A Healthier World, Bar by Bar

If 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