Creating Sustainable Jobs for the Poor

Did you ever wonder what happens to the soap bar you left behind at the hotel? Or the bottle of half used shampoo? One would think the hotel would replenish the bottle with shampoo and reuse, right? Well the vast majority of hotels in the US and abroad do not have recycling programs. Sad but true. Can you imagine how many billions of plastic bottles and used soap bars end up in landfills each year? The environmentalist in me cringes at the thought of so much senseless waste.

Change is occurring, albeit hotel greening in general is a bit slow. I recently found out about a wonderful organization called Clean the World which is taking the lead in repurposing used hotel soap. They collect, sanitize and redistribute bars of soap and bottled amenities to the needy in the US and 40+ countries around the globe. What a great concept. So far they have teamed up with the Sheraton, Westin, Starwood, Marriott, Hilton and about 100 other hotels. There are hotels like the Hyatt who do their part by teaming up with local homeless shelters where their left over amenities are distributed. Simply brilliant!

I was blessed to receive a call the other day from Veronika de la Fuente who works at La Quinta in Miami Lakes, Florida. She asked me if Bridging Humanity would be interested in receiving a donation of her hotel’s used soap. I jumped at the offer (literally) and drove that night to her hotel where she loaded me up with used sheets, bars of soap and other items the hotel was disposing of. She explained that if a sheet had a tiny stain, they must dispose of it. My eyes grew wide as I envisioned my African friends at the Niaber Orphanage tie dying these sheets and turning them into beautiful works of art. The days following I spent time brain storming ways I could translate the used soap and the stained sheet projects into revenue generating job opportunities for the poor.

In reality, the truth of the matter is the poor desperately need the soap for themselves as improper hygiene is one of the number one killers in developing countries. One of the things I teach the less fortunate when I travel abroad is how to make soap out of young yucca root (mature yucca does not work). It is easy and inexpensive. So in theory, the poor could repurpose the used hotel soap and sell it to make money. My next challenge was to figure out how the poor could do this with little or no amenities. I did a couple of tests and figured out a way they could repurpose things that normally get thrown away like tiny sauce containers and egg cartons as soap molds and use solar energy to melt and sanitize the soap shards.

To learn more about this process please take a look at the following video titled Operation Self Sustainability – Jobs for the Poor. Share it and pass it on! Saving a life is a click away. [youtube]http://youtu.be/sZeVOiXvLBw[/youtube]

Written by

Tina Cornely is a long standing humanitarian and environmental activist. She is the former Director of Technology of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the former Director of Operations at the Miami Art Museum in Miami, Florida. Ms. Cornely believes that art is healing and revealing. In her own words, we can express with art what we cannot express with words. When we use art to teach others, we help increase their critical thinking skills exponentially. Art can also be a means to generate a revenue source. And when you make art out of trash, everyone benefits.
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