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A cut, colour and climate change

A hair and beauty student at UHI Moray speaks to a client about climate change
A hair and beauty student at UHI Moray speaks to a client about climate change

UHI hair and beauty students are proving they are a cut above the rest by bringing climate change into their chats with clients, thanks to a collaborative project with students at SAMS.

Under the Scissors, funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Engagement Fund, brought together hair and beauty students from UHI Moray and marine science students from SAMS, a partner of UHI, to help spread the word on our changing environment.

The SAMS students shared their knowledge about climate change, helping to develop cue cards and other materials that prompt conversations in the training salon at UHI Moray.

Dr Kerry McInnes, a Research Fellow at UHI Moray, devised the concept after reading about a similar project in Sydney, Australia. She said: “We’re trying to normalise climate change in everyday conversation. The weather is often a topic of conversation when people are in the salon, so it’s easy to then talk about these wider issues.

“People regularly go to their hairdresser, so it’s a great way to spread the message. The hair and beauty students have enjoyed the chance to be part of a research project.

“It’s a great example of collaboration across UHI. While the hairdressing students learnt a lot about climate change, the marine science students felt they improved their communication skills.”

UHI Moray is now looking to extend the pilot project to other public-facing curricula across UHI, such as hospitality and sport, and potentially other parts of Scotland.

Clients have been overwhelmingly positive in their feedback about the initiative so far, with most reporting they are now more aware of the local effects of climate change. However, Dr McInnes admits some treatments don’t lend themselves to potentially difficult topics of conversation.

“If someone is having a nice, relaxing massage, it’s probably not a good idea to introduce the effects of global warming,” she said. “It makes more sense when you’re sitting opposite someone during a nail treatment. The students have worked out what’s appropriate and what isn’t.”

Dr Bernadette Snow, a marine social scientist at SAMS, said: “Initiating conversation about climate change, provides not only opportunities to raise awareness but provides space for community to express their experiences and views in a safe space.

“Conversations will continue outside the salon and prompt behaviour change, as people will want to ‘do something’, safeguard their livelihoods and connections to the environment and this increases resilience to climate change.”

The findings from the project will be shared at a free public event on the 19th March at UHI Moray which will celebrate the steps towards net zero which local businesses are already undertaking, and spark collaboration and conversation about future innovation and solutions.