Salon Sassafras in Amsterdam: A Blueprint for Hair Salon Sustainability

I must be clear from the beginning that I do know the folks who run this salon (they’re wonderful folks), but I promise you I am not allowing that to cloud my judgement here. They are not paying me to write this article, aside from giving me a super groovy haircut which we will get to later.

I would happily be singing the praises of Salon Sassafras regardless of whether I knew the owners or not, and the salon absolutely deserves its place on A Wall of Hope. For me, it serves as a perfect example of how a hair salon, or any small business for that matter, should be run with environmental sustainability in mind. So with all that out of the way, go have a read of the article below and see what you think!

More than Just a Name

Ever hear about a thing called ‘sassafras’?

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Just rolls off the tongue like toilet roll rolls off the shelves during a pandemic.

Salon Sassafras has a really genuine, business-wide focus on environmental sustainability, minimalism, and a strong commitment to reducing waste as much as possible. 

But not only is sassafras an incredibly pleasurable word to say, it is also the name of a very special type of tree. The sassafras tree is incredible because every single part of it can be, and has been used for something. Sassafras provides food for wildlife, its wood and bark has a variety of domestic and commercial uses, tea can be brewed from its roots, the leaves can be used for thickening soups, and the oil can be used in perfumes and soaps. Sassafras has many other reported uses as well, so in a way, you could call sassafras a kind of ‘zero waste’ tree.

This article is not about the sassafras tree however (although that could be a very good idea for a future article), because see, not only is sassafras an incredibly pleasurable word to say, and a very special type of ‘zero waste’ tree; sassafras is also the name of a very special new hair salon that’s recently opened up in the Bos en Lommer region of Amsterdam. 

Salon Sassafras in the Bos en Lommer region of Amsterdam; Groovy name, groovy logo, and even groovier ethos.

But what makes this Salon Sassafras in Amsterdam so special? Well just like the sassafras tree, this salon has more than a touch of the zero waste about it. Salon Sassafras has a really genuine, business-wide focus on environmental sustainability, minimalism, and a strong commitment to reducing waste as much as possible. 

From running on renewable energy, to refusing to use single-use-plastic, to only working with the most sustainable brands around, Salon Sassafras really is a near-perfect (perfection is impossible really isn’t it?) example of how to incorporate environmental sustainability into a hair salon. 

So here’s a look at all the things that make Salon Sassafras a true salon of sustainability. 

Embracing the Circular Economy

Salon Sassafras was established from the very beginning with the circular economy, and therefore, the environment in mind. 

If you haven’t heard of the circular economy you can learn all about it in this hilarious article I wrote a while back, but basically the circular economy is about making much better use of our raw materials. The circular economy is the economy of the future, where we build things to last, and we find a way to use the same raw materials over and over again instead of constantly extracting new ones and destroying the planet. And it is with this kind of ‘circular’ ethos that Salon Sassafras, the physical salon itself, was put together. 

Basically, Salon Sassafras has been, and is being, put together in a way that removes it from the ‘consumer cycle’ as much as possible.

In true circular fashion, the majority of Salon Sassafras has been fitted and furnished with recycled, reused, and repurposed materials, or built by hand with locally produced and sustainably managed ones:

  • The washbasin, chairs, mirrors and cutting stools have all been recycled or repurposed by finding high quality used pieces and ‘fixing them up’ to suit the salon. 
  • The reception pillows were handmade by repurposing leftover cushions and wrapping them in velvet fabric. 
  • The shelving, desks and counters were hand-built from elm tree wood, a tree that grows in abundance in the Netherlands. The wood was locally harvested to reduce travel-related emissions and to ensure the sustainability of the wood. 
  • The folks at Salon Sassafras even plan to decorate the place with hand made ‘natural-fibre’ macrame decorations by repurposing some old rope and twine, so even the bells and whistles at Salon Sassafras are circular bells and whistles! (I wonder if they could make some decorations out of actual bells and whistles? Could be a nice circular idea?) 

