How to… spot an eco-friendly salon

Eco, eco, eco, eco – repeat a word enough times and it loses its meaning and never has this rung more true than for ‘eco’. We’re all about sustainability, environmentally friendly salons and organic solutions, but what does it all actually mean and how can you spot a salon that’s truly eco-friendly?

The very nature of a salon means it’s easy to be wasteful of resources and energy (think of all that washing, colouring and blow-drying), so by making conscious decisions about your beauty routine, and encouraging your local salon to make some changes, we can make a huge difference to our planet – one shampoo at a time.

Here’s what to ask when looking for an eco-friendly salon

Does the salon use and sell green products?

There are a lot of brands out there nowadays that try to be as eco-friendly as possible, whether that’s through the sustainable ingredients it incorporates into its formulas or it uses recycled packaging.

Jamie Hill, owner of Jamie Hill salon in Swansea, is a vegan and self-proclaimed eco-warrior, which is why he stocks Insight.

Above: Jamie Hill salon

‘‘Insight is great for my business as it attracts clientele with the same principles as myself,” he says. “Stocking a brand like Insight ensures we cater for all our clients, including those with a concern for the environment, natural ingredients, sensitive skin but without compromising on product quality. The products are filled with organic extracts, they’re cruelty free, created by ozonated water and the packaging is fully recyclable,”

Aveda and Davines are other brands to look out for that have great eco credentials – Aveda for its environmental responsibilities, from bringing clean water to kids in Uganda to ensuring the ingredients it uses is sustainably sourced; and Davines for its commitment to sustainable beauty.

L’Oréal Professionnel has also recently launched more natural-focused products, including Source Essentielle and, a first for the brand, a plant-based colour called Botanēa. The first is all about transparency, with the label not just listing the naturally derived ingredients but the ones that are necessary to guarantee the sensorial qualities (so it smells nice) and to preserve the formula. You can also refill your shampoo bottle directly at the salon you bought it from, helping you and the salon move towards more sustainable consumption.

The latter is for those of you that are interested in colouring your hair, but are worried about the damage it can cause to the hair and scalp, as well as the environmental impact. Botanēa uses pure cassia, henna and indigo powders to create natural hues (although it’s not for those that have coloured hair already). The herbal powders are also stored in jars made from 50 per cent recycled plastic.

Other, more natural colour options include Organic Colour Systems, which Karine Jackson uses in her Covent Garden salon. “Organic Colour Systems displays the PETA Cruelty-Free and Vegan logos and also sponsors Greenpeace,” explains Karine. “As an added bonus, Organic Colour Systems uses the lowest possible amount of PPD (the ingredient that makes hair colour permanent, necessary to cover greys, but also associated with allergic reactions) and is free from ammonia. The products are made in Hampshire so boast a low carbon footprint and the company refuses to trade with countries or businesses that insist on or endorse animal testing.”

Cutting down on plastic is everyone’s priority right now and so any chance to re-use shampoo bottles is a bonus. As mentioned L’Oréal Professionnel Source Essentielle offers this, as do salons Windle & Moodie and Electric Hairdressing on their own-label product ranges.

At London’s Windle & Moodie, customers can bring in their empty Windle & Moodie bottles to the salon’s Refill Bar drop-in for a full product refill with a 30 per cent discount.

“We’re finding a lot of our clients love the fact that all of our shampoos are vegan – 74 per cent is vegan. The new refill service we’re offering is an obvious extension of our brand’s eco ethos,” says founder Paul Windle.

Electric salons has also launched the Electric Dispensary, which is as much a piece of ceramic art as it is eco-friendly. The refillable dispenser is for Electric’s professional range of shampoos and conditioners that are developed and manufactured in England. The Eco-friendly Dispensary Bottle (500ml) is £40 and then it’s £55 to be filled, so doesn’t come cheap, but the refill price is £29.50 so you do make your money back (while feeling good about cutting down on waste).

Does the salon recycle and how does it cut down on waste?

We all know about plastic waste heading to our landfills and waterways (everybody has seen THAT Blue Planet episode), which means we’re becoming more sensitive to the amount we waste so look for salons that are recycling or upcycling.

Blue Tit salons takes sustainability very seriously as a company. “When it comes to building our salons we make sure that the materials we use are recycled,” says Perry Patraszewski, director of Blue Tit.

“We have equipped our salons with recycling bins, and keep separate bins for paper, plastics, glass, hair-colouring tubes and foils. Separating rubbish can be confusing at first, but soon becomes a habit,” says Perry.

“We also give reusable Blue Tit branded tote bags to clients who purchase products (or simply need a shopping bag), which helps save the planet from plastic, or cutting down trees.”

Karine Jackson also recycles as much as possible: “For example, we don’t use any plastic cups for drinks and if we have to use plastic we always use 100 per cent recyclable plastic. We are looking to just use loose leaf tea in the salon also as tea bags contain micro plastic.”

