Guilderland salon owner sends hair she cuts to soak up Gulf Coast oil

They used to get tossed in the trash: brunette curls, clippings from a bang trim, the remnants of someone’s new bob.

Now, Kristen Gaffney, the owner of Pure Elements an Organic Salon in Guilderland, boxes them up and sends them out with a purpose.

The hair is headed to communities along the Gulf of Mexico desperate to soak up the oil from the disaster, which began with the April 20 explosion of an oil rig. Instead of waiting on the results of cleanup efforts, coastal cities and towns are hosting “Boom B Qs,” at which volunteers make booms — barriers — out of nylon stockings stuffed with hair and fur donated by more than 45,000 salons, barber shops, groomers, farms and other businesses throughout North America.

The project capitalizes on the oil-absorbing power of hair and fur to trap the spill before it hits shoreline communities.

“Seeing in the news all the animals and the oil, it just breaks my heart,” said Gaffney, who advertises the hair collection effort for Matters of Trust, a San-Francisco-based ecological public charity that’s coordinating the project, in her shop window. “We had one person who had brushed her cat and brought her cat hair in. People have been coming in and booking hair appointments just to get haircuts to be able to participate.”

The desperation to do something about one of the worst environmental disasters in history has prompted more than 100 Capital Region businesses to participate in the effort, according to Matter of Trust’s online database (

Sundance Lev, the owner of Grrreendog Grooming and Spa in Albany, has already collected two 13-gallon garbage bags filled with freshly washed clippings from her clientele, which includes Shih Tzus, Wheaten terriers and Lhasa Apsos. The collection is bound for a community in Florida.

“The disaster in the gulf is just heart-wrenching,” says Lev, who talked a local UPS store into donating the shipping costs. “People are feeling so frustrated. Everybody I mention this to gets so excited about it.”

Jennifer Gish can be reached at 454-5089 or