The alarm goes off and you wake up in a hotel room and it’s time to get ready for an important meeting. Before you jump in the shower, you grab that teeny bottle of shampoo and fumble with the wrapping on that small bar of soap. But whereas you might plow through that bottle of shampoo, chances are you leave behind nearly that entire bar of soap.
If you’re like me and millions of others who find themselves on the road for business or pleasure every year, you might have looked at that little sudsy rectangle in your hand and thought, “what a waste.” And that’s why a nice satisfying smile emerged on my face when I learned about a wonderful outfit that is turning this would-be garbage into something really valuable for some needy people around the planet.
The Global Soap Project takes the bars of soap that everyone discards in hotels after one day of use (if that) and recycles them into millions of new bars. The new bars of soap are distributed through health programs to the communities in the world that lack this really simple amenity. Hundreds of hotels around the U.S. are participating in this new initiative, including almost 40 in my home state of Minnesota.
Before you shout, “Are you kidding? Used soap … yuck!” you should look at the process, as you’ll see that the Global Soap Project is serious about producing a very clean product and an equally clean process. If you take a gander at their FAQ page you’ll see some requests for eco-friendliness. One question asks what type of container one should use to collect the used soap. The answer is that they want hotels to collect and ship soap in their original boxes so as to keep as small a footprint as possible. Like I said, serious!
In partnership with organizations like the Centers for Disease Control, Global Soap Project identifies those who either don’t have access to soap or don’t have a clear understanding of why good hand washing is important. And good hand washing is of an immense importance.
Global Soap’s website says that the leading cause of death for kids in developing countries is from hygiene-related illnesses, claiming 1.7 million lives worldwide each year. Research shows that washing your hands with soap (and doing a good job of it) is the most effective way to prevent those deaths. So effective, the website continues, that it works better than vaccines, medications and clean water initiatives.
I know that this sounds like a big number and a big claim. But it’s believable. I’ve been on the board of a major hospital system for a number of years and I’ve seen the impact of effective hand washing and the precipitous drop in the spread of infections as a result. Your mom was right: wash your hands!
And now, because of the Global Soap Project, that sage advice can be practiced for free in many places on this planet. All this from a simple little product that we think so little of that we usually toss it into a hotel waste basket.
So the next time you’re on the road, take a minute and ask the folks at your hotel whether they participate in this important program. And if they don’t, perhaps you can link them to a cleansing idea that makes sense in two ways: reducing waste and alleviating some human suffering.