Anne Veck has taken huge steps to making her salon in Oxford eco-friendly, including using recycled card and paper for all stationery and literature. She’s also made its landline and broadband 100 per cent carbon neutral. “In 2013, we decided to change our Oxford salon to become as eco-friendly as possible by lowering energy use, reducing waste through more efficient systems and meeting the reduced energy needs from renewable sources. A lot of salons think you have to invest in solar panels and other expensive technology to make a difference, but there are sustainable suppliers out there eager to supply them,” says Anne, who went with Green Minutes, which uses 90 per cent green electricity and off sets the remaining 10 per cent with local (Oxfordshire) tree planting.

While at her new salon in Bicester, Anne was inspired by a trip to Namibia where she discovered Ilana’s Hair Gallery, which was all built from recycled, reconstituted materials, furniture and iron work. The result is an industrial, stripped-back warehouse feel, while still airy, well-lit and welcoming. Got a wreck? Turn to Veck – Anne and her brothers made the reception desk, styling stations, the colour table, retail display, colour bar, cupboards… you name it! The coffee table, magazine racks and selfie wall are all from recycled pallets and cable drums. The focal feature is the round colour table in the centre of the salon, made from a huge old cable drum.

Above: Anne Veck Bicester

Is their electricity provider eco?

We don’t expect you to know everything about your salon’s bills, but asking them how they save on their electricity bills is a quick and easy way to see how serious they are about being an eco-friendly salon.

Blue Tit’s Perry designed the group’s salons to make the most of the natural light and so cut down on how much electricity they use overall. “This can substantially reduce a salon’s electricity bill,” he says. “We recently opened a new salon in Brixton and one of the design features is a huge skylight above the shampoo area.”

LED lightbulbs are another eco signifier.

“LED lights reduce your electricity bill and your impact on the environment, too. It should also go without saying that salons need to turn off any lights when they aren’t in use,” adds Perry.

Anne Veck was the first hair salon in the world to use the BlueGenCeramic fuel cell technology, which reduces energy use by half. In effect, the salon has its own mini power station, which converts gas to electricity and heats water and the salon. “Our energy supplier guarantees 100 per cent carbon neutral energy and electricity usage has been reduced by 95 per cent.” Now that’s impressive.

How is the salon cutting down on water waste?

Again, getting into the nitty gritty workings of your local salon isn’t necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to ask them how often they wash their towels, what towels they use and if they wash everything on a cold wash.

“We always wait until our washing machine is full before running it and wash everything in cold water, preventing the productions of large quantities of CO2,” says Perry. “At Blue Tit we use Eco-ball Wash Balls as a washing powder alternative in all of our salons, which has cut costs on washing powder by 2,000 per cent.”

Above: BlueTit salons

Jamie Stevens uses EcoHeads and Easydry towels at his salons. “The EcoHeads shower heads and Easydry towels are a real talking point for clients and they love the fact that our towels are recycled and are biodegradable,” he says. “EcoHeads reduce water and energy usage by up to 65 per cent at the same time as removing sediment, rust and sand. For our towels, we use Easydry ones instead of cotton towels. These are a super absorbent fabric towels that are recyclable and biodegradable. They offer the highest possible levels of hygiene and are made using eco-friendly processes, without the use of chemicals. They provide a sustainable, convenient alternative to cotton towels, meaning we no longer use washing machines and tumble dryers in any of our salons.”

Does the salon have a Sustainable Salon Certificate?

One of the easiest ways to find out if a salon near you is eco-friendly is if it has a Sustainable Salon Certificate. The Sustainable Stylist and now Salon programme was launched by Dr Denise Baden from the University of Southampton, who realised the impact hairdressing salons could have on the environment. Stylists and salons can apply to be awarded the certificate based on their efforts to cut waste and save energy.

And for salons who have at least half of their staff awarded the Sustainable Stylist certificate, there is the Sustainable Salon certificate. Salons that have been awarded this certificate include: Shine Salon in Southampton, Arabella Creations in Norwich, Fife College in Dumfermline, and Karine Jackson, which was the first salon in London to be awarded it.

This shows that they have made sustainable choices such as switching to a renewable energy supplier, saving water, using recyclable towels, reducing colour waste, using tepid rather than hot water, recycling, using low-energy lighting and electrical tools, and picking products containing sustainable palm oil.

Ask your hairdresser if they’ve been awarded the certificate, and if not, encourage them to get on it!

“We have been eco-friendly for the last 13 years,” says Karine. “When we first started, clients who were looking for an eco-friendly salon would come to us. This is what our business is built on and we’ve seen our client demand go up because of it.”

Trying to live in an eco-friendly way isn’t always easy (cue massive amounts of guilt when you forget your reusable coffee cup and the barista is waiting to take your order – again), but opting to support a hair salon that’s trying to actively make conscious eco decisions is a great place to start. Because when our hair looks good and we know it was achieved in a planet-friendly environment, we feel good. And we’re all about that…