This hair care package is aimed at Gulf oil spill

By Megan McKee
Globe Correspondent / June 10, 2010

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Hair salons, pet groomers, and veterinarians in Waltham, Lexington, Acton, and Sherborn have joined a nationwide effort to collect hair and fur clippings for use in natural-fiber oil booms, which are being assembled by hundreds of volunteers in an effort to stem the environmental damage from the massive British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“People are surprised about the concept,’’ said Marlene Maffei-Ryan, owner of the As You Like It Hair Salon in Acton. However, she said, once people understand the idea, they’re excited about it. Some clients have even had more hair cut off than they originally intended after hearing where the clippings were headed, she said.

“It’s been great. We don’t do anything with the hair anyhow. We bag it and trash it . . . It’s a good cause and it’s easy work for us,’’ she said.

The effort, which has brought in 570 businesses across Massachusetts, is being mounted by the group Matter of Trust on a website devoted to reducing the carbon imprint of dogs. The group is collecting clippings from salons, groomers, alpaca and llama farmers, individuals, veterinarians, and pet owners. The organization’s president, Lisa Craig Gautier, said she is receiving thousands of e-mails per day, and most are from those wishing to donate.

The organization sends out e-mails with addresses of warehouses where the donors should send clippings. Once there, volunteers stuff them into nylon stockings and tie off the ends. Then they’re ready for deployment.

Craig Gauthier said BP has decided not to use natural-fiber booms in its cleanup effort but rather rely on synthetic booms. But harbormasters in Florida have announced they will use the booms, Craig Gauthier said, and Matter of Trust is hoping the response to its campaign will help change the BP approach.

The organization has about 10 miles of boom ready to go.

“We don’t have anything against synthetic boom, but you have to drill oil to make it,’’ said Craig Gautier. “This is a renewable resource that we’re diverting from a landfill.’’

Locally, Waltham’s Veterinary and Emergency Center of New England is one of the entities participating in the effort.

“We’re always shaving areas’’ on their animal patients for medical procedures, said Sharon Gately, spokeswoman for the center, “and it usually just goes to waste. I just thought it was such a good idea.’’

Gately said the Waltham animal hospital also will have a bin out front to collect nylons; Craig Gautier said Hooters just donated 100,000 pairs.

At Lexington’s Blue salon, desk manager Michael Surette said the salon has already made four shipments thanks to the trashbag-size amount of clippings that are disposed of daily.

A neighbor of the salon has volunteered to collect and mail the bags of donated hair.

In Sherborn, Serena’s Groom Room is doing warm-weather shave-downs for pets, which means it is an opportune time to participate in the program, said owner Serena Keating.

“I think this is a really cool way for us being able to help a really bad situation,’’ said Keating. “This is a little more global for us. . . It’s something indirectly all of my customers have done a lot to help.’’

In the meantime, Matter of Trust is using social media websites to round up volunteers in places like Alabama and Florida to stuff pantyhose with clippings, and the group is urging people to contact the government to press for the booms to be used.

The organization was founded in 1998 by Craig Gautier and her husband, Patrice Oliver Gautier, an executive at Apple Inc., and is involved in multiple efforts to promote the reuse of materials, both natural and manmade. The organization has made mats from hair clippings to clean up oil spills since 2000.

Craig Gautier is hoping her organization’s talks with BP and the federal government, as well as the the goodwill of tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of individuals who are donating, will turn the tide at the oil company.

“We absolutely can put these booms in the water,’’ she said. “It’s really up to the people of North America to decide.

Megan McKee can be reached at

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