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Over the last few weeks, a PR person had been asking me to meet with her new client, a hair “shaman” who she said is using incredible indigenous ingredients from the Amazon—and also making an impact on New York City restaurants. I was skeptical, but when she told me his salon, Cocoon, was in my new neighborhood, I decided to check it out. (The salon is in a tiny below-ground space I’d been eyeing curiously over the past few months.) I discovered that owner Fabian Lliguin, a native of Ecuador, and his wife Anna Ayers, a trend forecaster and fashion designer, are doing much more than styling hair at their Upper East Side salon. As Fabian treated my sun-and-surf-damaged long hair with a nourishing rahua elixir made from an Ecuadoran nut of the same name, he explained to me how he's more eco-educator than hair stylist these days. As the driving force behind Eco Agents, a non-profit organization trying to save the Amazon rainforest, he and his wife are on a serious eco mission. They recently opened an Institute of Tribal Rights in Shell, Ecuador, to help empower and educate the local Quechuan people and to find new markets for their crafts and artwork. Next year they hope to open branches of their institute in Brazil and later in Bolivia.
The pair have also launched an “Eco To Go” initiative with restaurants. Realizing that most New Yorkers trash or stash the plastic-wrapped plastic utensils that come with takeout, Lliguin and Ayers have started asking restaurant owners to be more aware of to-go packaging. Not only will that save restaurants money, it will also minimize thousands of tons of plastic and paper and save millions of trees. If you see a green-and-white Eco To Go bumper sticker in a restaurant window. you can simply say “Eco to Go” when ordering delivery and your food will arrive minimally packed. The idea seems simple, but from looking in my desk drawer – full of unused plastic utensils - I can see how the results could be big. The most recent restaurants to sign on include Dos Caminos, NoLita House and Le Pain Quotidien.