A hair-raising idea to clean up oil spill
The next time you get a haircut at an Alexandria salon, it could end up fighting one of the country's worst environmental disasters in decades - the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
At least eight local salons have joined a non-profit public charity's efforts to clean up the oil spill using "hair booms" made out of donated nylons, human hair and pet fur.
Hair, according to the San Francisco-based Matters of Trust, is a natural collector of oil - think of how greasy your hair can get. When it's tightly woven into mats or stuffed into nylons, it can be effective in cleaning up petroleum spills.
Emily Regnier at Ella's Salon in Alexandria tumbled onto the idea a few days ago when a sales representative e-mailed her a link to a TV segment that spotlighted the hair booms.
"After I watched it, I thought, hey, this is something we could do," she said. "We have a central vacuum and we could save the hair and become a collection site."
Regnier then started contacting local salons to see if they'd be interested in joining the effort. She was pleasantly surprised by their enthusiastic response.
"The eight who agreed to participate so far are excited," she said. "Some of them thought I was a little crazy at first, but after I explained it to them, they understood."
As of Thursday morning, local salons that have joined the effort include Ella's Salon, Ann Koudela's Hair Shop, Broadway Hair Design, Fantastic Sams, Hair A'La More, Professional Looks Hair and Nails, Platinum Salon and Inspired Salon.
The salons will collect hair from their patrons until June 4 and take the hair to Ella's Salon where it will be packaged and shipped to a warehouse and made into hair booms to help in the spill clean-up. Regnier hopes that local pet groomers will get involved as well.
Regnier said that Matters of Trust has had more than 200,000 pounds of hair shipped to it.
The paper contacted Matter of Trust President Lisa Craig Gautier, who said hair, fur and nylons are coming in from thousands of salons and groomers from all 50 states and around the world.
"Salons and beach lovers all over the Gulf Coast are organizing boom making parties," she said. "They're calling them 'boom-B-cues.' We love the South!"
To Regnier, the idea to help came naturally.
"We've just been throwing hair away, all year round," she noted. "Why not re-use it?" Anyone interested in joining the effort may contact Regnier at Ella's Salon, (320) 219-7676.
About the oil spill
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20 with an explosion and fire on a drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 workers.
Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from an undersea well at about 210,000 gallons per day.
The slick, the worst in U.S. waters in decades, was described by President Barack Obama as "a massive and potentally unprecedented environmental disaster."
According to the Coast Guard, the company that was leasing the rig, BP PLC, has managed to cap one of three leaks but the spill continues to spread.
Satellite images on Wednesday show that oil has reached the Mississippi Delta and the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Louisiana.
"This has already moved far beyond a simple spill," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, has told media. "You have several hundred miles of coastline - including some wildlife refuges - that could be blanketed [with oil]."