As Humans we are all swarms of bacteria, connected by other single and multi-cells, blood, sweat, elements we find all around us, DNA, empty space, fibers, nerves, electrical impulses, gases, and myriad of other amazing things that make a whole person.
With all that in mind, we are also made of hair. That’s right, hair. Long strands of protein that come from deep within the layers of our skin. Functioning as a thermal protection, sensor, and screen for particulates from entering certain mucous membranes on our body. So that’s it, right. It grows, we style it, we cut it, and we toss it.
But wait, there’s more! According to The Rodale Book of Composting, “6 and 7 pounds of hair can contain as much nitrogen as 100 to 200 pounds of manure.” Boom, end of story, everyone use your hair in your garden, right!? Why not, well, our hair isn’t as simple as being just hair. We also dye it, treat it, and clean it with all sorts of chemicals, and we have been conditioned for generations to throw it out like regular waste.
Did you know that it is also used as an animal deterrent? That’s right, throw your hair or pet hair around areas where animals are messing with your garden, and presto, they get scared away.
So fast forward to pre-Earth Day/week on April 13th, when I started High Point Barber Shop on their Compost Challenge Week. The goal, to start the journey to answer “Why not try composting?” The task was to try out composting for a week and see what that brings. What that brings or looks like is a complicated question in an industry that is used to throwing away this product that is readily available on a daily basis, but thrown away on the daily too.
The goal, to not only expand the industry idea of what is waste within the hair grooming industry, but the patrons of said industry. How do you do that? It is as simple as a bucket, and human perseverance to tell yourself “Today, this bag isn’t emptied into the trash. No. Today, we compost!” I know from experience that this isn’t an easy journey, and the rubberband reminder around the wrist can help in stinging oneself into sustainability. However, to make this journey of self awareness of our own waste stream, demands strong individuals.
That brings me to High Point Barber Shop again, and to Jared, my barber/consigliere of all things business and goings on within Richmond. I told him about my business when I first started coming to the shop in 2015. But I figured in March of 2016, maybe the shop would be open to trying out composting for a week as part of being involved in Earth Day, and the growing environmental consciousness present in Richmond.
They said yes, we agreed to a week, and the first bucket was dropped off. The shop went about their business, and at the end of each day or the beginning of the following day, the contents of a bag of hair, and barber paper products were placed in a Compost RVA bucket. This takes time, and breaking from the standard “I put waste in the trash, because that is what we do as a society” that we each need to break ourselves from in order to start the conversation of sustainability on a short term basis let alone as a lifestyle change. Sometimes you forget, that’s ok, push on, learn from the mistakes, and in the end you have a new routine.
The crowning moment in the experiment for myself, occurred one morning as I made the pickup. I came in, said hi to everyone, and shuffled to make the process, quick, clean and painless. When out of from a customer I caught this question as the door closed behind me, “What is this?” To which the quick response was, “We’re going green,” from one of the barbers. It is the “We” that really stands out, and immediately fills me with hope and passion to move on in my mission.