Five thousand gallons of oil are pouring into our oceans daily, announced Brandon Schilling Thursday, his voice echoing across the Southern Oregon University campus as he stood on a stone sculpture near the student union, grasping a plastic milk jug filled with amber-colored oil. A bald spot was shaved in the middle of his blond head.
Schilling had cut his own hair above his ears that morning, buzzing the bald spot for effect, for a good cause — shipping human hair to be turned into booms to soak up oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Schilling and other students from the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group and the Ecological Center of the Siskiyous set up a rudimentary barber shop within the stone circle to cut hair of students and community members and shear their canine companions in an event they dubbed "Hair Fur Oil."
The hair and fur will be shipped to Matter of Trust, a nonprofit group that stuffs the material into donated nylons and makes them into booms that surround, contain and soak up the oil and are later broken down by mushrooms and worms, said Schilling.
"What an idea," Schilling said. "The answers are already in nature."
Sylvain Brown, a sophomore studying human communication, sat in the makeshift barber chair and said that while letting Schilling cut his hair won't do much, telling people why he cut his hair will spread the message.
Brown said he's worn his curly brunette hair at least shoulder-length his entire life.
Vanity wasn't important, however, he said, as Schilling buzzed Brown's hair, which had grown past his shoulder blades, to a quarter-inch length.
Music major Dan Gibbs also eschewed vanity as he sat in the folding chair.
"I had plenty of hair to give, I needed a haircut and it's a good cause," he said. And hair was the most renewable resource ever, he said.
The cause attracted more than just SOU students. Eilish Lamberchtsen, 15, and Jazmine Stucker, 16, of Crater Renaissance Academy in Central Point, were on a campus tour when their interests were piqued.
Stucker, who had been growing out her hair for her senior pictures in the fall, decided the cause was more important than a picture. Lamberchtsen agreed. "I enjoy giving up simple things, like hair," said Lamberchtsen.
Canine friends were welcome as well. While animal fur and other natural fibers are not as effective as human hair, they do help soak up oil in a non-impactful way, said Schilling.
Donating his shed fur to the cause was Bear, who will play the family pet Mr. Chairman in a community theater production of "Cheaper by the Dozen" in Grants Pass this summer.
"He's a rock star," said Bear's owner, Jeff Roasas, of Grants Pass.
Among those wielding the scissors was ECOS adviser Danielle Mancuso, who started cutting friends' hair in high school. She cuts and colors her own hair as well, she said. Mancuso repaired a few crooked cuts and provided a stylist's eye.
"At least we'll know what your hair looks like windblown," said Mancuso as a gust of wind ruffled her client's hair.
Mancuso, Schilling and other volunteers cut hair for several hours and collected about 20 gallons of human hair and animal fur. Donations will be accepted throughout the week. For information, call ECOS at 541-552-8512.
Becky Gilmer is a Southern Oregon University intern. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.