Let's Not Water Down Our Response to Global Warming
It’s not so long ago that the majority of Americans refused to believe climate change was real. But a lot can change in a short time. Last year researchers from Yale found almost three out of four Americans now agree global warming is happening. Only 14% of those questioned don’t. But let’s park the climate deniers for now, and focus instead on the beauty industry’s reliance on the diminishing natural resource - clean, fresh water, especially as it’s World Water Day on March 22.
Beauty is a water-hungry business, meaning we have to be part of the solution if we want to safeguard our access to it in the future. What becomes scarce, becomes expensive, so we cannot ignore water conservation, especially when government agencies report 43% of the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) are in drought - in winter!
Don’t feel guilty. Feel empowered.
The biggest danger is feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of change, and then doing nothing out of fear. It needn’t be difficult, expensive or disrupt your salon and team. Look forward, not back. I like the approach of Donna Rodrigue, owner of Casa Verde in Albuquerque, NM, who says: “Our ethos is that while you can’t do everything, you can do something.” She recently switched to disposable towels to save on water used in laundering towels and has since saved 2,586 gallons of water [as of February 2023, but this number grows by 259 gallons each month].
Progress not perfection
Don’t expect immediate conversion from everyone as you won’t get everyone on the same page at the same time. The best place to start is by making yourself and your team more water-aware and embedding it within the culture of the salon. Actively encourage them to report leaky faucets or other ways to save water. Positive language and rewards will help drive acceptance. Then make changes incrementally, introducing a new product or system and letting it bed in before moving on to the next. You do not need to do it all at once.
Thinking of others
Seeing beyond our state lines can help us understand the importance of greater water care across the whole of the industry. Hairdressers in Maine should be concerned for those in California, where there is crippling drought. We should be concerned about the catastrophic damage wrought by the cotton industry in the South or the lack of infrastructure that sees fellow Americans poisoned by lead contamination.
Be optimistic about change
Single decisions add up to huge change and guests will love it. They don’t need to be big dramatic gestures like swapping your color house and completely retraining your team. There are lots of small actions that will impress, such as fitting water-saving devices on toilets and nozzles on all the basins. Some showerhead brands save as much as 65% water and energy while beefing up the pressure so rinsing is quicker and the client experience better.
If only 14% of the population quizzed by Yale refuses to accept global warming, that means 76% do. And they are your guests. Increasingly they will want to see real change. If you can show you are taking steps to save water and build a more considerate business then they will stay loyal and have another reason to brag about you. If not, you risk losing clients to businesses that demonstrate climate concern and are embracing change. You risk losing them to your competitor.
About the Author:
Valorie Tate is the founder of Sustain Beauty Co. Sustain Beauty Co believes hairstylists shouldn’t sacrifice quality to protect their health and the environment so we now scour the globe looking for sustainable beauty products that perform. Through enhancing service quality, saving costs, or protecting their health, the SBCo community of amazing hair artists and salon owners have saved 5.5 billion gallons of water, 2.3 million tubes of color, and planted over 100,000 trees to help reforest the planet. By partnering with Valorie and her company, the beauty community has also raised enough money to build a well in El Salvador, helping a water-stressed community achieve access to clean, safe drinking water. New projects are planned for launch in 2024.