How to foil climate change: Hairdressers tackling curly topic with clients

Hairdressers across Sydney are upskilling to talk about climate change action with clients who are spending hours in the salon chair.

Paddington hairdresser Paloma Rose Garcia said hairdressers were great at having conversations and this was an opportunity to discuss how to foil climate change.

It’s not about having a scary, sad, intense conversation, Garcia said. It can be as simple as just acknowledging it, and bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds.

The owner of PALOMA salon recently organised seminars for dozens of hairdressers across Sydney to instruct them on the curly topic of how to talk to their clients about climate action.

The training was led by Climate Council scientist Lesley Hughes and social scientist Rebecca Huntley, author of How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way that Makes a Difference.

Participating salons also have glossy flyers for customers with facts and figures about climate change, a call-to-action to vote and lobby their MP, and QR codes leading to ABC Vote Compass and the AEC to check their electorate. One side says this salon chats about love, life & climate action; the other says we want our hair hot, not our planet.

Climate change is no longer a fringe topic, with surveys consistently showing most Australians rate the crisis among their top concerns after the devastating bushfires and floods over the past three years.

Garcia, 37, believes hairdressers are ideal climate leaders because they have a relationship of trust with clients who spend about an hour at a time in the salon, and return every eight weeks.

She has been deliberately raising the topic while cutting hair ever since she went on a Climate Council trip to Heron Island three years ago, and she finds the conversations often come up naturally.

The weather is something so often spoken about in a hair salon; it’s a hot topic with the rains and the fires and the floods and it’s always spoken about, so it’s a very easy segue, Garcia said.

Wednesday Hulme, 27, the manager of Barney Martin Hair in Surry Hills, said it was a natural progression from talking about the business’ recycling efforts through Sustainable Salons.

Hulme and her colleague Penny Jennifer Garry, 33, were among the participants at the recent training, and they have been trying out what they learned in the lead-up to the election.

This is a really important time when we’re still in a position where we can make a difference in reversing what’s going on, Hulme said.

As hairdressers we’re not here to tell people how to vote, just to be mindful of the decisions that can be made.

Garry said a common theme was that many clients felt overwhelmed and powerless, and she found it was well received when she shared sites such as Market Forces, which helps consumers divest from fossil fuels and support renewable energy by switching banking and superannuation accounts.

Hulme said the training was also helpful to prep the hairdressers on how to handle when customers brought up the topic, especially given that so many people had a personal connection – such as family members who lost their homes in the recent floods, or travelling through bushfire-affected towns.

All along the east coast you see the devastation and effects of climate change, Hulme said. Even just in Sydney, with how much rain we’ve had and people’s houses getting damaged or cars getting damaged, everyone can see what’s going on with their own eyes.

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