Blog : Green Collar Careers: Laura MacKay, Owner of Acorn Organic Salon
With locations in Dover and Exeter N.H., Acorn Organic Salon has proven that it’s possible for a beauty salon to “go green.” Laura MacKay, 37, became interested in creating an eco-friendly salon after discovering the negative impact toxic hair products can have on the environment and on our bodies.
“It’s incredible, the amount of chemicals we put on ourselves every day,” said MacKay. “Some of those toxic chemicals are flushed down the drain as well, and end up in the water supply.”
Every product at Acorn is vetted for toxicity and naturalness. Along with only carrying environmentally friendly products, Acorn has found other ways to operate sustainably. The salons feature sustainable cork flooring, energy efficient light fixtures and water conservation measures. Acorn also provides cut hair for mats that naturally soak up oil spills. MacKay has found a niche in the beauty industry, which has not quite caught on to the “green” fad. However, “going green” is now trending along the Seacoast, partly due to the influence of her two salons. Acorn recently moved to share a space in the same building as Dover Naturals, a health food store that makes the perfect sustainable neighbor.
Theresa Conn (TC): What do you like most about your job?
Laura MacKay (LC): What I love most about my job is being able to interact with people. I love meeting new clients, connecting with them and helping them feel good about themselves. I also take my role as an educator very seriously. It’s an amazing opportunity to have an hour or more with our clients; we have plenty of time to tell them about new developments in the sustainable beauty industry, and what Acorn is doing to be environmentally friendly. [We also] share the wealth of info we now have about other local green businesses, which we have gained from being a part of the Green Alliance. My job is very fulfilling.
TC: Where did you go to college? Does your college education help with your current job? What skills from college most prepared you for the work you do now?
LC: As the owner of a salon, it’s important to both have artistic beauty skills and to be knowledgeable about business. After I graduated from Empire Beauty School and completed my state boards exam, I obtained a cosmetology license. While I was at Empire, I learned all the tricks and trades of the beauty business, like hairdressing, salon etiquette and client retention. I also took business classes at Southern New Hampshire University. The business courses helped me prepare for running the salon; they also helped me think in terms of how we could make Acorn more sustainable.
Marketing ourselves as a salon that cares about what impacts we have on the environment has brought in incredible traffic. Our clients really care about the health of the planet, and that encourages us to find more and more ways to be as eco-friendly as possible.
TC: What do you look for in an employee in this field?
LC: We look for people with big personalities. As a hair stylist, you’re going to be talking to people all day long. You can teach a person to cut hair, but you can’t teach someone how to make conversation.
Beyond that, we hire people that understand and value what we’re trying to do. A typical beauty salon usually isn’t cognizant of environmental hazards. We do business differently, and it’s important for our employees to cherish that and spread our message to every client.
TC: What made you integrate sustainability into your business/go into a green industry?
LC: After many years of working in the corporate beauty world, I was shocked by how much waste we created. And it wasn’t just any waste; we were flushing harmful chemicals down the drain. I started wondering how these chemicals were affecting the planet and our own bodies. I found a website [http:/www.skindeep.com/] that has a database of what chemicals are in cosmetics, and what those chemicals do. I started to envision a sustainable salon that only featured products tested for toxicity and naturalness. From there, everything snowballed. We found tons of ways to make our salon eco-friendly, from going paper-free to reusing plastic bags for dyeing hair.
TC: What are you most proud of in your business as relates to sustainability?
LC: A client can walk in here, just looking for a haircut, and leave with a whole new perspective on natural beauty. Maybe that is a catalyst for our clients to live their lives with less negative impact; maybe our clients will buy more local food, or start taking the bus. The idea that we could help people in our community live in more sustainable ways is pretty exciting.
Acorn Organic Salon is a green-certified business in the Green Alliance. For more info on Acorn, visit http://www.acornorganicsalon.com. To learn more about the Green Alliance, go to http://www.greenalliance.biz.
Theresa Conn is a senior Environmental Conservation and Sustainability major at UNH and a writer for the Green Alliance.