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Homeschool project: Gulf oil spill needs your hair and pantyhose!

Booms-pantyhose stuffed with wool, alpaca fiber, fur, feathers and human hair to help adsorb oil.
Booms-pantyhose stuffed with wool, alpaca fiber, fur, feathers and human hair to help adsorb oil.
Matter of Trust

Alpacas and sheep, along with dogs, birds and long-haired humans are all contributing to the clean-up of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico created from the explosion last month at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. One organization is taking the fiber, fleece, fur, feathers and hair from these animals and people, and implementing a creative solution to the disaster looming in the Gulf.

Created in 1998, Matter of Trust, based in San Francisco, is a charity that has a natural solution for the growing slick in the Gulf. They normally work on about 2600 much smaller oil spills annually, but are now ramping up operations to meet the immense environmental catastrophe at hand.

For oil spills, they take donations of panty hose and stuff them with human hair, sheep wool, alpaca fiber and even dog fur and bird feathers to form floating booms to surround the slick. The oil adsorbs (clings) to the hair and fiber and can then be removed from the water. If you think of your own hair and how oil from the body naturally sticks to it, you can understand the concept at work here.

The call has gone out to dog groomers to collect their shorn clippings and hair salons around the country are saving up the cut hair from clients.  They are mailing it down by the boxload to Florida, where one of the Matter of Trust warehouses is located .

One alpaca farm, the Eastland Alpaca Farm of Mount Joy, PA, sheared their alpacas providing several hundred pounds of waste fiber. They added in fiber and wool donated from surrounding farms, sending a U-Haul loaded with 2500 pounds total down south.

The oil industry's answer to the floating slick includes using dispersants made of chemical solvents with controversial safety issues to humans and marine life, and synthetic booms which then pose a secondary pollution problem with disposal. Human hair and animal fiber can be composted and if put in landfills or incinerated will cause no extra pollution problem.

Matter of Trust has an ingenious solution and an army of willing volunteers and donors throughout the US contributing to the clean-up effort. Children can form groups within their churches, homeschool groups and Scouts to save and donate the hair from haircuts and gather used (even run) pantyhose from family members and neighbors to send down to the Gulf and have a part in the solution.


  • US Homeschooling 5 years ago

    I think this would have been a fabulous project for homeschoolers, however, I read today that they are no longer wanting hair donations and have asked groups to stop collecting/sending it. Are there other ways that families can help?
    Marie-Claire Moreau

  • Julie Helms 5 years ago

    From what I read on Matter of Trust website they are still accepting pantyhose. Hopefully they can get a good match-up of the fiber and hose so as to be able to utilize all the fiber that has been donated. What a wonderful testament to our country's generosity!

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