Business Green: Many of us may feel a twinge of guilt at swiping soap from hotels, but it turns out that this petty theft may be the greener option.
US hotels throw out an estimated 2.6 million bars of soap every year, most of which ends up in landfill. But unused soap represents a waste mountain that global hotel chain Hilton Worldwide is now committed to tackling.
The company has agreed to collect used soap to donate to the Global Soap Project, a non-profit organization that reprocesses used soap from hotels into new bars that can then be distributed to vulnerable populations in developing countries at risk of disease related to poor sanitation and hygiene.
Hand washing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhea and pneumonia, which together are responsible for more than 3.5 million child deaths each year.
The Global Soap Project was founded by Derreck Kayongo and his wife Sarah in 2009, and has distributed more than 25 tons of soap to communities in 20 countries across four continents. Kayongo had the idea when he was a refugee in Kenya and found that access to soap was extremely limited.
"Even when available, those living on less than $1 a day had to choose between buying food or soap," he said. "People were suffering from illness simply because they couldn't wash their hands."
Hilton Worldwide said that the new partnership will produce more than a million new soap bars for the Atlanta-based project, and that the company will take a seat on the board to help guide its growth.
"We are proud to invest in the Global Soap Project and are excited to leverage our expertise to support their organization, while simultaneously solving critical social needs," said Christopher Corpuel, vice president of sustainability at Hilton Worldwide.