Clippings used for oil cleanups

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BRATTLEBORO -- Most of us are familiar with Locks of Love, where people with long hair get it cut to donate to those who have lost theirs to the effects of radiation therapy for cancer treatment.

For those of us with short hair, however, we figure our clippings just end up in the trash can.

But that hair can be used for something just as important, and one local salon is asking its customers for those clippings.

"All of the hair we cut here gets donated to something," said Lisa Shippee of Scissor Masters Salon and Day Spa at Harmony Place.

So where do those clippings go?

To a non-profit organization called Matter of Trust, which weaves hair clippings into mats used to soak up oil spills. The program has been a smash with Scissor Masters' customers, said Shippee.

"Everybody loves it. Especially the kids," she said.

Shippee and her business partner, Rebecka Marchese, learned about the program about two months ago when a distributor brought in information about Matter of Trust.

"This is an environmentally sound way of cleaning up oil spills," said Shippee.

While most of their customers haven't heard of the program, once they are told about it, they are glad to have their clippings sent out for such a worthy cause, she said.

"You thought you were just getting your hair cut," said Shippee. Instead, "You did your good deed for the day."

Once Matter of Trust gets the hair, it's weaved into a mat to be dragged through the water, absorbing oil. After the mats have done their job, the oil is wrung out and the mats are composted.

Hair is a great material to soak up oil spills because, for one, it's very strong.

"It doesn't break easily," she said.

And for two, said Shippee, "When bound together, hair naturally absorbs oil."

Six salons in Vermont are involved in the program including Ultimate Impressions Hair Design on High Street.

Co-owner Jessica Bennett said her customers are fascinated by the program.

"They're interested in how they figured out how to reuse the hair," she said.

Bennett and co-owner Karen Nadeau immediately jumped on the bandwagon when they heard about the program.

"It's a great program," said Bennett.

Ultimate Impressions has been participating for about a month, she said.

As for those customers with short hair, many ask for their clippings back to spread around their gardens, she said.

"They use it to keep the deer away."

Just as with Scissor Masters, Ultimate Expressions has participated in the Locks of Love program, said Bennett.

Last year, more than 2,600 oil spills occurred around the world, according to Matter of Trust. While we don't hear about most of them, they all have an impact on the environment.

Thousands of salons around the country are working with Matter of Trust. Each of the more than 300,000 salons in the United States cuts on average a pound of hair each day, according to Matter of Trust. Salons pay out of their pocket to have the hair shipped to Matter of Trust.

The program got its start after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.

Phil McCrory, a hair stylist from Alabama, noticed how the fur on Alaskan otters became completely soaked with oil. He began testing how much oil he could collect with the hair clipping from his salon, according to Matter of Trust, which started the program nine years ago.

McCrory's informal testing eventually invented the hair mat.

The hair can also be made into mats or stuffed into nylon stockings, which can be used as "booms" to surround and contain oil spills.

For more information, visit www.matteroftrust.org.


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