Eco Interviews: Abra, The Beauty Assembly

28th July 2020

Introducing our new series on sustainable salons where we interview fellow salon owners to learn all their tips on how to be more eco-friendly in an industry that can sometimes be a little wasteful. We of course had to start with our owner, Abra, so she could share her experience with making The Beauty Assembly more sustainable, particularly in Leeds.

  1. What made you want to focus on becoming a more eco-friendly salon?

I would say for me it started out as a personal mission to be more eco-conscious and this then lead in to wanting to make better decisions for the business. When you look at the statistics on the environmental impact produced by the hair and beauty industry it is hard not to be shocked and want to start making changes for the better, especially as more and more options are being made available to us. I am a great believer in moderation as I feel our biggest problem as a society is to over consume, we find something we like and we want it quicker, cheaper and constantly available to us and this leads to companies making sacrifices in order to meet the demand of their market. This has always been something I’ve wanted to avoid in the salon and has meant we were able to grow slowly and invest in more sustainable options and brands.

  1. What would you say are the main steps you’ve taken to achieve a more ethical business?

As of summer 2020 The Beauty Assembly has become a Cruelty Free and Vegan salon, which means all of our products from our gels to our wax are not harmful to animals. We use recycled couch roll, toilet roll & till roll which helps reduce deforestation. We use energy efficient lighting and have a hot tap which helps reduce energy consumption when making hot drinks. For our Spa pedicures we switched from disposable liners to plumbed in pedicure bowls which can easily be cleaned and massively reduces the amount plastic wastage (those liners are sinful and we actually feel embarrassed that we ever allowed them!). We can also refill all the essential oils, massage lotion & Epsom salts that we use in our pedicures locally which stops any packaging waste and we do this with all our cleaning products too which are all eco-friendly and non-toxic.

We are forever mindful of any changes we make in the salon so when we replaced our manicure tables earlier in the year we were careful to salvage to legs and acrylic tops from the old tables and take them to Scrap in Leeds (a social enterpirse that finds creative ways to reuse waste materials from businesses) and we had the new tables made bespoke by a local carpenter (using sustainable products) which was more expensive but means they should now last much longer, and they look great!

When we redid our bathroom we “Twinned” it with a toilet for an under-developed country which means you make a donation and this wonderful charity builds a toilet somewhere within a community on your behalf. It’s little things like this when you are investing in the salon that may not seem like much on their own but when taken together really make a difference in the way you view every action you take.

  1. Is it easy to be eco-friendly in the beauty industry? Has being located in Leeds helped you at all?

I would say it is definitely easy to make small changes such as replacing your toilet roll and couch roll or replacing your products with Vegan & Cruelty Free items as there are so many more brands available now than there was. What can be difficult for salons, especially that are not in the city centre, is finding places to refill your cleaning products and consumables. We are so lucky here in Leeds to have two refill shops within walking distance and one just a five minute drive away so there really is no excuse. I do wish some of the bigger salon suppliers would focus on offering more sustainable packaging or even a refill system for items such as acetone which unfortunately produces a lot of packing waste, but hopefully they will see the trend and start to make changes. One thing I would love to see in 2020 is recycled foil being more readily available. I know it’s an essential for both hair and nails so I find it crazy a supplier hasn’t already jumped on this. In Australia they have a scheme where salons separate their waste into plastic, foil and then even hair and all of these things are collected by a specialist company who then recycle the materials, hair for example can go to clean up oil spills in the ocean!

It seems to us that Leeds has a great passion for sustainability and its people are real advocates for the independent business scene which in turn allows us to make these better choices. I think for The Beauty Assembly being in the city centre helps too because the large majority of our clients visit us either on foot from their home or office, or hop on the train which, thanks to the new South Leeds train entrance, means they can be in the salon within 5 minutes of getting off.

  1. What’s your best tip for anyone wanting to be more eco-conscious?

Well  the fact you are even thinking about it means you are off to a great start! It definitely has to be something you believe in on a personal level and not just to follow a trend otherwise it will be too easy to give up when things take a little more effort (as they can). Organisation definitely definitely plays huge part in being eco-conscious as generally the more sustainable options can take a little more time. So for example, letting the salon completely run out of toilet roll might mean a quick trip to the next door shop for some Andrex, where as if you spot you are running low in advance you can take the time to get your usual recycled toilet roll.

I would also suggest taking a second before buying more “stuff” for your salon to ask whether it is really necessary and whether it is something you will get good use out of (this applies on a personal level too!). At Christmas this year rather than buying plastic decorations, which can be tempting as you can pick them up so cheaply but that would probably feel dated by next year, we teamed up with a local florist to create a beautiful floral arrangement for the salon which then dried and we handed out to clients to add to their Christmas wrapping! Zero waste and it certainly felt more special to clients all whilst supporting a fellow local business.

Links to some of the schemes/items mentioned:

Toilet twinning – https://www.toilettwinning.org/twin-your-toilet/

Scrap Leeds – https://scrapstuff.co.uk/

Seagulls Refills (Kirkstall) – https://seagullsreuse.org.uk/

Ecotopia (City Centre) – https://www.ecotopialeeds.co.uk/

Recycled Toilet Roll – https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/

Recycled Couch Roll – https://www.naturalliving.co.uk/acatalog/eureka-eu-ecr0300-essentials-discovery-couch-roll-box-of-9-price-per-1-box-9-rolls-size-40m-length-x-20-width.html?gclid=CjwKCAjw2uf2BRBpEiwA31VZj2xh1hW4bkZF2D_THHPZDuvE4rwoT18qVs132Y_DMK4LTlp_ZqMGZhoCtsMQAvD_BwE