The Green Scene

Earth Day falls midweek this year, on Wednesday, April 22. But instead of labeling it “hump day,” consider the moniker “hair day.” A few local salons will be continuing their practice of collecting their snippings and shipping them off to San Francisco nonprofit Matter of Trust, which turns those donated locks into, of all things, oil-collection mats.

Hair today, mat tomorrow: This human hair will soon be transformed into mats used to help soak up the thousands of oil spills that occur around the world each year. Photo by Amanda Seta Lawton

Oil, it seems, sticks to human hair, and when you’re trying to clean up a spill, that’s a good thing. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 14,000 of them occur each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. One major spill, in particular, demonstrated how useful the mats are for cleaning up onshore messes: In 2007, a cargo ship rammed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, spilling about 58,000 gallons of oil. To help with the cleanup, Matter of Trust provided hundreds of volunteers armed with at least 1,000 mats of woven human hair. The somewhat unorthodox (but green) approach worked well, supplementing the Coast Guard’s and EPA’s efforts.

Local hairstylist Amanda Seta Lawton heard about the nonprofit from a client, looked into it, and decided to get involved. Every workday, she sweeps up cut hair and tosses it into a box lined with a trash bag. When the box is full (it takes about a month-and-a-half), Lawton seals it up and heads to the post office. The $15 cost to send about 5 pounds of hair is a small price for doing something to help the environment, she believes. Lawton also accepts donated hair, “even if [you] get it cut somewhere else,” she notes.

From its opening in 2008, Lawton’s Merrimon Avenue salon, Wildflower Studio, has emphasized being green, she explains, using all-natural products and drawing on her training as an herbalist. And before learning about Matter of Trust, Lawton had simply been adding the hair to her home compost pile.

But there was a drawback: “It was kind of freaking my husband out. All that hair floating around in our urban garden was a bit much,” Lawton recalls, laughing.

So she probably shouldn’t tell him about one of the nonprofit’s experimental strategies for converting the oil-soaked mats into compost: a whole lot of worms.
Lawton can be reached at 505-9490 or at Other participating salons include The Water Lily Wellness Salon (; 505-3288), Willow’s Dream (; 225-5922), Adorn Salon & Boutique (; 225-8828), Lola Salon (231-3456) and Eclipse Salon (285-0019).

City staff present Earth Day Expo

What’s Asheville doing to go green? Find out Wednesday, April 22, at the city’s first Earth Day Expo, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Public Works Building. Council member Robin Cape will open the event, and Energy Coordinator Maggie Ullman and other staffers will be on hand to explain Asheville’s energy-efficiency and sustainability initiatives.

The expo is part of a larger national event, the National Conversation on Climate Action, organized by ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability. The global initiative will feature an array of events designed to engage hundreds of communities and thousands of people [in] substantive, solutions-oriented dialogues about climate action opportunities at the local level,” Executive Director Michelle Wyman explains.
For more information, contact Phil Kleiser at The expo will be held in Room A109 on the first floor of the Public Works Building, 161 S. Charlotte St. in Asheville.

Keep it covered

Another event that didn’t make it into Xpress’ Earth Day issue is Asheville GreenWorks’ graffiti-removal day on Saturday, April 25.

Graffiti is on the rise in Asheville and Buncombe County, notes GreenWorks, the local affiliate of the national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful. And the best way to combat the problem is to cover it up quickly and keep it that way, event organizers say.

On April 25, teams of volunteers and local cleanup companies will tackle various graffiti sites around town, based on property owners’ requests. Besides putting out a call for volunteers, GreenWorks would appreciate donations to help cover the cost of cleanup kits.
To get your property on the list for a cleanup, or for more information about volunteering, donating or getting a kit, call 254-1776, or e-mail

Send your environmental news to, or call 251-1333, ext. 152.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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