Thursday, March 31, 2011

Old Soap Saves Lives

Toiletries at a Seattle hotel. Photo courtesy: Daniel Morrison / Creative Commons via TreeHugger

I have always been appalled at the wastefulness of the "have" countries when it comes to just about everything. People all over the world are dying for lack of sinmple resources that we routinely throw away, underutilize, or squander in some other fashion.

There will always be a small number of travellers who are suckers for those little hotel soaps and shampoos and lotions; and, who rarely go home from a hotel stay without a handful of them stuffed in their luggage. However; there is a growing number of consumers that are beginning to realize just how wasteful these items truly are; and, choose to stay in hotels that are trying to help the environment. I would be one of those people.

Hundreds of millions of soap bars are discarded each year in North American alone -- a surplus that a Ugandan refugee has turned into a life-saving solution to diseases caused by poor sanitation.

After fleeing Uganda with his family during the reign of Idi Amin, Derreck Kayongo lived as a refugee in Kenya and eventually came to the United States, where he was shocked to learn how much soap gets thrown away in hotels, CNN reported.

Drawing on the knowledge of his father, a former soap maker in Uganda, Kayongo founded the Atlanta-based Global Soap Project, which collects used hotel soap from across the country, cleans and reprocesses it, and sends it to impoverished nations in Africa and the Caribbean:
For Kayongo, collecting soap is "a first line of defense" mission to combat child mortality around the world. Each year, more than 2 million children die from diarrheal illness -- the approximate population of San Antonio, Texas. According to the World Health Organization, these deaths occur almost exclusively among toddlers living in low-income countries.

"When you fall sick because you didn't wash up your hands, it's more expensive to go to the hospital to get treated," [Kayongo said]. "And that's where the problem begins and people end up dying."

Some 300 hotels donate their soap to the project, which relies heavily on volunteers to recycle the bars. So far it has donated more than 100,000 bars of soap to communities in nine countries. There's still plenty of room for the project to expand, though: An estimated 2.6 million bars of soap are discarded in U.S. hotel rooms every day.

Via TreeHugger

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