Basically, Salon Sassafras has been, and is being, put together in a way that removes it from the ‘consumer cycle’ as much as possible. They try to recycle, reuse, and repurpose wherever they can, and if they are ever forced to purchase any mass-produced furniture or appliances, they make sure to only purchase from brands with ‘solid environmental policies and a strong sustainability rating.’

Now just imagine if every business were to adopt this same level of commitment to respecting and making better use of raw materials. That, my friends, is how we can move towards a more circular, hospitable world.

But this commitment to circularity and sustainability does not begin and end with the procurement of raw materials, of course, it involves what we do with those raw materials once we have finished using them as well.

At Salon Sassafras, they take this very seriously. 

A Constant Commitment to the ‘Zero Waste’ Journey

Creating absolutely no waste whatsoever is virtually an impossible thing to achieve, especially when running a business. But constantly striving to create as little waste as possible, to always choose the least wasteful option, and to always be on the lookout for new ways to reduce waste is about the best a business can do. Here’s a look at how they’re doing just that at Salon Sassafras throughout the salon experience: 

Towels 

Towels really seem like such an innocent thing. The truth is; as a hair salon customer you’re probably not overly concerned about the environmental sustainability of the towel that’s wrapped around your soon to be beautified hair. You are there for your hair, and I suppose that’s fair enough.

But if you’re running a business and you want to reduce waste as much as possible you need to consider absolutely every aspect of your operation, and in salons, that definitely includes towels! At Salon Sassafras it seems, a whole lot of consideration has been put into their towels.

Instead of using reusable towels, Salon Sassafras has opted to use disposable towels from a brand named Scrummi. Now on the surface, it may seem more wasteful to opt for a disposable towel as opposed to a reusable towel, but when you really look into it, that’s not necessarily the case. 

Reusable towels are usually made from either cotton or synthetic microfibres (plastic). Of course, we all know why plastic towels are a terrible option; they take thousands of years to break down and are usually produced with all sorts of damaging and wasteful chemicals, but cotton is a highly unsustainable material as well. Cotton production involves an incredible amount of water use (and waste), and also requires all sorts of pesticides and herbicides which severely degrades soil quality and damages natural habitats. 

Cotton is often grown in large monocultures (where a single crop is grown at a time) and this is detrimental to the health of the land and the biodiversity of local habitats.

So it turns out reusable towel production is more often than not, very wasteful, and very damaging to the environment. Add to this the fact that in a salon, each reusable towel must be washed at 60-90 degrees after every use, which uses a whole lot of water and energy on a regular basis, and you can see why reusable towels are not exactly the most sustainable option.

The disposable Scrummi towels in use at Salon Sassafras however, are a whole different story! These towels are 100% biodegradable and compostable, and will harmlessly dissolve back into the environment within 8 weeks. They are made from natural wood fibres, derived from Central European Forests that have been certified sustainable, so they are as kind to the environment as possible when it comes to raw materials used. The Scrummi towels are also produced without the use of synthetic chemicals, and 95% of the water used during the production process is recycled using a filtration system. 

If you’re running a business and you want to reduce waste as much as possible you need to consider absolutely every aspect of your operation, and in salons, that definitely includes towels!

So all-in-all, it seems Salon Sassafras has made a very sustainable, waste-friendly choice when it comes to their Scrummi towels. 

Coffee

At Salon Sassafras, even the coffee they serve you is as waste-free as possible!

Now while you’re sitting there in the salon with a super-sustainable towel wrapped around your head, becoming more glowing and more beautiful by the second, it might be quite nice to indulge in some tasty refreshments. How about a nice hot cup of coffee while you’re waiting? 

At Salon Sassafras, even the coffee they serve you is as waste-free as possible! To save on energy and reduce waste, they use a ‘pour-over’ method of making coffee where they brew one big batch a day and then keep all the coffee hot in thermos flasks. This means energy is saved by not having to brew multiple batches, and the substantial amount of waste that comes from single-cup espresso coffee and pod-coffee is also avoided. (I’ve always thought those usually unrecyclable George Clooney pods are one of the most wasteful things the human race has ever created, I mean what the flaming goodness are we thinking?)

