Princeton's recycling superstar strives to unite its community via eco-friendly initiatives.
It’s common practice for clients to leave a spa toting bags of beauty products, but at Copper River, clients tend to bring bags of products with them—for recycling.
Since its inception in September 2011, Princeton, New Jersey’s Copper River Salon & Spa has been a recycling superstar. In fact, it was founded as an eco-friendly labor of love—and with a conscientious mindset that has been a driving force for owner Barbara Weigand throughout her 20-year career as an ace hairstylist, and now, spa proprietor.
This avid environmentalist and married mother of two had long implemented eco-friendly practices at home and, over the years, grew frustrated by how the beauty industry wasted water and electricity, and discarded chemicals and plastics. “I recycle and compost at home, so why wouldn’t I try to find ways to do that at work?” she reasons. “I eventually realized the only way to really implement these ideas would be to open my own business. Copper River is really my vision, come to life.” Here are some ways Weigand has used her business to implement her ideals—and make them part of Princeton’s local color. —Shari Goldhagen
In feng shui, it is said that incorporating a metal into a a business name will bring the establishment security. Weigand figured “Copper River” aptly encapsulated her idea of “structure with flow.” Playing off the name, the staff painted all pipes and fixtures copper, and chose “metal-like” artistic touches and pieces to hang upon the facility’s green walls. “We wanted something earthy, yet artful,” says Weigand.
The 1,600-square-foot space is housed in a historic old home just off the town’s main drag, Nassau Street. Whenever possible, Weigand employs reclaimed lumber and reusable materials in the décor and, after much research, went with Minardi LED lights for their energy efficiency. (Designed specifically with spas and salons in mind, these lights use 40% to 80% less power than traditional salon lights, while reducing heat emissions.)
Although maintaining the building’s traditional exterior while modernizing its interior required careful planning and countless drafts with architects, Weigand and company were ultimately able to create a space that seamlessly meshed the old and the new—and is better for the environment to boot. “We really maximized the natural light with two large picture windows in the front and one in the rear,” says Weigand.
Not surprisingly, the spa opts for environmentally conscious product lines, and counts itself a member of the National Association of Eco Friendly Salons and Spas, a for-profit organization that aims to help eco-minded beauty establishments share strategies for making their businesses as green as possible.
Almost immediately after opening Copper River’s doors, Weigand partnered with a similarly minded local environmentalist, Tom Szarky—garbage mogul, former Princeton student and founder of TerraCycle Outsmart Waste—to propagate Beauty Brigade, a program designed to facilitate the recycling of cosmetic items that are typically thrown away, such as foundation casings, lip balm tubes, eyeliner pencils and lotion bottles. The facility operates several Beauty Brigade recycling containers on its property.
“People can drop off their products here and we, in turn, help those items become recreated into benches and bike racks for playgrounds and schools in the area,” explains Weigand, who notes that everyone—locals, out-of-towners, customers, etc.—is welcome to participate. “All too often, bathroom products are forgotten in terms of recycling. I think it’s one of the greatest things I can do as a spa owner—beauty should have a conscience.”
Copper River’s activism isn’t limited to the environment, however. The facility also uses Beauty Brigade to benefit Womanspace—a New Jersey-based charity supporting women affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. For every item it recycles through the TerraCycle program, Copper River donates two cents to the charity. Additionally, the spa has offered complete makeovers to some Womanspace clients, to “build self-esteem and help them start anew,” says Weigand. “Community and business go hand in hand. The community supports our business, so we like to give back whenever we can.”
All strategies seem to be working; Copper River has consistently grown each month since opening its doors, no small feat in the current economic climate. “Beauty usually hovers near the top of the priority list for many,” says Weigand. “So we try to offer beauty maintenance, along with occasional luxuries.” In addition to a full gamut of hair services (ranging from $40 blowouts to $500 Crystal straightening treatments, and cuts costing $60 to $80), Copper Rivers’ bestselling spa services include The Classic Copper River Facial (50 min./ $125)—which includes a custom skin analysis, mushroom peel, collagen serum and seaweed mask—and Hot Stone Massage Therapy (75 min./ $125). “We’re the only local spa that offers that type of massage,” says Weigand, “and our clients are quickly realizing hot stone is the way to go!”
Weigand is continually striving to build her business into not just a salon and spa, but also a day-long destination. She offers extensive services for bridal parties (the Copper River website even provides a handy checklist to help brides and their maids time each pre-wedding-day treatment). And on the last Friday of every month, Copper River hosts a two-hour Blow Dry Like A Pro event ($25 per person), at which stylists show women how to blow out their own hair. The spa provides drinks, snacks and music, and has found the shindig to be a hit with groups of girlfriends preparing for nights on the town.
Looking to the future, Cooper River plans to add eyelash tinting and extensions, as well medical procedures such as Botox. They would also like to branch out and create additional signature massage treatments.
Right now, however, Barbara Weigand is content to be living out her dream. “My goal was always to create a salon/spa with eco-responsibility in its DNA,” she says. “We take great pride in embracing as many green practices and earth-friendly choices as possible. We really want to be thought of first when people think about recycling and beauty!”
Copper River Salon and Spa
Year opened: 2011
Size: 1,600 square feet
Facility: 6 salon stations; mani/pedi lounge; facial/waxing room; massage room; 3 hair wash stations
Most popular treatments: Rene Furterer Scalp Treatment for thinning hair (50 min./ $30 +); Copper Spa Classic Facial (50 min./ $125); Hot Stone Massage Therapy (75 min./ $125+)
Average service ticket: $125 (for spa)
Product lines: Cellex-C, Rene Furterer
Shari Goldhagen is a New York City-based freelance writer.