Most students choose to get a haircut because of the hot weather or to change their hairstyle. On Thursday, University of Florida students chose to get a haircut to help the environment.
On a sunny and hot summer day at the Plaza of the Americas, about 20 UF students got free haircuts and donated the hair to Gators for a Sustainable Campus, a UF organization that is contributing to a statewide campaign to help clean the oil spill.

“We didn’t see anything done about the oil spill at UF, so we wanted to do something about it,” said Melanie Richards, a member of Gators for a Sustainable Campus.

The hair will be used to create hair booms, made out of stocking or nylon, in hopes of helping clean the oil being spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.

Students sat in a chair while Chris Cano, a member of Gators for a Sustainable Campus, was the sole haircutter. Richards stayed behind the stand, answering students’ questions, picking up the hair and putting it in a bucket.

Cano, who doesn’t have experience as a hairdresser, said he wanted to make Gainesville part of the statewide effort to help clean the oil spill. “I warn students that I don’t have experience as a hairdresser,” he said, holding his scissors and smiling. And students didn’t seem concerned by his lack of expertise.

The statewide campaign to help the oil spill relief is sponsored by Matter of Trust, a nonprofit organization that has campaigned for 10 years to donate hair.

According to Matter of Trust, hair or fur attract oil particles, absorbing the oil from the water.

Even though Matter of Trust is encouraging schools and saloons along the Gulf Coast to donate hair, BP — which operated the oil rig that exploded, causing the spill — contends that hair booms are not effective, since they sink within a short period of time once they become saturated with water.

That contention is not stopping Matter of Trust from encouraging others to collect more hair, Richards said.

Ian Mitchel, a UF economics and biochemistry major, was one of the first students who approached the stand to have a haircut.

With the scissors close to his ears, he said he needed a haircut and that this was a perfect opportunity to get one.

“The hair grows fast,” he said.

Mitchel voiced concern over how BP uses rigs.

“They should have stopped the rig before it exploded,” he said. “They weren’t supposed to use a rig that wasn’t working right.”

Another student who left campus with a few inches less of her hair was Stephanie Ley, a forest resource and conservation major.

She said that because she grew up in South Florida, she has a special interest in the beach. “This is the minimum I can do,” she said.

Ley said she worries about the effects the oil spill will have on the ecosystem for years to come.

Chris Day, a telecommunication major, didn’t hesitate to get his hair cut. He sat down in the chair and said of his 5-inch-long hair: “Cut it very, short, like you,” pointing at Cano, who got a buzz cut a few days ago.

“I felt I could do something to help the oil spill,” he said. “It’s just hair, it grows back.”

UF volunteers and Gators for a Sustainable Campus will now work to create hair booms next week to send on June 20 to warehouses, Richards said. The stockings and nylons will be collected by volunteers.

Hair salons in Gainesville are also collecting customers’ hair. Some of the salons are: Avante Garde and the Downtown Barber Shop, Richards said.

“This is not about Florida,” Richards said. “But it’s about getting the country involved in collecting hair.”