14/11/2012 01:06 GMT | Updated 14/11/2012 12:06 GMT

Elan Proves Going Green Can Lead To More Green In The Till

Elan Hair Design specialises in making green a priority, from building materials and hair care products used, to recycling and energy-saving.

From ceramic flooring made from 40% reconstituted material and carbon zero furniture to disposable towels, furniture, flooring and lighting, sending waste hair to local farms for composting, and recycling waste - every element of the salon is as eco-friendly as possible.

Now a finalist for the prestigious Orange National Business Award in the ICAEW Sustainability Award category, salon coordinator Lauren tells Huffington Post UK how they started their sustainable dream.

How old is the business?

The business was first launched 41 years ago and was started by my dad’s sister and grandmother. My dad joined the team after a couple of years and eventually took over the business with my mum, Lorna, 30 years ago.

When did you decide it needed a change?

In 2009, we decided the salon needed to be refurbished and decided to adopt a green angle – we were initially delayed by not being allowed to extend, but a property next door eventually became available – in hindsight the delay was a good thing as it gave us the time to research how we could become entirely carbon neutral.

What in your salon is eco-friendly?

Almost everything – we use LEDs in all our lights, and the TV panels and a few other electrical items are entirely source from solar panels. Our flooring’s made from 40% of reconstructed materials, we have PIR switches – which are like motion sensor lights – in the salon.

We use disposable towels, compost all the hair and good waste, recycle all our plastics, papers and aluminium foils, our furniture is carbon zero and we’ve saved 64% on our water consumption.

Why did you want to become green?

Going green made good business sense – it costs a lot initially to set up but there are big long-term savings. The initial cost was £250,000 – most of which was funded by the salons profits, although we did receive an interest-free loan from Energy Saving Scotland for somewhere between £8,000 and £9,000.

Elan encountered difficulty obtaining funds from its local council

We found it difficult to find funding through the councils because we were excluded from a lot of the loans criteria as we don’t qualify as a services industry – apparently we’re classed as a retail business.

What advice would you give to new start-ups looking for funding?

Definitely consider using your savings. It’s also worth trying to get people interested in what you’re doing – most week’s we were in the local press; it’s nice to see your name in there and it gives the whole team a boost.

Any other advice?

Stick at it. And make sure you know what you’re doing, and be prepared to bring in experts where you don’t. We learned a lot of what we needed to know on the job but for most people you’d want to make sure you have the experts on hand.

What was your biggest challenge?

The frustration of it all – when we first starting speaking about refurbishing the salon it was originally just going to be a new lick of paint; I had no idea that three years later I was still going to be planning it.

Having said that, I’m glad we didn’t rush it. Since we completed the refurb, our turnover has increased by 22% and our footfall of new clients is up 20%. Now we just have to work to keep our clients happy and to make sure our standards don’t slip.