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For those of you who like to support sustainable businesses, here are the local hospitality partners of Clean the World

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Saving lives with recycled soap
Clean the World makes hospitality greener and more humane

By Cassie Pence

Want to shock your friends with your tree-hugger ways? Tell them you recycle soap.

The reaction is almost always the same. It’s first a look of confusion, followed immediately by a look of disgust.

Greener PasturesRecycling soap does sound kind of gross, but after you explain how the soap is shipped to a plant where it’s sanitized, relief washes over your friend’s face. Then when you explain that the recycled soap is shipped to countries where people need soap to fight simple infection and disease, admiration flies across your friend’s face. And finally, you hear a verbal response: “Wow, that’s really cool.”

Clean the World is really cool. It’s a non-profit that collects, sorts and sanitizes discarded soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion amenities donated from participating hospitality partners, like hotels, B&Bs and my company, Organic Housekeepers. Then, Clean the World recycles the amenities and delivers the hygiene products to domestic homeless shelters and impoverished countries suffering from high death rates due to acute respiratory infection and diarrhea disease.  

According to Clean the World, each year more than five million lives are lost to these diseases with the majority of deaths being among children less than five years old. Studies have shown that simple hand washing substantially reduces the spread of these diseases. Unfortunately, the essential items for proper hand washing are unobtainable for millions of people worldwide.

But here in Vail, there’s more than enough to go around. It’s staggering how many half-used soaps, bath gels, shampoos and conditioners our housekeepers collect everyday from vacation rentals. And we’re just a little green cleaning company. Think about the waste generated by half-used amenities from a big hotel chain, and think about how all those little bottles could be saving lives.

Right now, Clean the World is focusing its efforts on Japan, just as the organization did with Haiti when that earthquake hit. Clean the World is working with a network of global distribution partners, such as World Vision, Doctors without Borders, and others to ensure that the people most affected by this disaster will receive the hygiene relief they need.

“Disease and infection are quick to follow on disasters of this magnitude – Haiti is a recent example – and the need for soap and hygiene supplies to help stop the spread of disease is essential to any successful recovery effort,” writes Clean the World in its newsletter.

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake and numerous, powerful aftershocks caused tsunamis to engulf portions of Japan. Japan's coastline may have shifted by as much as 13 feet, according to a BBC story, to the east following the earthquake. The story continued to say that the quake probably shifted Earth on its axis by about 6.5 inches and caused the planet to rotate somewhat faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 millionths of a second. If that’s not proof of how powerful nature is, well, I’m not sure what is.

Since April 2009, Clean the World has collected and distributed over 375 tons of soap, shampoo and other hotel amenities to dozens of countries worldwide including Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Swaziland, Mali, Mongolia, Uganda, Honduras, and Romania. And it could be more. We are fortunate enough to live in a resort town, and many of us work in the hospitality industry. If you or your employer has the opportunity to recycle soap, please encourage the Powers At Be to become a partner of Clean the World. It’s really not that hard, just ask Organic Housekeepers.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. Contact her at

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