The infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill is sending an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

Gators for a Sustainable Campus is giving UF students the opportunity to help do something about it.

Today at 11 a.m., the group will be giving students free haircuts on the Plaza of the Americas as a part of a hair collection to aid oil spill containment efforts on the coast of Florida.

"We wanted to be a part of this effort at UF to make sure that if oil reaches our shores, we are prepared," said Chris Cano, a former member of the group who will be participating in the event.

The hair that is cut will be collected and placed into nylon oil-containment booms, which are long, snake-like stockings stuffed with absorbent material that may be placed along the shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico.

Though it may seem unconventional, human hair is a good material for the booms because it absorbs oil particles.

The group won't just be collecting hair, however. It is also hoping that donating hair will lead students to become more active in the relief effort and the sustainability cause.

The group will place a table next to the barber shop chair where they will ask people to make a phone call to President Obama.

Heading the relief effort is Gators for a Sustainable Campus member Melanie Richards, who got the idea for hair collection from students at Florida International University in Miami.

Richards also has been working to get local hair salons involved. Avante Garde, Downtown Barber Shop and Salon at 716 have committed to donate their customers' hair, according to the release.

"This is an easy way for students to get involved in the oil relief effort," she said. "The government and BP are not doing enough to fix this situation, so we are taking things into our own hands. If you care, donate hair."

Though collection of hair has been given a newfound prominence due to the catastrophic Gulf spill, the idea is not exactly new.

Hair For Oil Spills was a plan originally devised nearly a decade ago by California-based nonprofit organization Matter of Trust.


(6) comments


Last weekend the Coast Guard and BP said they don't want/need the hair booms.

No need to be cutting hair.


Yep. These organizers are not reading the news. These hair nylon things got so heavy they sank like stones and the group collecting them put out a call to stop sending hair -- at least a week ago, maybe more.


I just cut off 8 inches or so and donated all my hair to the group in the plaza today. Do I regret it if BP's not accepting hair right now? Certainly not. Even if my giant tuft of hair is sitting in some lady's house right now, the possibility that maybe sometime in the future it could perhaps be used in the cleanup effort is good enough for me.

And the fact that it feels about ten degrees cooler outside now is pretty nice too.


We are keeping up with the news, so much so that we saw this video comparing the hair booms and commercial booms:

You must consider the source of each news piece that you read or watch. Chris told me: "One of the people saying hair booms are ineffective and that commercial booms are better is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I looked it up, and they are a subsidiary of the Department of Commerce... advocating for Commercial Booms."

And Matter of Trust has told us they are continuing to collect until mid-June. They are just not adding new donors to their mailing list. They told us DIRECTLY not to cancel our event.

And thank you cday1990, you are awesome.


Regardless of oil's adsorption to human hair, the quantity of hair collected is not nearly enough to even make a small dent in the amount of oil released in the Gulf. With estimates of upwards of 50,000 barrels per day (The 5,000 barrels per day is BP's estimate and is considered by some engineers to be grossly under-representing the actual amount of oil flow rate from the pipes), it would take a massive amount of hair to adsorb the equivalent of one barrel of oil.

Collecting hair and using them as hair booms is probably not the most efficient way of cleaning up the Gulf. It is functionally equivalent to draining a lake using dry mops, there simply isn't enough scale for it to realistically work.


You should be applauded for your good intentions, but the fact that NOAA is a branch of the Department of Commerce has nothing to do with what kind of boom is being used in the Gulf right now.

I watched the video you posted. While there is a noticeable difference in the amount of oil absorbed at first, I also noticed how much lower in the water the hair boom floats. This is problematic because in the Gulf there are waves, which would much more easily overcome a low-floating hair boom than the commercial sorbent booms -- which, even still, are being overcome by waves.

NOAA also found:

"Sorbent boom designed for oil spill response should
be used whenever possible for most spill response uses,
because it is specifically designed to collect spilled oil
from the water surface. NOAA’s years of experience in
oil spill response and field testing indicate that sorbent
boom is much more effective than alternatives such as
recycled nylon stockings stuffed with straw and hair.

In a February 2010 NOAA field test, commercial
sorbent boom absorbed more oil and much less water
than hair boom, which became waterlogged and sank
within an hour. NOAA foresees a risk that widespread
deployment of hair boom could exacerbate the marine
debris problem in the Gulf of Mexico, in that waterlogged
hair boom would be especially difficult to retrieve and
more likely to break apart. It is possible that hair sorbents
(absorbent pads) would be useful for collecting oil from
drier areas such as rocks and artificial structures."


Even if you don't agree with what NOAA says or what types of boom BP and the Coast Guard want to use, it doesn't matter. NOAA, the Coast Guard, and BP are the ones working to contain and clean up the spill. If they say no to hair booms, that means it's not going to happen. With the exception of someone protecting their private waterfront property, perhaps, the hair booms will not be used in the large scale operation.

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