Get a Gulf cut

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's hard to believe we still haven't stopped the leak. It's hard to believe thousands of barrels of oil are still gushing into the ocean every day. It's hard to believe the oil will soon coat delicate beaches and wetlands. It's hard to believe that we still depend on so much oil.

It's hard to believe, but that doesn't mean we can't do something about it.

Even though the Pacific Northwest is about as far as you can get from the Gulf Coast in the continental U.S., we can send pieces of ourselves to help clean up the oil spill.

Literally.

Southern Oregon University's Ecological Center of the Siskiyous is encouraging locals to get a haircut and send their locks to a nonprofit that's making oil-absorbing booms using the hair.

"Donate as little as a clipping of hair to a full fledged shave," reads an e-mail the group sent to all SOU students. "We take it all! Natural, dyed, short, long, curly, straight, or dreads. Whatever you've got "… as long as it's hair from your heads!"

Organizer Brandon Schilling, 21, is going to cut off all 13 inches of his hair today.

In September, he decided to grow out his hair for Locks of Love, a nonprofit that makes wigs for children with cancer. He still plans to donate to Locks of Love, just not this time around, he said.

"I kind of feel like the oil spill is more pressing now, unfortunately," he said. "But I want to do this for the rest of my life — just harvest my hair. This time it goes to the oil spill."

Early in today's haircutting event, Schilling will cut his hair into a mullet, "bald on top and long on the sides, like a scary clown," to help publicize the event, he said. Later, he'll shave it all off.

Hair Fur the Gulf 2010 runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of SOU's Stevenson Union. Anyone is welcome to get a haircut from stylists who are donating their time or to snip a lock from their heads themselves.

ECOS is also planning to set up hair collection boxes in local salons and pet grooming shops this week and next. The hair collection could continue for as long as it's needed in the Gulf, Schilling said.

"They say there's a three-month timeline to get a relief well drilled," he said. "Who knows how long this could be going on? We could have a lot of time to get haircuts."

The hair will be shipped to a warehouse where Matter of Trust, founded in 1998, is making booms by stuffing hair, which absorbs oil especially well, into nylons. The booms could be deployed along beaches and at decontamination and animal rescue sites to collect runoff, according to the nonprofit.

Schilling, who was devastated when he heard about the oil spill, is working with the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group to set up hair collection events at universities across the West Coast.

"I really wanted us West Coasters to consider the East Coast as part of the country, and when they need help, to help," he said.

"We can each have a little piece of ourselves in the Gulf," Schilling said. "We do what we can. Most of us can't abandon our lives and go out there."

I'm planning to get a haircut this week and I'll be sending my locks to the Gulf. Schilling convinced me.

"I kind of wanted to have this kind of spiritual aspect to it," he said. "Ultimately I'd like to have a lock of everybody's hair on campus. I know that sounds kind of creepy."

I'm all for making the ocean a little creepier and a little less oily.

ECOS is looking for hair, volunteers to help collect it and donations to help ship it to the Gulf Coast. For more information, call 541-552-8512 or e-mail ecos.sou@gmail.com.

Reach reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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