Good grooming aids Gulf clean-up

by Mary Tutwiler

The first time I heard about hair booms, on Friday night over a drink, I thought they were a joke. But with the news that the containment chamber is clogged with ice slurry and that oil continues to spew into the Gulf, coupled with the shortage of booms to protect the coast, I'm not laughing now. I'm getting ready to schedule a hair cut immediately.

A hair boom is a low tech device to absorb oil. Hair, as we all know, absorbs oil. That's why teenagers are maniacal about the shower. Matter of Trust, a non-profit environmental organization in San Francisco, has come up with a way to recycle all the hair from salons and dog groomers into oil absorbent booms that can help catch the oil as it comes ashore.

It's ridiculously simple. Stuff hair into panty hose legs, tie the end closed. That's it. Hair booms were used by grassroots groups to help sop up the oil from the 2007 tanker spill in California.

Currently the Ritz-Carlton hair salon in downtown New Orleans is the only salon accepting donations of hair, fur and panty hose to construct hair booms. But I don't know why ever hair salon in town isn't stuffing their sweepings into hose. The latest predictions from NOAA have the oil spill flowing west, toward Atchafalaya Bay. Which means everyone with a boat in Acadiana is soon going to want to be on the water, helping contain the spill before it reaches the wetlands here in southwestern Louisiana.

I know it sounds quixotic, but doing something helpful, even a small something, is better than sitting at your computer all day reading bad and worse news and falling into a post-Katrina, post-Rita depression all over again. And another good aspect is the incentive to groom your sheady dog more often. His hair can go to work as well, and there will be less vacuuming to do. That in itself is reason enough to get to stuffing a hair boom today.