Hair Matters program

Donate hair, Fur and fiber

You shampoo because hair collects oil.  Through our charity, you can donate hair, fur and fleece clippings to soak up major oil spills and help keep storm drains and waterways clean.

Media contacts, we are very grateful for the continued press coverage of the Hair Matters program. We know you are the captive audience of your hair stylists, who are sharing this great story! Thank you all for being eco-heroes and spreading the word!

How do I donate hair/fur/fleece?

To donate to our Hair Matters program, first sign up to the Free Exchange on our – Humanity Adding Solutions Network (even for a one time hair donation). We ask you to do this because warehouse spaces are limited and we cannot always accept boxes of clippings. Right now we need ponytails that are 3 inches or longer (we use these for the mats’ scrims – like a lacy framework we fill in with fur, fleece etc.), and we may need to reach you in the future for emergency oil spills in your area, so please sign up!

Why can’t you just give me a $%&$#@ address?!

Due to the sheer volume of donations from the thousands of generous donors like yourself, we have to manage the volume and direct materials to the closest recipients. Not all our depots are always open, and we don’t want any boxes returned. Please sign up to the Free Exchange on our Hum Sum – Humanity Adding Solutions platform and post your gift of hair under Hair Matters – Hair & Fur. It’s free, fast and easy.

Also, when there is an emergency oil spill, we may send out alerts to all donors closest to the disaster. Please give us your feedback on this, we always love to hear from you and get suggestions!  Thanks!

Are hair mats safe for the environment?

Yes. Hair mats are natural, renewable and non-toxic to the environment unlike petroleum based mats, booms and dispersants. Oil companies drill and use oil to make petroleum based products that clean up oil spills. We are offering an efficient, eco-alternative to that silly cycle.

Oil companies have mentioned that our hair mats and hair booms shed. But they were slammed in the press, as clearly they couldn’t expect only bald people to go to the beach. Sea mammals have fur coats. The toxins used in conventional oil spill clean up are far more harsh than any minimal shedding a mat might do. Also, no one is asking people who color, straighten, perm their hair or apply sunscreen not to swim. These mats collect and remove oil quickly and safely for the environment. They provide green jobs and promote renewable resources.  

What happens to my hair when you get it?

Matter of Trust uses hair/fur/fleece donations in several ways. Fibers are felted into mats on site, at partner hubs or they are stuffed into sheaths such as donated nylon stockings or burlap coffee bean bags to make booms.

Mats are used by hazmat teams in oil spill cleanups and by public works departments in storm drain cages to keep motor oil drip spills out of waterways. Booms are best for encircling spills or “sandbagging” a beach to keep sands clean during high tide.  Mats, booms, and loose fibers are also used in classroom oil spill clean up demos to promote the education of sorting waste into resources and the importance of clean waterways. 

Hair Matters PROGRAM


Matter of Trust established the Hair Matters program to promote large-scale waste fiber recycling.  

Using clippings of hair from salons, fur from pet groomers, fleece and feathers from farmers, even laundry lint. we produce felted recycled fiber mats. These go to public works departments for use in storm drains. We also coordinate with emergency clean water efforts to supply stuffed sausage-shaped booms that can “sandbag” and protect coves and beaches. This program provides green jobs, as well as volunteer opportunities which are safe, non-hazardous, hands-on and empowering during major oil spills.

In 1999, Lisa Gautier, Matter of Trust founder and President, began a partnership with Phil McCrory, a hair stylist and inventor from Alabama. Years earlier, Phil had been washing an oily head of hair while watching CNN coverage of otters covered in petrol during the famous Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska. It occurred to him that he was cutting fiber that could be used to soak up oil spills.

There are over 2500 oil spills a year on average. There are also over 370,000 hair salons in the US and over 200,000 pet groomers. They each cut on average two pounds (one kilo) of hair/fur per day. These fibers can be felted into mats or stuffed into recycled burlap sacks or pantyhose in order to make environmentally friendly booms and waddles which soak up oil.

On November 7, 2007 the cargo ship named Cosco Busan accidentally hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of Bunker C fuel. Within hours, Matter of Trust coordinated efforts with hundreds of volunteers to place booms and mats along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

Our goal is to divert fibers from the waste stream, sort them into useful stockpiles, create replicable, sustainable green jobs, and manufacture renewable material products that clean our waterways.

Program Documents: 

Hair Matters


As SF locals, we were uniquely situated to work with surfers who came out by the hundreds to volunteer. They also sorted the clean-up debris materials on beach tarps. We were then able to conduct a remediation experiment to compost the oily hair waste from the Cosco Busan spill.  At the Presidio National Park, we begin by treating the oily mats using oyster mushrooms donated from, then thermophilic composting, and finally vermiculture (worms) to turn the hazardous, bunker fuel waste into healthy compost over 18 months (see the study here). Composting is a viable alternative to conventional methods used for disposal of oil spill waste (for more information on composting visit our Global Compost Project). Haz Mat teams are legally responsible for oil spill waste disposal, which is typically incinerated or buried in lined landfills marked “hazardous waste.”

In 2010, Matter of Trust initiated a huge mobilization to gather waste fibers and make hair booms for the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast Spill. Nineteen warehouses – spread from Florida through Texas – received hair, fur, fleece, and nylons from donors of every zip code in North America and 30 other countries. Thousands of volunteers signed up to make booms and help the Gulf Coast. Many hosted “cut-a-thons,” “shave-a-thons” and “Boom B Qs” to collect donations and stuff nylons. These booms were mostly used in Alabama and Florida. We’d like to thank Amanda Bacon, Yente Sehman, Barbara Johnson, Daisy Suduran, New Orleans Ritz Carlton Salon, Ingrid Setzer, Hanes Inc. Hooters and many more for their help. Visit these links for more information and photos.

In 2013, Matter of Trust opened their Eco-Center in San Francisco, California and expanded the Hair Matters exhibit, demos, videos and lesson plans. Many students have done wonderful “hair for oil spill “projects in science fairs all over the US!

In 2014, Matter of Trust partnered with Inlet Guard and FeltCrafts. InletGuard makes storm drain cages and we did a pilot study in Garland, Texas. This was successful and led to more cities and seasonal refills. Matter of Trust has been funding hair felting machine research and thanks to a partnership with FeltCrafts in New Mexico, a great design for our affordable, hair specific needle punchers was developed.

In 2017, we opened the Matter of Trust Eco-Industrial Hub in the heart of San Francisco which gets 16 million tourists a year. We created this model factory site to make hair mats and have exhibits on clean air, water, energy and ideal materials. We plan to support other hubs throughout the US and beyond so that donors have many places to send fibers and the shipping costs and carbon footprint can be much lower. Our goal is to promote local waste fiber collection and felting wherever there are harbors, ports, bays or simply storm drains. We’d like to think collecting waste fibers from salons and groomers could be the new “paper route like after school job.”