Green is the Style at Asheville Salon
By Pamela Pyms
Alejandro Jimenez is anything but new to the hair salon industry despite opening ASHES & STEEL STUDIO in the River Arts District with his husband Gary Topple only last December. Their website bios speak for themselves, and when clients enter the salon, they know they have arrived somewhere special. It goes beyond the staff’s hospitality, the stylish ambience of the décor or a favorite hairdresser’s talent. Clients leave not only with a haircut, blow-dry, color or treatment but also with the satisfaction of knowing they have done their part to help the planet.
When ASHES & STEEL STUDIO joined forces with the Canadian company Green Circle Salon, it was the first salon to utilize this approach in Asheville. “The amount of waste produced by salons on a daily basis is staggering,” says Jimenez. “Each day, over 420,000 pounds of waste are being tossed out across North America alone.” Green Circle is specifically tailored to salons and can recycle products that other recycling plants can’t accept. “We were already recycling our cartons and plastic bottles in Asheville, but we had no ecological way to dispose of dirty aluminum foils, Saran wrap, wasted color and pounds of hair each week.”
Green Circle provides a way to do that. “For example,” says Jimenez, “aluminum foil is a material that can be recycled forever. It is virtually indestructible, but most recycling plants won’t accept soiled aluminum.” Green Circle’s technology can burn off what is soiled and separate the two. They can also take single-use plastics, waxing strips, cotton balls, large plastic bags and even Styrofoam. Their special incinerators turn the chemical residue into ash. The ash is then transported to waste sites where it acts as a composting aid in the breaking-down process, blanketing the garbage, so that less methane gas is released. That helps keep carbon emissions down.
“The unspoken truth of salons is color waste, which, sadly, ends up going down the drain and ultimately into our rivers and oceans,” says Jimenez. “We now have a place to safely dispose of the leftover color. And the hair! All of the hair is recycled now too.” Next to each station is a Green Circle hair vacuum that sucks all of the hair on the floor into a specific container within seconds.
Everything goes into purpose-built containers provided to the salon that are then shipped back to Green Circle. The company employs women’s correctional facilities to create hair booms, which are used in oil spills. They work like magic because hair is one of the most absorbent materials on earth. Moreover, during national disasters, they are used as bedding for displaced dogs. Studies show that the hair comforts them.
Green Circle also ensures that a salon has less water waste. Each sink at ASHES & STEEL STUDIO has water bead heads. “The beads allow for more oxygenated water, although we are only using about 60 percent of what we used before,” says Jimenez. “And the water pressure still stays strong.”
When asked about his passion for sustainability, Jimenez explains that it wasn’t something he gave a lot of thought to when he was growing up in New York City, because in the ‘concrete jungle’ one is fairly disconnected from nature. But once he became an educator to the trade and traveled throughout the US and beyond, his eyes were opened. He chose Weaverville as his permanent residence three years ago. “Once you have seen beauty such as this, you must become a steward to it,” he says. He may be a pro at educating others about style, but now his passion is to educate them about the planet as well.