During Melbourne Knowledge Week, at the heart of Federation Square at Deakin’s Edge, salon representatives and industry members congregated to revel in the future of sustainability. Sustainable Salons and Box Hill Institute hosted The S Event Upcycled, the sophomore answer to their inaugural event, to prove with music, art, hair and insightful wisdom that sustainability is anything but boring.

Compered by Melbourne’s Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood, the night was a multi-faceted look at current sustainability and how the salon industry can harness this and create a better future. Arron spoke of this sense of extreme community, as well as the power of education and business in environmental issues, invoking the necessary energy in the room for an audience truly passionate about saving the planet.

From an artistic perspective, the cultural, worldly experience was captured on stage entirely in an effort to showcase different forms of storytelling. East African musician Pookie enthralled the crowd with her unique blend of funk, hip hop and soul, giving the audience a refreshing musical interlude. Sustainable Salons creative director Shaun McGrath and the team at Box Hill Institute also put on a bold performance based on wiggery, with models dressed in recycled garments with creative wigs and hairpieces all made from waste, giving literal meaning to one man’s trash being another’s treasure. Shaun and the group spoke on stage afterwards to discuss the fun and creativity sustainability can produce.

The keynote speakers inspired in equal measure. Eco-warrior, author and speaker Tanya Ha spoke about making the future irresistible, speaking, among many topics, about the very relevant effects of hairspray, and how celebrity, cultural and media moments, such as Princess Diana veering away from traditional hairspray in the 90s, can change the future of the planet. Tanya spoke with extreme experience about the state of our planet and how we can adapt that to have the future we want.

The evening also highlighted the Box Hill Institute and the amazing work they do, hearing from the institution’s members such as Vivian King and Ruth Browne, with Jane Trewin in the front row, to discuss all the possibilities on offer at Box Hill. The organisations also spread awareness on EDVOS and their phenomenal impact in training salons on how to recognise and respond when their clients are experiencing domestic violence. Up to 68 per cent of people will tell salon professionals about family violence issues, speaking to the inimitable bond between hairdresser and loyal customer. EDVOS is utilising this connection to truly save lives and in 2018 supported 10,000 women and children suffering from family violence. The S Event presented them with a $2040 donation from ticket sales to further their cause.

Jane Trewin, Ruth Browne and Donna Colombini

Paul Frasca, who leads Sustainable Salons and is pivotal in the salon industry’s fight for environmental sustainability, closed out the night with his address. He anchored his insights around the idea of disruption, and how this can be crucial in the green sector. He spoke of the increasing care of consumers in this sphere, and how clients will seek out salons that are sustainable as it aligns with their values, so that now 40,000 clients visit a Sustainable Salon every week.

He mapped out a blue print for our current waste crisis and how we got here, outlining Sustainable Salons’ mammoth efforts in the war on waste, from recycling metal (which total a large portion of all salon waste and was previously going unrecycled) to utilising hair, with innovative hair booms and hair mats that soak up oil in oil spills. With specific bins and extreme categorisation, the organisation can ever recycle chemical waste, and with a new facility in Victoria, new jobs, more sustainable practices and all processes can be kept in state.

Paul Frasca

He closed the evening by showing a touching video of what it can mean to collect ponytails from clients to donate them to sick kids, and showed the amount of talent, heart and effort that goes into making these personalised wigs for children who need them. Sustainable Salons has collected 43,000 ponytails in four years, harnessing the greater power of the salon industry to truly make a difference.

With canapes, music and networking before and after the event, this was a meeting of the minds for invigorated salon professionals keen to use our industry to make a real difference. Paul encouraged the crowd to support disruptors, and be disruptors. It’s time to stop resting on our laurels and join Sustainable Salons in their fight for philanthropy, sustainability and a future we can all be proud to have shaped. Make your salon one that customers and hairdressers will be proud to inhabit.

For more information visit www.sustainablesalons.org and www.boxhill.edu.au