In Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux is pulled back on the road deep in the heart of Africa there are landmines in those woods, warns his guide. Later, a villager tells Theroux that people die every time it rains, as torrents wash landmines into farm fields and on footpaths where they weren't before. (Although a landmine removal expert tells Theroux this particular horror is urban legend, reports in the press aren't so clear.)
In any case, landmines are a terrible scourge in much of the world, bringing death and dismemberment, as well as restriction of basic activities like tilling and construction, long after armies have fallen, regimes have changed and generals are forgotten. Someone is killed or maimed by landmines every 20 minutes, in 88 countries especially Cambodia, Angola and Mozambique.
Landmines cost as little as $3 (less than a good bar of soap), and experts estimate there are a staggering 100 million lying around. At the current rate of removal, it will take 1,000 years to demine them all and even that seems unlikely since new ones are being sown by forces all the time.
In countries free of landmines, it is hard for people to imagine the danger.
In 2006, a design student at Parsons in New York City, Hideaki Matsui, came up with Cleanup soap for his senior thesis. The soap comes in the cool-looking shape of a landmine, which serves as a daily reminder of both how fortunate we are in the relative safety of the developed world, and how our small actions can help those in far corners of the globe.
Twenty-five percent of the purchase price of each Cleanup soap is donated to nonprofit organizations that remove landmines and help survivors currently the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund. "As the soap disappears, so do the landmines," the smartly designed box points out.
Cleanup was chosen for development through Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policys Social Entrepreneurship Through Design class. Two students there, Alison Keehn and Benjamin Packer, incorporated in 2007 as the Social Entrepreneurship Network, Inc. (SEN), to bring this and other products to market.
For testing, I got Cleanup in coconut (one of my faves!) and rosemary mint. Both have great scents, and the landmine shape is actually great for holding onto while bathing, or for resting on the edge of a slippery tub. The soap isn't organic possible next step? and it contains tetrasodium EDTA, which has caused some concern for the environment. The company claims the ingredients are all natural and not tested on animals.
Cleanup is an innovative concept, and it's not surprising it has won some design awards. Hopefully it will help remove more landmines.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.