Little soaps–hotels and greenness

Part of this whole greening process for me has involved taking new looks at things I used to take for granted, or not even think about.  One of those things, this week, has been the tiny sthese little oaps and shampoos that seem to be part and parcel of every hotel bathroom I’ve ever been in.

First, the soap–you open up a bar of soap, use it for a shower or two and washing your hands for the duration, and then you leave it there when you leave and it gets thrown away and replaced with a new one the next time housekeeping is there.  The tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner are thrown out and added to the landfill piles.  Consumption nightmare.

So I did a little thinking, and a little research.

First of all, we of course have the option of not using the hotel soaps and shampoos; if they are still there, unwrapped, or with the seals unbroken, one assumes the hotel will leave them there for the next guest.  This is honestly usually my choice, because the hotel stuff tends to be too heavily scented for me, and I’d just as soon bring my own from home.  As an alternative, using them and then bringing them home to finish using them is also not a bad idea, especially with the bar soap.  The shampoos and such–hard to get around the negative implications of those tiny bottles.

Many homeless shelters will accept donation of unopened soaps and shampoos–while this is a great thing to do, it also in a way does not solve the problem; the soaps and shampoos will still likely get used once and thrown away.  Few if any shelters will accept already opened products, for obvious sanitary reasons. 

A group called Clean the World Foundation ( in Florida has a program whereby hotel chains can donate their used soaps for recycling; they seem to have a lot of local partners, but they are hardly a nationwide phenomenon.

You can also check out for the mappable locations of different hotels who qualify for a one-to-four “trees” rating for how many things they are doing to be environmentally friendly…it’s not as informative as I might have hoped, but it’s something. 

The recommendation in hotels with a real commitment to greenness seems to be dispensers–soap, shampoo, conditioner.  It seems to be slow to catch on, but it’s not a bad idea…

In the meantime, there are a bunch of sites with suggestions for what to do with used soaps–I plan to try some of these with our basic at-home soap slivers… –six different ideas for re-using old soap pieces –makes old soap pieces into pump-able liquid hand soap –a kid-friendly, microwavable way to turn lots of little pieces of soap into a new bar 

If anyone tries any of these, let me know how they worked!




Posted on July 9, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’ve often wondered if we could hold hotels more accountable for recycling the cardboard boxes the soaps come in and the plastic shampoo bottles. Think of the hundreds of rooms in a typical hotel and the daily/weekly/monthly volume of these become staggering pretty quickly. Have you investigated with Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, etc. whether or not they recycle? What about suggesting implementation of greener opportunities/awareness for guests? How great it would be to go into a hotel room and find a recycling bin in addition to the garbage can. Hotels make a pretty big deal about preserving the environment by only washing towels you leave on the floor and thus conserving water/reducing detergents, etc.; how about in-room signage that points to where guests can recycle the amenities packaging too?

    • greenmomintheburbs

      An interesting question! (Yeah, how much work really would it be to put recycling bins into hotel rooms?)

      This article has a lot of information about what some of the different national chains are up to in regards to reducing their footprint:

      Honestly, it’s more than I expected…and less than I’d hoped! What’s heartening to hear, though, is that there are more and more guests who want to patronize the properties that do care about their carbon footprints–so hotels are now competing with one another on that level as well. (Let ’em! May the best chain win!)

  2. Maria Bernhardt

    Our church’s Vacation Bible School had Miss Florida Teen come and speak to the kids about Clean the World. Very cool organization. We collected hundreds of bars of used and unused soaps as the offering that day. I like that it’s okay if it’s been used…

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