Words by Tess Becker
As pollutants become more prevalent in soil and water, initiatives are cropping up to restore our natural environment in innovative ways. One woman is making that difference with a surprising and widely available material - human hair.
Jackie Yong is a trained hairdresser who has always had a passion for hair. But this interest developed into a fascination after she learnt about the benefits of hair for the environment.
Jackie knew that hair captures moisture and contains important nutrients, so she decided to experiment with hair-infused soil to see if these benefits could have further use. This led her to set up a new business, Soilz Alive, which uses waste hair to nourish depleted soil.
There are multiple positives of her work; composting hair keeps it out of landfill sites, the nitrogen content in each strand boosts soil health, and studies have shown that human hair acts as a fertilizer for plants.
A study from the American Society for Horticultural Science showed that human hair, combined with compost, offers a powerful nutrient source for crops.
“Hair is bountiful and nourishing,” they write on their website. “It’s a resource, not something to throw away. This is the circular economy we can and must embrace. This is how we change our social systems. And our food system.”
Beyond its work composting hair, Soilz Alive also produces a range of products from waste hair salon materials.
“We turn shampoo bottles into sunglasses and coasters and combs,” said co-founder Paul Frasca.
So far, it has collected 62,247kg of hair from salon floors and diverted it from landfill.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here.
Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more.
American Forests. A conservation organization focused on preserving and protecting American forests. Support them here.