realized that they really didn’t want to work anywhere else or for anyone else—they wanted to start something for themselves. “We were raised to be very independent women, and working at our last salon gave us a very entrepreneurial kind of role (we made our own schedules and prices). So when the owner put our last place of employment up for rent, we knew it was the time to start our own salon,” Lauren reflects on making the decision to pioneer her own business with her sister as her new co-owner.
Wildflower Salon is a special place in the Flagstaff community; Lauren and Kaylie built this homey environmental industry in just seven weeks and all while simultaneously working their old jobs. “Instead of hiring professionals, our community really pulled through for us to create Wildflower,” Lauren remembers about its developmental process and opening stages. “Our dad handcrafted all of the countertops and shelving and did all of the electrical work; our other sister’s partner did all of the shampoo bowls and plumbing. And when it was finally ready, it was the best opening anyone could ask for. The first couple of days everyone was already booked, and all our clients were so happy to be here with us”.
Co-owner Lauren stands on Heritage Square outside Wildflower Salon, holding the seeds of her and her sister’s entrepreneurial sustainability.
As for the eco-friendly aspect, it doesn’t stop at Wildflower with these two Wonder Women. “It’s the small things,” Lauren remarks as she finishes telling me her story. “I recycle at home. I have my own hydro flask. Really just being aware of where things are going when you throw away your trash and a garbage truck picks it up, is key. Seeing the documentaries that show us where this is going and what it’s doing to our earth is devastating. I can always do better”.