Most of us pay little attention to the bars of soap in our hotel rooms, let alone what happens to the gently used soap once we check out. In the United States, an estimated 2.6 million bars of soap are discarded each day, ending up as waste in landfills. To limit this waste and help millions of people who live without soap or proper sanitation, Atlanta resident Derreck Kayongo founded the Global Soap Project (GSP).
After fleeing Uganda in 1979, Kayongo and his family found themselves displaced in refugee camps. It was there that he experienced firsthand what tragedy poor sanitation can create. Kayongo explains that part of his motivation to create this organization was realized when he discovered that hotels throw away 800 million bars of soap a year while there are people who go without soap or sanitation every day. “This translates into two million children that die every year due to diaherrial diseases.” Kayongo says. “This is unacceptable and to this end, the Global Soap Project was founded to make sure that another child or woman never goes without a bar of soap.”
In 2009, Kayongo approached hospitality executive retiree Vicki Gordon with his idea to recycle hotel soaps and the GSP was born. When Kayongo, his wife, Sarah, and Gordon reached out to the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association, they signed up 13 hotels on the spot to donate their used soaps. This number has since grown to more than 250 participating locations.
“We don’t have any employees, all of our folks are volunteers,” Gordon says. “All the soap is melted down and made by volunteers.”
Kayongo, who was named to CNN Heroes’ Top 10 Finalists earlier this year, feels the impact of the Global Soap Project and its volunteers is twofold. “It’s a simple reminder to all of us that the American soul and vitality of creativity is still alive and well, even in these difficult times,” he says. “Secondly, simple solutions can still solve big problems in today’s world. I’m still a big believer in the power of a small group of people banding together to start a movement. Our movement at GSP is to stop the environmental impact that soap has when you throw away eight million bars of it. In turn, we are humbled by our recycling of soap to solve the question of sanitation globally.”
To volunteer visit www.globalsoap.org.
How can I get involved with the GSP?
There are many ways to volunteer and assist the Global Soap Project in their efforts:
- Donate funds, with the click of a button, at www.GlobalSoap.org.
- Organize a group in your community to recruit hotels for donations, or recruit storage companies to donate space for storing soaps.
- Volunteer at the Atlanta Global Soap Project warehouse to help make soap.
- Students start a local chapter at their school and raise awareness in proper hand washing and good health.
Interested volunteers can also visit www.HandsOnAtlanta.org to sign up for GSP events.