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The UK’s most eco-friendly hair salon

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Élan Hair Design of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire is a family hairdresser with a commitment to the environment. The business embarked upon an eco-friendly project which has included a £250,000 refurbishment of its premises followed by the implementation of a series of working practices which have allowed the salon to cut its carbon emissions by 95% and divert 94% of its waste from landfill.

Additionally Élan has cut its water consumption by 68%, while a raft of savings in what is an energy intensive industry has allowed the business to grow to become the UK’s most eco-friendly hair salon.

In 2012, Élan Hair Design embarked on an eco-friendly initiative which included a major revamp of its salon and the introduction of a series of working practices and processes all aimed at reducing the firm’s carbon footprint.

A £250,000 refurbishment of its premises included the installation of:


  • PV (photovoltaic) panels to generate electricity;
  • solar-thermal panels to provide energy for hot water;
  • an air-source heat pump, saving 80% on heating costs;
  • LED lighting that uses 80% less electricity – and lasts for 10 years;
  • energy-saving motion detectors (PIR switches) and low temperature radiators;
  • returning unused energy into the National Grid to create further cost benefits;
  • basins that cut water consumption by 64%;
  • and, an environmentally-friendly ENJO cleaning system that uses only cold water.

Since the completion of the renovation in 2012, Élan refused to stand still and recently completed a transport review – replacing its company car with a plug-in hybrid vehicle. The firm also developed an environmental management plan which involves numerous innovative working practices and methods to enhance and monitor its eco-friendly impact.


In addition to making energy efficiencies, Élan also identified waste management as an area which further improve its environmental performance.


The following processes are now part of the day-to-day running of Élan Hair Design and ensure the monitoring and prioritisation of the businesses environmental performance remains at optimum levels.


  • The business recycles all paper, plastic, glass, aluminium, cardboard, batteries and WEEE goods. Élan also recycles aluminium foils and empty colour tubes – which are deemed harmful to the environment upon disposal.
  • Élan has devised a unique solution for disposing of hair clippings. Customers’ shorn locks, along with all the salon’s other biodegradable waste, are collected by staff and sent to be spread as compost on local farmers’ fields.
  • Members of staff weigh the salon’s monthly waste to record savings made by the business.
  • Electricity and photovoltaic (PV) readings are generated weekly providing usage data to the business and recorded by team members before being communicated with staff/customers through regular ‘green’ meetings and social media.
  • Staff members are conscious of water consumption and ensure that water is turned off between each step of the shampooing process.
  • The salon uses disposable and biodegradable capes and towels, eliminating the use of washing machines further cutting water consumption.


In addition, the salon works hard to communicate its achievements and share examples of its best practice with fellow businesses and members of the community in which it operates.

Élan has held open days to allow businesses and homeowners to visit the salon and learn working practices which could be implemented elsewhere to help create a more sustainable society.

Recently the salon took part in a social research project organised by Social Value Lab. The project looked at ways in which businesses in Scotland can contribute to a fairer and more sustainable nation.  Élan was used as a case study in the detailed report.

Additionally, Élan has shared information with the Adam Smith College and North East Scotland College, teaching lecturers and students the importance of sustainability in an energy intensive industry.

The Milton family were invited to deliver a presentation as part of a European-wide conference. Green EcoNet, held in Brussels, brought together policymakers and SME’s in order to support the transition towards the green economy.

The results of Élan’s environmental project have been nothing short of outstanding, given the size and location of the business.

As a result of the innovative renovation project complimented with the eco-friendly working practices in place, the salon has successfully cut its carbon emissions by 95%, diverted 94% of its waste from landfill and reduced its water consumption by 68%.

There have been many benefits for the organisation as a direct result of its environmental project. The business has grown significantly in terms of its financial standing and client base.

The salon has received nationwide recognition for its environmental achievements. The salon has won 25 business awards having received more than 90 nominations.


  • 2013: £372,048
  • 2014: £412,533

In 2015 the business did experience a drop in turnover to £360,519 due to the sharp drop in the oil and gas price which has affected many businesses across the north-east. However, Élan’s net profit rose by £13k and as previously mentioned it welcomed 722 new clients to the salon.

Key to Élan’s success has been a reduction in costs achieved through numerous energy efficiency savings.

