Your hair has the power to help to stop the nastiest oil spill in U.S. history from spreading.
That fact gave two Barrie residents the hair-brained idea to help mop up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Chris Kitchen and Cheryl Lago are collecting human and animal hair from local groomers and salons to send to the Gulf to help absorb the spill.
“The whole situation happening over there angers me terribly, so this was my idea to help,” said Kitchen, a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which advocates for the protection of marine wildlife internationally. “It was something I knew I could easily do to help, and it’s a unique, interesting idea.
“They were saying something like 25 species in that water are already going extinct because of the spill. Our anger about this situation has really motivated us,” he added.
“We feel so helpless here, unable to do anything to stop it from happening, so we wanted to try this,” Lago said.
Kitchen’s affiliation with the conservation group connected him to A Matter of Trust, a conservation group in the U.S. trying to help clean up the oil spill currently through the collection of hair to create booms.
Hair booms are made of nylons stuffed with human/animal hair, and simply absorb the crude oil that has infected the ocean.
Crude oil has been spewing into the gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20. The blast killed 11 workers and sunk the rig, being operated for BP, the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf.
Emergency crews began scouring the beaches for oil and shoring up miles of boom. Officials say the boom will block oil from reaching inland waterways.
In Florida, an oil sheen can be seen about 15 kilometres from Pensacola beach, where the summer tourism season is underway.
The spill has also reached barrier islands in Alabama and Mississippi, and it has polluted 200 kilometres of Louisiana coastline.
There’s a sense of urgency to help clean up the crude mess, and Kitchen and Lago need to get enough cropped mops collected to ship to Florida and Louisiana in the next few weeks.
But getting local support isn’t as easy as they thought.
“All (salons) have to do is collect the hair and save it. I’ll come and pick it up,” Kitchen said. “I started a couple weeks ago handing out flyers to local salons. But, so far, only one has jumped onboard.”
Leah Smith, owner of Beauty Supply Outlet and Supercuts in Barrie, said helping the pair was a no-brainer.
“Cheryl approached me and I said yes the second she texted me,” Smith said. “In the States, Paul Mitchell (hair products) is doing the same sort of thing. So, it didn’t seem weird to me at all.
“We just throw the hair out, so we can collect it and donate it until this is over,” she added.
Supercuts is having its grand-opening Saturday, with $6 haircuts being offered. Hair cut that day will be saved for the project.
But human hair isn’t all that’s needed.
“I have a horse breeder who’s come onboard now, and will be donating all horse hair,” Kitchen said.
“We need groomers to donate pet hair, too. It works as well as human hair. Alpaca hair is actually the best to use.”
And when enough hair is collected, the booms will need to be made and shipped off.
“Women’s size C and D nylons is what we’ll be stuffing the hair with. It’s labour intensive and we’ll be doing it all ourselves,” Kitchen said.
“If people want to sign up to help us on a stuffing day, we’ll get it done a lot faster,” Lago said. “It’d also be great if shipping companies like UPS would get onboard and give us better shipping rates to get this stuff overseas.”
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