They also only serve fair trade coffee at Salon Sassafras, and they try to support the local coffee roasters as much as possible too, so you can enjoy your mid-makeover refreshments with a calm, planet-friendly state of mind.

Toilet Paper

Coffee often makes you need the toilet doesn’t it? Pretty sure it’s a natural laxative or something? Does the job for me anyways!

Funnily enough, much like towels, toilet paper also seems like a perfectly innocent thing, but some have estimated that roughly 10 million trees are used to wipe human bottoms around the world EACH YEAR! Which makes you realise that toilet paper can actually be an incredibly wasteful thing.

This has been considered at Salon Sassafras though. They always use eco-friendly, non-bleached, recycled toilet paper in the salon, and will soon exclusively be using toilet paper made by a company called ‘The Good Roll,’ who make their toilet paper from 100% recycled paper (so no new trees have to be cut down), and free from chlorine, colour or fragrances. So if the waste-friendly coffee runs through you at Salon Sassafras, you can go to the toilet safe in the knowledge that you’re doing your thing for the trees! 

Toilet roll made from 100% recycled paper by The Good Roll; looks super funky too!

The Good Roll also donates 50% of its profits to building toilets in developing countries, so really, the toilet roll at Salon Sassafras isn’t just reducing waste and decreasing deforestation, it is also helping people in need too. 

Who knew our choice of toilet paper could make such a difference? 

Would you like a Receipt?

Toilet paper isn’t the only kind of paper that makes a difference. According to some statistics, up to 10 million trees are used each year in the US alone just for the production of paper receipts, and a whole lot of water is used too. While these statistics may not be entirely accurate, it’s not hard to imagine the vast amount of paper, and therefore trees that must be used to print paper receipts on a daily basis all around the world. It’s actually completely bonkers how wasteful that is when you think about it!

But Salon Sassafras has decided not to be bonkers, and to only offer digital receipts, which for me makes a whole planet’s worth of sense. 

According to some statistics, up to 10 million trees are used each year in the US alone just for the production of paper receipts, and a whole lot of water is used too.

So you can walk out of there with your hair held high and your receipt on your phone, knowing the world is a slightly better place because of it. 

Taking out the Trash (Without Taking out the Planet)

By the time you get home and you’re showing off your new look to everybody, it’s probably already clean up time at the salon. Surfaces need to be wiped down and empty containers need to be dealt with.

To do this in the least wasteful way possible, Salon Sassafras always uses non-petroleum based bin bags that are biodegradable, while recycling all plastic, glass and paper properly. They also stick to all-natural, chemical-free cleaning products wherever possible to minimise their environmental impact.

As I said at the beginning of this section; it is virtually impossible to completely eliminate waste, but by taking these measures while cleaning up and dealing with trash, and taking all the other measures mentioned above to reduce the amount of waste in the first place, Salon Sassafras seems to be doing all they can to limit their impact as much as possible. 

How About a Bottle Refill Scheme? 

Incorporating environmental sustainability and ‘zero waste’ into a business will always be a journey, never a destination.

To reduce their impact even further, although it is not active yet, there are plans being drawn up at Salon Sassafras to introduce a bottle refill initiative. This would involve having clients bring back their empty bottles (shampoo, conditioner etc) to be refilled in store, in order to reduce or nearly eliminate packaging waste. 

A simple but sensible idea, and a great example of how Salon Sassafras is always looking for new ways to minimise their waste. Incorporating environmental sustainability and ‘zero waste’ into a business will always be a journey, never a destination. It’s all about constantly trying to move in the right direction, and the folks at Salon Sassafras are clearly committed to doing just that. 

And speaking of businesses moving in the right direction….. 

Working with Sustainable Brands and Suppliers 

For a business to be truly committed to sustainability, it’s important that it chooses to work with brands that share this commitment. Whether it’s suppliers, contractors, B2B Customers, decorators, whatever it is. What’s the point in building a salon out of repurposed materials and pursuing a zero-waste policy if you stock that salon with brands that are destroying the planet? 

The shelves at Salon Sassafras are stocked with some of the most sustainable, environment-friendly brands around.

