What if a solution for cleaning our oceans was growing out of your head?

Well, those strands that cover the floor when you (or your pet) get a haircut could actually work towards saving the planet. So stick with us, we’re going to discover how this is already in action!

Image: rust colored oil in clear aqua blue water with a boat working to skim oil

Skimming oil in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Office of Response and Restoration // Flickr

The idea to use human hair to clean up oil spills came to hairdresser and innovator, Phillip McCrory, while he was watching footage from the 1989 oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. He noticed how the oil was attracted to the hair of animals surrounding the disaster; coating their fur and feathers.

This made him realize that he had a surplus of this material which he was just throwing out all willy-nilly after each of his clients’ cuts! So McCrory decided to do an experiment. He took a few pounds of hair, shoved it into a pair of his wife’s pantyhose, and tested his hypothesis with used motor oil floating in a tub of water. Lo and behold, it worked!

These DIY booms soaked up the oil spills!

After having his neighbor, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, do their own testing of the hair booms in 1998, McCrory estimated that “25,000 pounds of hair in nylon collection bags may be sufficient to adsorb 170,000 gallons of spilled oil,” with one gallon of oil being adsorbed in less than two minutes. 1

Seems like an innovation someone would want to get behind, right? Well, 1999 rolled around and Lisa Gautier, co-founder, and president of Matter of Trust, partnered with McCrory, and together they began Clean Wave.

Vox fills us in with all the details!

Via: Vox 2
Thank you to Vox for this great video! If you want to dive into more of their amazing work check out their YouTube Channel.
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Sometimes, the solutions to our problems are right in front of us. Whether we choose to use them or not, well, that’s the issue.

How about all those old cell phones you have stuck in a junk drawer? Turns out, they could save the remaining rainforests! Yes, there is an ingenious solution to that problem that almost no one knows about, yet. Here’s our article on that bit of wonder:

13 minutes

Old Cellphones: The Key to Stopping Climate Change

Deforestation causes more emissions than all of the cars and trucks on our planet combined, so what can we do to stop it? Could the unlikely hero in this story be the old cell phone tucked away in your junk drawer? It is! Read on and you'll see problem-solving at its best!

Read More

My question is, why spend time, energy, and money developing new solutions from scratch when we could just use our imaginations with the things we already have? Here’s another EWC article on all that is possible when we look at the ordinary world around us a little different:

23 minutes

Is Going Zero Waste Really Possible?

Have you seen those people who can fit a year's worth of garbage into a mason jar? Is that even possible? Meet a family that tried to live zero waste for a month and see how it went!

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If you’d like to donate hair or want to learn more about Clean Wave…

Take a look at their website! There’s a wonderfully extensive FAQ that can help answer any and all questions regarding the donation process and what they do to the fibers once they arrive at the facilities. It’s also full of important information we didn’t even know we wanted! (Like, for example, how BP has responded to these hair booms as an alternative to the synthetic ones they create out of petroleum.)

Do you know someone who happens to have a whole bunch of hair lying around? (We’re talking hairdressers, pet groomers, or your particularly hairy friend.) Let them know about this!

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” — Albert Einstein

Have a curious kid in your life?

We’ve paired this video with thought-provoking discussion questions perfect for the classroom in this touchstone on our education platform, EWCed!

Check it out!


  1. National Aeronautics And Space Administration. “NASA Tests Hair-Raising Technique To Clean Up Oil Spills.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 April 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/04/980424032349.htm>.
  2. “How Your Split Ends Can Help Clean Oil Spills.” Youtube. Vox, 13 July 2018. Web. 30 July 2018. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2Pll0V4HdM>.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.