Today’s blogpost may seem creepy or gross at first to some people, but hopefully they will bear with me and find themselves as surprised and amazed as I was when I first learned about the very clever innovation of a Matter of Trust.
I have been cutting our son Theo’s hair since he was about 3 month’s old and, he has a thick head of hair that grows really quickly. I kept the first lock of hair that I cut in a tiny little trinket box marked “First Curl,” the partner to another box inscribed “First Tooth.” These were gifts to us when Theo was born, so I know it isn’t considered creepy to keep those. As I continued to cut his hair though, I found it hard to the clippings away, so I kept them in a bag in our bathroom cabinet, not really knowing what I was going to do them. Some time after, because I was part of a local environmental group a few years back, I discovered that a local hair salon was collecting hair and sending it to an organization that used hair clippings to soak up oil slicks. Intrigued and delighted that my son’s hair could be used to help clean up an environmental mess, I gave a couple of bags of his hair clippings to the salon over the years. Last week, when I called the salon to see if they were still taking hair, I was disappointed to learn that they had discontinued the program.
Determined to track down the organization, I looked online and found the San Francisco-based Matter of Trust (www.matteroftrust.org), a non-profit founded in 1999 by Lisa Gautier, who began a partnership with a hair stylist and inventor from Alabama. The stylist Phil McCrory realized that because hair fibers absorb oil, it might be possible to use donated human hair clippings to soak up oil spills. By felting hair fibers into mats or stuffing them into recycled pantyhose, they could build environmentally friendly “booms” which soak up oil. In 2007, when a cargo ship named Cosco-Busan accidentally hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of Bunker C fuel, Matter of Trust coordinated efforts with hundreds of volunteers over 2 days to place booms and mats on Bay Area beaches. After soaking up the oil, a team from Matter of Trust employed various composting techniques to turn the oily mats into healthy soil.
Pet hair donations to Matter of Trust which became “hair booms” used to clean the shore after the Gulf Coast oil spill
So, today I stuffed Theo’s hair clippings from his last 10 haircuts or so into a bag and then inserted the bag into an envelope addressed to a felting company in New Mexico. There, they will become part of a mat that will help soak up oil and save the lives of some sea birds or other creatures endangered by human carelessness. Thankfully, there are some brilliant humans out there who find ingenious ways to clean up after ourselves.