NMH Magazine 2018 Spring

Page 16


Have Toiletries, Will Do Good

Heidi Leeds ’18 (left) and Isabella Lombino ’18 with the shampootransfer tool that they designed and built.

Two NMH entrepreneurs saw an opportunity where others saw only waste. After noticing that hotels discard hundreds of half-empty shampoo bottles every day, Heidi Leeds ’18 and Isabella Lombino ’18 launched a service that both reduces trash and helps people who are homeless. For nearly a year now, the “Shampoo Shuttle” has collected shampoo from hotels and redistributed it at local shelters. It’s a class project, too, for the Rhodes Fellowship Course in Social Entrepreneurship, which teaches students like Leeds and Lombino how to develop ideas into viable ways of improving the world. Every few weeks, Leeds and Lombino collect leftover toiletries from the Hampton Inn in Greenfield, Massachusetts, repackage them, and deliver full bottles to places where people need them, such as the Salvation Army in Greenfield. At first, Leeds and Lombino emptied the hotel shampoo containers by manually squeezing the liquid from each one. Their hands soon ached. So they used their engineering skills to design a tool with 26 shampoobottle-shaped holes, which they fabricated with an oncampus 3-D printer. Now they snap the bottles into the lid, let them drain into a funnel, and use a large syringe


NMH Magazine

to transfer the liquid to clean containers. Their invention sped up processing time, as did recruiting other students to help. They felt nervous the first time they delivered the shampoo to the Salvation Army. “We didn’t know exactly what we were doing or how receptive people would be to our product,” says Leeds. Social Entrepreneurship teacher Grant Gonzalez encouraged them to speak with the people using their products. “By meeting them and conducting a survey, we developed our ideas further, saw what effect we were having in the community, and considered how to do more,” says Lombino. Leeds says the course provided structure, tools, and constant feedback about their ideas. “Having people asking us questions along the way helped us articulate our plans more clearly and think through all the little details.” Leeds and Lombino have added a shampoo dropoff at the Northampton Survival Center, and hope to deliver additional products requested by their clients, such as toothbrushes and feminine hygiene products. They plan to continue Shampoo Shuttle at their respective colleges next year, handing over the NMH operation to younger NMH students. “Shampoo Shuttle is easily replicable in any location. We are building a formal model that can be handed to anyone that wants to start a branch,” says Lombino. The Social Entrepreneurship course and the success of Shampoo Shuttle have given Leeds and Lombino a “solid foundation,” says Leeds, for incorporating service not only into their academic lives but also their future careers. “We’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world, but it’s hard to know where to start,” says Lombino. “Shampoo Shuttle showed us that you can start with something small and work your way up.” —Emily Harrison Weir

“ Shampoo Shuttle showed us that you can start with something small and work your way up.” PHOTOS: GLENN MINSHALL, SHARON LABELLA-LINDALE, SARAH CROSBY