Until a couple years ago, Paul Till and Shawn Seipler traveled extensively on business. On one trip, Shawn sat in his hotel room thinking that all those little hotel soaps and shampoos shouldn’t be going straight into landfills when millions of children elsewhere were sick and dying from diseases often preventable by simple handwashing.
Together, Paul and Shawn created Clean the World (CTW), based in Orlando. They work with over 800 hotel and hospitality partners across North America to gather, sanitize and repackage the soap/shampoo, before donating it to U.S. homeless shelters and international NGOs in 42 countries. Over 260,000 hotel rooms are part of the program, and some 550 tons of waste have been diverted, delivering over eight million soap bars worldwide in just two years.
When I first connected with Shawn, it was early 2009 as CSR/Green Initiatives Chair for the MPI Southeast Educational Conference in Miami Beach. We asked the hotel to allow housekeeping to collect the partially used soaps and amenities from our room block, and provide them to CTW. We also invited delegates to clean out their cupboards at home.
Planners and suppliers were enthusiastic, and together we collected 69 lbs of soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion. I also invited Shawn to tell his story to our audience as a guest speaker in a green meeting breakout. And then again at MPI’s WEC 2010, Shawn captivated our audience of event professionals with his moving message.
This is a no-brainer. These soaps save lives, diminish environmental impact, and increase morale among hotel staff. And meeting professionals are generating a lot of support.
“We’ve already booked 50 planner events, only 2½ months into the year,” says Seipler. “Meeting professionals are causing the adoption of our program because of the pressure they’re putting on hotels by bringing us in. Hotels have learned that it’s a selling feature with planners.”
Clean the World is expanding to keep up with demand, with recycling centers in Orlando, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Toronto and Vancouver. Meaning, planners have new opportunities for CSR activities.
Participants love it. In 2009, I worked with Shawn’s team to bring in delegates from an Orlando conference—CTW’s first CSR activity. Our local Green Meeting Industry Council chapter hosted the event, and in less than 90 minutes, our small group recovered 100 lbs of amenity bottles, surface cleaned 70 lbs of soap, sanitized 3,000 bars of soap, and wrapped 140 lbs of soap. Wrapping that ‘recycled’ soap was moving, knowing the next time it would be touched was when it was put into the hands of a child in need.
Wherever I travel, I look for that distinctive CTW logo. At the SITE Southeast conference this year at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, I immediately recognized the green CTW logo as I entered the lobby. And delegates were impressed when SITE announced that one of the sustainable aspects of the conference was Sandestin’s participation in the CTW hotel partner program. I was also thrilled to see that the resort purchases their bath amenities from Gilchrist & Soames—another active partner with Clean the World.