TELLURIDE – Who hasn’t left a hotel room wondering what happens to those convenient, single-use packages of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and bar soap that guests leave behind. Should you take them home with you? Should you leave them for the next guest? It can be a bit of a quandary, especially considering that an estimated one million bars of hotel soap alone are dumped into the trash each day.
Enter Clean the World Foundation, the Florida-based nonprofit that set out to find a solution to the hotel amenity waste problem. Since its inception in 2009, Clean the World has recycled over 10 million soap bars and 200,000 pounds of shampoo and conditioner, eliminating over 600 tons of human waste. And by putting these recycled products in the hands of people living in impoverished countries, they have prevented countless numbers of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses, particularly among children.
According to Clean the World, 3.5 million children die each year from diarrhea and pneumonia (read: every 10 seconds, a child dies from a disease that could have been prevented with proper hygiene), more than HIV and malaria combined. These are the top two illnesses that kill children under five years old, mainly in third world countries like Haiti, Honduras, Ethiopia and the Dominican Republic. Studies indicate that campaigns promoting hand washing with just plain soap have reduced cases of diarrhea among these populations by 47 percent. In the U.S., where soap is plentiful, the hotel industry, communities and individuals have an opportunity to make a real impact on these people’s health.
In Telluride, Denise Weaver, owner of Tomboy Soap Company, is spearheading an effort to get local lodging companies on the “Soap Saves Lives” bandwagon.
“The statistics had the biggest impact on me. So many of these deaths are children under 1 year old,” she said. Weaver sees the Clean the World program as a no brainer. “It’s not a pharmaceutical solution, not a drug, not an antibiotic. It’s something we already have available to us, it’s so simple.”
Last week she gave a presentation on the Clean the World program at the Telluride lodging community’s monthly meeting, hoping to inspire its members to join in.
“It costs 65 cents per room per month to participate,” said Weaver. “That’s $32.50 per month on a 50-room property. And they pay no shipping.”
Telluride Mountain Lodge had already discovered the CTW’s Hotel Partnership program, and just this week sent off their first two crates of soap and amenities to Clean the World’s Las Vegas processing center. For Weaver’s part, she sends shavings and scraps from her soap processing to CTW. But she was also interested in getting her hotel clients to send their discarded amenities to the program, including The Hotel Telluride, which gladly signed on. “They just got their first batch of collection bins, but they haven’t yet filled them up to ship them,” she said.
According to Joey McFarland, The Hotel Telluride's Director of Housekeeping, “The amount of soap wasted daily is staggering, even at a small property such as ours. Clean The World was surprisingly one of our more inexpensive choices for a new Green Initiative at the hotel. It’s been easy to adapt our daily practices to and the boost of morale in our housekeeping staff has been the greatest reward for me so far. My staff knows more than anyone the abundance of soap that is wasted in turning over a room; this program has been a tangible way that they can give back to the world, environment, and saving lives for little extra time and cost.”
How CTW’s Hotel Partnership program works is, participating hotels and lodging companies have their housekeeping crews collect unused and partially used soap and amenities from guest rooms and put them in a CTW bin, which is then shipped, no charge, to the nearest CTW processing facility (Orlando, Las Vegas, Toronto or Vancouver). There, bars of soap are sorted, sanitized, and re-batched into new products.
While some may cringe at the idea of re-using bars of partially used soap, the sanitation process is tested and certified safe by TriTech Laboratories, a Florida state-certified testing facility. It involves chopping the soap into small pieces, treating it with a sterilizing solution and then applying steam/pressure to form them back into “new” bars. They are then tested for proper pH level, cooled and packaged.
Partially used bottled amenities are consolidated, reformulated and repackaged in a similar fashion as the soap, but according to Weaver, “they’re tough. It takes a lot of effort to empty those bottles. Bar soap is the least labor intensive in terms of getting it processed and out the door.
“Think of all the waste with amenities,” said Weaver, who visited the Las Vegas CTW facility this fall. There she was able to see for herself the volume of products the company deals with. “There were these boxes, the size of pallets, four feet high, completely filled with partly-used shampoo, partly-used conditioner… That’s just one week in Vegas. The great news is we’re sending this to countries where we’re going to save peoples lives.”
Unopened products in their original packaging are also collected and distributed as is; CTW welcomes donations of new products from large soap manufacturers, lodging properties, communities and individuals.
“I’m going to talk to the local Cub Scouts and try to do some community outreach to get a local soap drive going for packaged soaps,” said Weaver.
As far as the Telluride’s lodging community, the Clean the World concept was a pretty easy sell. “It was a very positive response,” said Weaver after last Tuesday’s meeting. “It seems like the right thing to do, especially in this community… It’s something we already have available to us, it’s so simple. We ought to get all the lodging properties doing it.”
Those interested in becoming involved in Clean the World’s campaign can do so by volunteering, making a financial contribution, encouraging hotels to participate, sponsor a soap drive, support its corporate sponsors, or share their message with others. For more information, visit cleantheworld.org. Locally, Denise Weaver can be reached at Tomboy Soap Company, 970/327-0304.