  • Weekly electricity and PV readings are generated providing usage data to the business and accurately recorded by team members.
  • an annual saving of £1,821 by reducing water consumption a decrease of 71% as a result of cutting its water consumption by 68% since 2012, a reduction of 211m3 per year
  • reduction in electricity costs from £4,332 to £494 as a result of reducing consumption by 26,873 kWh per year
  • lowered maintenance requirements and annual electricity consumption by 2,727 kWh through the introduction of Solar Photovoltaic(PV) panels
  • Elan now uses 100% renewable energy since switching energy suppliers to Lo-Co2 in 2013
  • Previously the business installed three large solar-thermal collections onto the salon’s roof, alongside a heat meter and new pipework connecting them to the hot water tank. Now energy is saved by heating water via solar-thermal panels and heat exchange and an 11 kW air-source heat pump and radiators provide heating generating a net saving of approximately 7,000 kWh per annum. In addition, the panels generate approximately 3,600 kWh of useful heat energy annually
  • A 3.95 kW solar PV array has also been installed on the salon’s roof, generating an estimated 2,556 kWh of electrical output annually, further reducing purchased energy costs.

These features of the salon have allowed the business to reduce its electricity bill from £4,332 to £494 annually – an impressive reduction when you consider the energy intensive nature of the hairdressing industry.


The salon staff are actively involved in carrying out many of the eco-friendly processes including segregating and weighing waste, recording electricity meters on a weekly basis and communicating with senior management on a daily basis.

The company holds regular ‘green meetings’, where the owners and staff meet to brainstorm new ideas. The whole team is actively encouraged to put forward suggestions for new green initiatives. Any new systems or policies are communicated at these meetings so that the entire team are kept abreast of life at the salon.

The Élan team pride themselves on the expert service and advice they give to clients on maintaining their desired style along with particular products to use maximise their look. They consistently listen to feedback from customers about the service offering available at the salon to help them improve.

Keeping in tune with the business’s green philosophy, stylists are encouraged to converse with customers about eco-friendly matters – whether that is the products used at the salon, the processes used or the company’s views on recycling and other environmental issues.

Feedback gathered by the salon has indicated that the clientele are interested in the eco-friendly policies adopted by the business – and the steady increase in turnover over previous years demonstrates the demand for Élan’s green services.

Innovation has been at the heart of Élan’s environmental project. The business is believed to be the first UK salon to:

  • implement a formal environmental management system (Green Ticks);
  • introduce a carbon management plan, endorsed by the Carbon Trust;
  • use carbon-neutral furniture;
  • recycle aluminium foils – which are harmful to the environment upon disposal;
  • and, compost hair waste.

Élan is fortunate that within its rural setting there are a number of partners it can work with to help achieve its environmental goals. It works closely with One Stop Waste Solutions and Keenan Recycling, two local firms. Together they devised a strategy for composting hair waste, recycling aluminium foils and responsibly recycling all other equipment.

When sourcing it’s carbon neutral furniture, Élan spent a number of months researching suppliers and ensuring that they could find long-lasting, hard-wearing furniture that would meet the busy demands of their business and fit in with its eco-friendly ethos.

The challenge for Élan now, is to continue to be innovative. The business has made many astounding achievements to date and it is determined to carry on and find new ways of reducing its environmental impact.

A number of factors inspired Élan owners, Gordon and Lorna Milton, to oversee the major eco-friendly transformation of their business. They attended a seminar on LED lighting in 2011, and realised that by investing in the solution, they could reduce the carbon footprint of the salon as well as reducing its electricity bill.

From this point, the Miltons were inspired to find out more about how it could cut the carbon emissions their salon produced and adopted an environmental ethos which is now central to the running of the business.

In addition, in recent years the economy of the North-East of Scotland has faced significant challenges as a result of a drop in oil price. Élan is committed to its environmental project as it was at the very start; however the business is now focussed on encouraging others to adopt an eco-friendly ethos as a means of reducing costs as well as benefiting the environment.

Élan firmly believes that other businesses should adopt an environmental ethos similar to its own, particularly other hairdressers. As a result of its eco-friendly programme, Élan has dramatically cut its impact on the environment but it has also benefited commercially as it has increased its turnover and welcomed new clients to the salon each year.

The business is keen to show others, particularly salons, how they can contribute to a better, cleaner and greener society as well as boosting their business performance. It has held open days and has taken part in social research projects as case studies to show just how much a difference adopting an eco-friendly ethos can make.

Élan would encourage any firm to inquire about grants, liaise with The Carbon Trust, The Green Business Network, interior designers, The Energy Saving Trust and local waste management and recycling businesses to find out how they can make small steps to improved environmental and commercial performance.