How hotel soap can change lives

I’m one to wonder how things work when I travel.  Shawn Seipler is, too. Four years ago, he had a simple question, as he hung out in his hotel room after a day of meetings: “What happens to my used soap?” He noticed that soap is hardly depleted after a stay, and to throw it away seemed a waste. From this germ of a thought was born the nonprofit he founded, Clean the World.

The Orlando-based organization has solved the hotel soap problem with a very simple program. Housekeeping disposes of used amenities in a special bin provided by Clean the World, which picks up the bin when full. Clean the World melts down the soap remnants and creates new bars of soap. These and other repackaged amenities become part of the hygiene kits the nonprofit creates: one-quart bags that contain soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor and washcloth. The kits are distributed to the homeless and displaced, those living in shelters and victims of natural disasters.

It’s a win on so many levels. Hotel amenity waste is diverted from landfill. Homeless individuals receive hygiene kits, which prevent disease. Hotels wear the halo of doing good. Since 2009, more than 15 million bars of soap have been distributed. Simply brilliant.

During your next hotel shower, take a look at the soap and wonder, “Will this go to Clean the World?” There’s a good chance it will (the organization has more than 1,700 hospitality partners). But you can help the cause by asking  your hotel’s management if they participate–and encouraging them to do so if not. Corporate travel managers and meeting planners can require Clean the World participation on RFPs. And assembling hygiene kits through the OneProject initiative is a valuable Corporate Social Responsibility project.

Much good came of Shawn Seipler’s very simple question in his hotel room. How many other problems can be solved with the simple act of wondering, during those idle nights in a hotel room?