Human Journey

Saving Lives Is as Simple as Washing Your Hands

A child holds a simple hygiene kit from Clean Hands, Clean World Photo: CHCW


By Aysia Wright

Do you know what the number one killer of children under the age of 5 is? It mostly likely won’t kill you or me, and it’s as easy to prevent as washing your hands.  The answer? Respiratory and diarrheal disease, two illnesses that claim the lives of over 5 million people every year, the majority of them young children, who don’t have the basic tools needed to wash their hands.

Studies show that hand washing substantially lowers the death toll from these illnesses, with health benefits comparable to that of providing clean drinking water.  Effective hand washing requires soap, water, and a way to dry your hands, basic supplies often not available in impoverished communities. To address this need, PeopleTowels and Clean the World have created a new program, Clean Hands, Clean World.

PeopleTowels are reusable personal hand towels, an on-the-go alternative to paper towels that reduces waste and saves trees.  Made from organic Fair Trade cotton, they are compact, absorbent, fast drying and designed for portability.  Clean the World is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring hand hygiene to impoverished countries in an effort to reduce the spread of infectious respiratory and diarrheal disease. With sustainability in mind, they collect used soap from hotels, which is then reprocessed into fresh bars and distributed to those in need.

Pairing recycled soap with reusable hand towels, PeopleTowels and Clean the World have created a hand hygiene solution that’s not only life saving, but also  conserves resources and diverts waste from landfills.  As PeopleTowels co-founder Mary Wallace put it, “Even when meeting basic human needs, we need to do so with minimal impact on the environment.”

Photo: Clean Hands, Clean World kit
A kit from Clean Hands, Clean World Photo: CHCW


To support the Clean Hands, Clean World program, PeopleTowels will donate one reusable hand towel for every limited edition PeopleTowel sold, with a goal of distributing 100,000 sustainable hygiene kits.  As Tom’s shoes has demonstrated with their one-for-one shoe donation program (two million pairs of shoes and counting) consumer-driven advocacy can be a powerful means to an end.  In this case, that end is saving lives through simple, sustainable hygiene.

The spotlight focuses on issues like AIDS and malaria in impoverished communities abroad, yet diarrhea and pneumonia kill twice the number of people every year.  We have the means to substantially reduce that number without the need for expensive research to find a cure.  For Clean Hands, Clean World, the ‘cure’ is prevention: soap, water, and a towel for effective handwashing.

Photo: Clean Hands, Clean World kids
Photo: CHCW

Photo: Clean Hands, Clean World infographic


Aysia Wright works in public relations for the Clean Hands, Clean World campaign.

  • Matt G.

    Clean the World works with more than 1,400 hospitality partners throughout North America to collect, recycle, and distribute soap bars to children and families in need. In three years Clean the World has distributed more than 10 million bars of soap in disadvantaged communities in the United States, Canada, and more than 45 countries. Together with PeopleTowels, we are promoting Clean Hands, Clean World as a hygiene education initiative to raise awareness for sustainability and to stop the spread of preventable diseases. Soap saves lives.

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