By choosing to work with brands and suppliers that truly value sustainability, it not only makes your own business more sustainable, it also increases the demand and pressure for other businesses to embrace sustainability; thereby enabling a much wider ecosystem of sustainable business practice. As Salon Sassafras has only been open a few weeks, they are still figuring out the most sustainable brands to work with, but they are already making plenty of progress:

  • To minimise plastic use, they have decided to only work with brands that come in glass or metal containers whenever possible. 
  • When they are forced to work with plastic products (as sometimes alternatives simply are not available), they will look for brands that use post-consumer plastic only, and they will always make sure that the plastic is recyclable. 
  • To further reduce packaging waste and water usage, they are currently testing out a range of solid products that require little or no packaging. They hope to bring a line of professional standard solid products into the shop very shortly. 
  • Salon Sassafras only works with brands that are certified cruelty free, and are not tested on animals. 
  • Basically, at Salon Sassafras there is a real commitment to only working with brands and suppliers that take sustainability seriously. They are only interested in working with brands and suppliers that make a genuine effort to: Offset their carbon footprint, give back to the community, reduce their plastic usage, reduce their packaging waste, and minimise or eliminate harmful chemicals from their products. 

They also do their research at Salon Sassafras. All potential brands are fact-checked extensively to make sure they are not greenwashing, and that their sustainability efforts are genuine. (I can absolutely ensure you that this is true; I spent a few hours in the salon the other week and overheard the girls discussing the environmental pros and cons of a particular shampoo/conditioner brand they were thinking of using, and my goodness, it was a fiery, in-depth conversation. It’s clear that they don’t make any decision lightly, and that environmental sustainability really is at the heart of every decision they make. The passion for sustainability at Salon Sassafras runs deeper than the roots of a sassafras tree!)

By choosing to work with brands and suppliers that truly value sustainability, it not only makes your own business more sustainable, it also increases the demand and pressure for other businesses to embrace sustainability; thereby enabling a much wider ecosystem of sustainable business practice.

And since we’re on the topic of working with brands and suppliers that take sustainability seriously, isn’t the most important supplier of all, the one that actually powers your entire operation? 

Powered by Renewable Energy 

Salon Sassafras’s entire operation is powered by Greenchoice, which generates all its energy from local wind, sun, or biomass sources, as well as ‘forest-compensated’ gas. Greenchoice works to provide energy from renewable sources wherever possible, and when gas does need to be used, they invest in forest restoration and protection projects around the world to help compensate for any emissions. They have also established their own projects where they plant new forests, and have so far planted over 2 million trees, offsetting 100% of their customer’s gas consumption in the process. 

By sourcing their energy from Greenchoice, Salon Sassafras is ensuring that all their operations are powered by renewable energy, generated locally in the Netherlands.

So it’s pretty safe to say that everything that happens at Salon Sassafras is powered in a way that respects the environment. They also use LED lighting in the salon, and only buy appliances with an A++ energy efficiency rating in order to reduce their energy consumption even further. 

Amazing how simply by switching your energy supplier you can make your entire business so much more ‘planet-friendly.’ And there’s another very simple way you can do that too! 

Saying No To Single-Use-Plastic 

Single-use-plastic is a material built to last for over 1000 years, yet one that is only ever intended to be used once, and is often never recycled. It clogs up the oceans, beaches, rivers, lakes, parks, forests, cities, ANIMALS, and even our own bodies and brains when it breaks down into microplastics. 

Not a whole lot needs to be said about this one really, but it deserves to have a separate section with a big bold title because it’s such an important thing to do regarding sustainability, and such an easy thing to implement.

Salon Sassafras refuses to use any single-use-plastic products, and there’s no reason why every single business on earth shouldn’t try to follow suit. 

Single-use-plastic is a material built to last for over 1000 years, yet one that is only ever intended to be used once, and is often never recycled. It clogs up the oceans, beaches, rivers, lakes, parks, forests, cities, ANIMALS, and even our own bodies and brains when it breaks down into microplastics. 

