Kermit the Frog famously sang, “it ain’t easy being green,” however, when we visited the Karen Marie Salon in Chicago, we found out that the frog was wrong. Located in Wicker Park, a fast growing community of artists, cafes and all things hipster-chic, Karen Marie Salon implemented sustainable practices before it became a trend. We took some time to talk with Karen Marie herself, about why she chose to make sustainability a large focus of her salon and how she incorporated this philosophy into her business.
On why she chose to “go the green route” when opening her salon, Karen told us that she has always been a big proponent of sustainable living and incorporated best practices as much as she could in her personal life. When she chose to open her own salon, it made sense to carry this idea over into her business. “It’s a matter of practicing what you preach, and I wanted to be sure that I was practicing as much as possible”.
The practice part started from the very beginning. Upon purchasing the space that would eventually become her namesake salon, the renovations began. We asked Karen how hard it was to incorporate sustainability into her salon and she replied, “Not at all. We just made sure to use materials that made sense.”
The space was completely gutted and retrofitted with concrete floors and a specialized plumbing system. The salon also uses low-flow faucets on all of their sinks and LED lighting throughout the space. The low-flow faucets cut down on water waste and LED lights use less energy and a lower wattage to produce the same amount of light as CFLs. On making the decision to switch to LEDs, Karen’s business partner and all around handy-man at the salon, Benjamin Rossi explained that while the upfront costs can be a bit high (LEDs can cost around $6 per bulb) the cost is worth it. The energy savings and the fact that a typical LED lightbulb can last for more than 11 years, ends up saving the salon money in the long run, in addition to being much more eco-friendly.
When it came to building the stylist stations, Marie and Rossi sourced reclaimed wood from barns that had been torn down in nearby Wisconsin. The results were beautiful, unique pieces that caused no additional environmental harm. Choosing the right products to use in the salon, turned out to be the most challenging part of the process. The salon uses and carries Kevin Murphy and Aveda products, as both lines utilize pure plant extracts and essential oils. Both companies are also heavily involved in environmental initiatives, which appealed to Karen when she was deciding where to spend her money.
Karen Marie Salon is also 100% wind powered, thanks to credits purchased via the AEP. These credits offset the carbon footprint of the salon by guaranteeing that the amount of energy used by the salon from the power grid will be added back in via a local wind farm. This program is available to any business in the Chicago area, and those holding the certification are thoroughly investigated every two years to maintain the accreditation.
Since trying to save the world via implementing sustainability best practices in life and in work are not enough, Karen Marie’s Salon is also heavily involved in bettering its community. Every year the salon hosts an Earth Day party with raffles and contests, from which all proceeds go to benefit the Great Lakes Alliance. The salon also puts together care packages for the Night Ministry, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that provides housing, healthcare and human connection for those struggling with poverty and homelessness. These packages include basic personal care products to the 150,000+ people whom the ministry serves. Karen Marie herself also meets regularly with young women from the ministry, who are trying to find their way out of their current situation with no support system, to talk to them about enrolling in cosmetology school and the benefits that a career in beauty can provide them.
Karen Marie is a colorist and former L’Oreal educator that specializes in creating natural-looking color. She practices a strong commitment to her community and giving back. You can visit Karen at her salon: 1859 N. Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647