A Healthier World, Bar by Bar

3882001569_c7611b6526.jpgIf you think of the hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms stocked with perfectly good soap and wonder what happens to it all when guests leave, you’ll be asking the same question that Shawn Seipler and Paul Till asked and then acted on. In February 2009, they founded Clean the World, and as of this blog’s writing the foundation has nearly 175 hotels and B&Bs tossing soap into collection bins that reach citizens in impoverished countries or domestic homeless shelters. They’ve made a handful of soap and shampoo deliveries to Haiti.

Still a devastating threat to children in developing countries, diarrheal diseases cause some 1.6 million of the 1.8 million childhood deaths that occur each year, according to the World Health Organization. Suitable drinking  water sources, regular hand washing habits, and proper hygiene practices can eliminate these entirely avoidable fatalities.

At Clean the World’s lab in Florida, a heavily used bar will be cooked to remove impurities before it’s reshaped, and gently used soap will soak in a sanitation solution and undergo pH testing. All the while, this soap that would have wasted away in our landfills (it’s estimated that nearly two million bars do each year) never get the chance.

There are a number of ways to contribute. Help set up a Million Bars of Soap for Hope soap drive in your community, as Wilmington, North Carolina did, or donate soap or money at their website. Clean the World also welcomes volunteers to work at any of their recycling centers in Orlando, Houston, or Atlanta.

Read More: In National Geographic magazine’s special April issue on freshwater, Tina Rosenberg wrote “The Burden of Thirst,” following women in southwestern Ethiopia who walk miles every day up and down mountains to fetch water for their families. Although some progress is being made with community water and sanitation projects, none of the families could afford soap.

Photo: Check out a very cool gallery of soaps from around the world from Flickr user tdietmut. http://www.flickr.com/photos/reisgekki/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Comments

  1. Tim
    February 5, 2011, 11:06 pm

    Great to see such steps being taken to make the world a healthy place. Also visit here

  2. potter
    July 23, 2010, 12:38 am

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  3. Barry
    May 11, 2010, 5:39 pm

    Sounds kind of stupid to me. All the effort collecting, cleaning and distributing the recycled soap doesn’t seem worth it!
    The best thing to do is use less so if you are so concerned carry your own soap with you or don’t toss half used soap.
    How much fossil fuel, paper, and chemicals are used to recollect the soap. Take the money and start a soap factory in poor countries. But then of course that may only be rational not chic, “green” and fashionable.
    Wake up people! If you care use your brain and just use less product.

  4. Bob Witkow
    May 5, 2010, 1:46 pm

    This is a brilliant idea! I travel a lot and cannot stand the thought of millions of 1/2 empty plastic bottles and bars of soap ending up in landfills every day. Or, the other thought that the plastic bottles are made from oil that is purchased from repressive regimes who hate the USA. So, I bring my own supplies when I travel. I try to bring home the soap, shampoo, etc., and donate directly to a group home or shelter.

  5. Catherine S
    May 5, 2010, 9:57 am

    What a great project! I often travel in the developing world and am dismayed when restaurants don’t have any soap in the toilets. I always try to carry around a bag of hotel soaps with me for this reason and leave them restrooms where there’s no soap. Having no way to wash hands properly while preparing food is a great way to pass along parasites and other diseases (which I have had, more than once).

  6. Jeremy Chambers
    May 5, 2010, 8:58 am

    “At Clean the World’s lab in Florida, a heavily used bar will be cooked to remove impurities before it’s reshaped, and gently used soap will soak in a sanitation solution and undergo pH testing. All the while, this soap that would have wasted away in our landfills (it’s estimated that nearly two million bars do each year) never get the chance.”
    Actually a conservative estimate places at least 1 million bars of soap in our nations landfills everyday, just from the hospitality industry.