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Natural Awakenings National

Oil Spill Cleanup: How Everyone Can Help During Crude Disasters

Environmental cataclysms from oil spills are staggering. The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill near Alaska unleashed 10.8 million gallons of crude oil that eventually covered 11,000 square miles of water. The 1979 nine-month-long Mexican government’s Ixtoc 1 oil well blowout disgorged 140 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, April’s BP Deepwater Horizon spill, already one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters on record, is destroying and endangering marine and bird life, nature’s balance and Gulf coast livelihoods. In its wake, citizens are rallying to protect the water, land and wildlife at risk. Volunteers are needed for ongoing cleanup and wildlife rehabilitation efforts; so is hair.

The nonprofit Matter of Trust invites hair salons, classrooms, pet groomers and individuals to donate clean, leftover hair and fur trimmings for use in highly absorbent hair mats and booms. Founder Lisa Gautier says, “A pound of hair can pick up one quart of oil in a minute, and it can be wrung out and reused up to 100 times.” Volunteers throughout the Gulf region are holding “Boom BQ” parties to stuff donated locks into recycled nylons to form booms that can be strung along beaches and marshes. See for easy donation instructions.

At, anyone can register to volunteer or join a cleanup organization. Even stepping into fragile shoreline habitats can be devastating to nesting species, so proper volunteer training is critical. The National Audubon Society ( is helping to coordinate volunteers via online registration forms. Monetary donations provide supplies and resources to benefit affected birds and wildlife. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies ( is on deck, rescuing and rehabilitating affected sea turtles, dolphins and other sea mammals. Oceana (, the largest international nonprofit focused solely on ocean conservation, invites everyone to get involved in preserving Earth’s oceans and restoring their healthful abundance.

Every volunteer hour, donated dollar—and lock of hair—can make a difference.


Visit for more information.

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