Ave Maria Press teams with hair salon to help Gulf

Author: Rachel Novick


The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has the potential to be one of the worst spills in history, threatening wildlife and the livelihoods of people along the Gulf Coast. While many in Indiana feel helpless in the face of such a distant crisis, Mark Witbeck, the owner of Granger’s SportsClips hair salon, sees the disaster as a call to action.

It so happens that hair is an excellent oil absorber. “That’s why you have to shampoo your hair,” says Witbeck. “Hair is very good at absorbing oil from your scalp and for the same reason it’s also good at absorbing crude oil.” Hair clippings at SportsClips and other salons across the country are therefore being collected and shipped to the Gulf Coast to be stuffed into worn nylons.

The nylon and hair “boons” soak up the oil and keep it from spreading further in the ocean, reducing the need for chemical oil dispersants. SportsClips in Granger has nearly collected enough hair for a full shipment and Witbeck expects the hair to be delivered by the end of May.

Witbeck is also the Director of Change Management at the Congregation of the Holy Cross-affiliated Ave Maria Press. “The Ave Maria Press has a long-standing culture of commitment to the environment, so they were happy to help out when I asked them to get involved,” he said. In keeping with the publishing company’s Catholic commitment to serve the needs of the community, the Ave Maria Press has volunteered to pay the shipping costs for transporting the hair to Matter of Trust, the organization receiving and coordinating donations in the Gulf.