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Shave pets, help the Gulf oil spill recovery effort: Organization turns fur into mats that help contain oil

May 6, 2010 |  7:09 pm

Fur The connection between dog grooming and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill might seem, at first blush, a tenuous one at best -- but thanks to a charity called Matter of Trust, the two seemingly incongruous things are linked in a great way.

The San Francisco-based organization has advocated environmental education and the repurposing of surplus materials for eco-friendly projects since its inception in 1998.

A few years later, the group began using both human hair and pet fur to create mats that are oil-adsorbent -- a term that means that oil clings to the mats, rather than being absorbed into them -- and can be used to help contain oil spills.

"You shampoo your hair because it gets greasy," hairstylist and oil spill hair mat inventor Phil McCrory explains on Matter of Trust's website. "Hair is very efficient at collecting oil out of the air, off surfaces like your skin and out of the water, even petroleum oil."

Hair and fur can also be piled, sausage-style, into nylon stockings to create tubes called booms that also help to contain oil. Toward that end, the Hanes company recently donated 50,000 remainder pairs of nylons to be stuffed with hair and fur by volunteers. Volunteers like Alabama resident Amanda Richardson-Bacon have begun hosting "Boom-B-Que" boom-stuffing parties -- a modern twist on an old-school barn raising.

When complete, Richardson-Bacon told the New York Times, a hair boom "looks like a giant hair sausage. It's very nasty-looking." Unattractive, perhaps, but functional.

Dog boarding kennel and grooming parlor chain Camp Bow Wow is one business that's harnessing the formidable power of pet fur to help in the oil-spill cleanup effort. The company has reached out to its 200-some franchisees in the U.S. and Canada to collect fur, which will then be shipped to Matter of Trust warehouses. Pet owners interested in participating can visit Camp Bow Wow's website to find the nearest location. (Here in Southern California, there are four Camp Bow Wow facilities located in Agoura Hills, Anaheim, San Diego and San Clemente.)

Donors can also sign up online to receive an e-mail from Matter of Trust with information on where to send a shipment of pet fur, wool, horse hair, feathers, human hair and washed nylons. (For more information on how to prepare your shipment, check out Matter of Trust's Hair for Oil Spills program information page.) Since the oil spill is moving and the organization's warehouses are small, there isn't one catch-all shipment location for donations. Instead, donors are e-mailed an address near a location where hair mats are needed. 

Matter of Trust offers a primer on how hair mats and booms work in the video below:

RELATED SIMPLE WAYS TO HELP ANIMALS:
Donated fur coats, hats and trim make cozy nests for rescued wildlife
Farm Sanctuary offers rescued-turkey sponsorship opportunities

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A toy poodle named Pebbles demonstrates her haircut and vivid dye job at a trade show. Credit: Geraldine Wilkins / Los Angeles Times

Video: Matter of Trust

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