This is the kind of scenario we can move to avoid, if we do as Salon Sassafras is doing, and say NO to single-use-plastic.

Salon Sassafras says NO to single-use-plastic, and we should all try and do the same. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about alternatives to single-use-plastic to give you an idea of the other, better options out there. There are many! 

Bringing Barter Back?

So I mentioned in the blurb at the top of the article that I did get a super-groovy haircut at Salon Sassafras, and here it is in all its wonderful glory. I reckon they did a pretty good job in fairness? I was certainly over the rainbow with it. (Couldn’t resist)

Now of course this wasn’t exactly an act of barter. My mates had just opened up the new salon, and I’d always wanted rainbow hair, so I asked if it would be possible, and they were happy to do it for free if I let them use me as a ‘model’ for their portfolio. (The photoshoot was actually a whole lot of fun)

It’s like sharing is caring and caring and sharing can help save the world? And even better than that, the products used to create my rainbow hair are helping to save the world too. (Or at least make it a little less toxic!)

And after spending a full 8 hours in the salon it became very clear that this was exactly the kind of business I would usually write about on A Wall of Hope. It is a business with a genuine commitment to sustainability, and one that is leading the way in their field and acting as a kind of blueprint for sustainability that hopefully other businesses in their field can emulate.

So I decided to write about them, and I think it’s pretty cool that I got some wonderful rainbow hair, and they got some genuinely deserved exposure without any money having to exchange hands.

It’s like sharing is caring and caring and sharing can help save the world? And even better than that, the products used to create my rainbow hair are helping to save the world too. (Or at least make it a little less toxic!)

Cutting Out the Chemicals 

As we’ve already discussed, Salon Sassafras is very committed to only working with brands that are as kind to the environment as possible, and this commitment remains strong when it comes to colours and chemicals.

The colouring products used to dye my hair are from a brand called Organic Way, or Oway. These products contain fairtrade and organic ingredients grown on biodynamic farms in Italy, where no pesticides or toxic chemicals are used. Obviously there must be other more chemical-based ingredients involved as well, (I can’t find a full ingredients list so it’s hard to know exactly), but it seems like these Oway products are some of the most natural, and least toxic hair-colouring options available for hair salons today.

That is why Salon Sassafras has chosen to use them, and the salon takes the same approach of choosing the least toxic, least chemical-based options for all the other products they use as well. 

Circular, Zero Waste, Minimalist, Sustainable: Sassafras

It is impossible to be absolutely perfect when it comes to sustainability, but the constant endeavour for perfection regardless is probably the most important part of the blueprint.

So there you have it, Salon Sassafras, a near-perfect blueprint for how to run a hair salon sustainably:

  • They furnished and fitted the salon from the very beginning with the circular economy in mind.
  • They are constantly committed to the zero waste journey, and to pushing their boundaries and altering their processes to minimise their impact. 
  • They only work with the most environmentally friendly brands and suppliers available. 
  • Everything they do is powered by renewable energy sources. 
  • They refuse to use single-use-plastic.
  • And they do all they can to eliminate as many chemicals from their business as possible. 

They also take a minimalistic approach in general, only replacing old supplies when absolutely necessary, and only ever buying what they need. They even encourage their clients to bring in any unwanted plants to the salon so they can give the plants a loving home. (I would imagine that is a policy that any self-respecting sassafras tree would approve of!)

It is impossible to be absolutely perfect when it comes to sustainability, but the constant endeavour for perfection regardless is probably the most important part of the blueprint. I’m sure the folks at Salon Sassafras would be the first ones to tell you, there is always room to improve.

And it is that mentality and desire for constant improvement that ensures, without doubt;

Salon Sassafras, lives up to its wonderful name. 

Contact Details for Salon Sassafras Amsterdam 

Website: https://www.salonsassafras.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/salonsassafras/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salonsassafras

Twitter: https://twitter.com/salonsassafras

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire who specialises in sustainability and environmental issues. He believes the economy should be circular, businesses should make the world a better place, and that effective content is the best way to spread the word about sustainability. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to bring your vision of sustainability to life.

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