I have never been a fan of those small slivers of soap perched in hotel bathrooms. Not because of their diminutive size or their scent; some are actually quite lovely. What bothers me is the waste. I mean really, over the course of one hotel stay, how much of that little slab do you actually use? It may be even less than you think. Hotels throw out about one million partially used bars of soap every day in the United States. That’s a lot of soap going to landfills and leaching into groundwater.
Good thing that I am not alone in my concern. Two Florida entrepreneurs, Shawn Seipler and Paul Till, who used to spend a lot of time in hotels traveling on business, wondered, too, what could be done about all that wasted soap and shampoo. So they did some research and came up with an idea.
Almost nine million children die each year before they reach their fifth birthday. More than two million of those deaths are due to diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections such as pneumonia. All of those deaths are preventable. Good hygiene is paramount to preventing these diseases, but children and families living in abject poverty often don’t have access to even the most basic of hygiene.
Seipler and Till figured there had to be a way to get all that soap into the hands of people who really needed it, and in 2009, they launched a nonprofit called Clean the World. In a nutshell, their organization collects those left over hotel amenities, sanitizes them, and recycles them into new, two-ounce bars which they then distribute to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished countries suffering from high death rates due to acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease.
To date, Clean the World has distributed more than ten million bars of soap to children and families in the United States, Canada and more than 45 other countries.
Now they’re going one step further. Last month, Clean the World teamed up with PeopleTowels, a venture I wrote about when they launched two years ago that produces portable, reusable hand towels made out of organic and fair trade cotton to combat paper towel waste. (Believe it or not, the average adult uses over 3,000 paper towels outside the home each year). They’re calling their campaign Clean Hands, Clean World. PeopleTowels has contributed over 12,000 hand towels to the program, which creates Sustainable Hygiene Kits that Clean the World distributes to communities in Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and the United States.
The project’s mission is to save lives while reducing waste and conserving natural resources. Its goal is to distribute 100,000 Sustainable Hygiene Kits. PeopleTowels is also launching a ‘One for One’ donation program on limited edition, Clean Hands, Clean World PeopleTowels. PeopleTowels will donate one reusable hand towel for every limited edition PeopleTowel sold, to be distributed in a Sustainable Hygiene Kit.
“Our partnership with Clean the World aligns perfectly with PeopleTowels’ mission to reduce waste,” says Mary Wallace, co-founder of PeopleTowels. “By using recycled soaps and reusable hand towels, together we incorporate a sustainability element in this humanitarian effort that reinforces the message that even when meeting basic human needs, we need to do so with minimal impact on the environment.”
Photo credit: Clean Hands, Clean World