One of the best parts of staying in a hotel is enjoying the free toiletries.
You'll inevitably find tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner, lotion, and little individually wrapped bars of soap.
But what happens to those toiletries when you leave the hotel? In many hotels, they're simply thrown away and transported to a landfill. There, they slowly decompose while contributing to the 294 million tons of waste Americans produce each year.
However, several organizations are working to change that.
Clean the World and their partner organization, the Global Soap Project, collect all of those half-used soap bars and empty shampoo bottles. Their goal is to greatly diminish waste through an innovative recycling program that spans multiple continents.
Here's how it works: First, hotels register with the Global Soap Project, then receive special collection bins. Volunteers take the unwanted products to a special recycling facility; the soaps are sanitized and combined into standard-sized bars, while the plastic bottles are cleaned thoroughly to allow for reuse.
The organizations then send the new toiletries to impoverished areas in developing countries like Honduras, Ghana, Haiti, and Kenya. This is the most important part of the mission since the lack of access to hygienic products can create serious issues in some regions of the world.
By providing communities with soap and other essentials, Clean the World and Global Soap Project help to lower child mortality rates by limiting the spread of pneumonia and other serious conditions.
Clean the World also makes micro-loans to soap producers in some communities, further establishing the organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility.
So, what are the chances that your favorite hotel takes part in the Global Soap Project?
Unsurprisingly, fairly high. The organization has received tremendous media attention over the last few years, and many Hyatt hotels committed to taking part in the project. Clean the World also offers a simple sign-up form on their website, which simplifies the process substantially.
For hotels and motels, there are several major benefits. First, the program eliminates a major source of waste, so hotel owners may save on their trash bills—depending on where they're located (the program does have a moderate cost). Secondly, the project has been shown to increase employee morale; according to Clean the World's website, many hotel workers come from the countries that directly benefit from the program, and the organization touts morale improvements as a significant benefit.
Perhaps most importantly, hotel customers love the idea of the Global Soap Project. Many hotels have taken to promoting the program with in-room placards.
In total, Clean the World created more than 100,000 bars of soap as of May of 2013. If you're interested in learning more, check out the organization's website and encourage your local hotels to sign up. After all, this is one sustainability program that everyone should be able to get behind.