Interview: Saudia Davis of Greenhouse Eco Cleaning
Saudia Davis is the the founder and CEO of Greenhouse Eco Cleaners, an organic commercial and residential cleaning company in New York City. When her grandmother passed away from an illness she may have developed from her exposure to chemicals as a professional cleaner, Saudia was galvanized to begin her own cleaning company to provide her clients and employees with a service and profession that is safe and healthy for the environment. Saudia shares with us her insights into the benefits and best practices for sustainable cleaning and creating a healthy environment to live and work.
What are some benefits of green cleaning?
SD: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is five times more polluted than outdoor air. If the average person spends up to 90% of their time indoors, we are breathing in dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold, bug skeletons, and toxins from such innocuous sources as conventional cleaning products and even chemicals emitted from our own clothing and bedding. These toxins result in symptoms such as itchy eyes, a runny nose, and wheezing that most people attribute to allergies, but could actually be because of an unclean house. . Regularly scheduled cleanings using non-toxic disinfectants can remove airborne toxins. We also recommend investing in a vacuum with a HEPA filtration system.
How do you recommend “greening” your home?
SD: Our mantra is: Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose. We tell our clients to keep those three principles in mind to create a green, toxic-free environment in every room of your home. In addition to only using chemical-free solvents and recycled or repurposed materials, you can stay on the green path by making simple lifestyle changes such as using microfiber towels instead of paper towels, turning off lights to conserve precious electricity, and shutting doors to conserve your HVAC power. Big changes would include installing solar power, using green building materials, reusing rainwater and installing dual flush toilets. But don’t forget, we provide green-cleaning services to offices as well. So for offices, small changes such as making all trash receptacles in common areas only can decrease your office trash by 65%. It also saves you money because the cleaning company will spend much less time during your service picking up trash at each desk.
What products do you recommend and how are they a healthier choice for ourselves or the environment? How do you identify a “green” product?
SD: We keep it simple when we clean. EcoSpirit is our line of plant-based, toxin-free cleaning products. We use a blend of coconut, palm fatty acids, and natural corn-based sugars mixed with lemon – known for its antiseptic and cleaning properties – to lift surface oils and grime. This natural blend is biodegradable so it breaks down quickly and easily with no fumes or irritation, leaving only a clean surface behind. Along with Ecospirit products we use vinegar, baking soda, lemons and good old-fashioned elbow grease to clean kitchens, bathrooms, windows and floors. If it’s a sunny day, we take advantage of the sterilizing effect of UV rays by opening the blinds. Just 30 minutes in direct sunlight will affect most surfaces. I didn’t set out to start a line of cleaning products, but as the owner of a green cleaning company, I’m adamant about only using non-toxic products that actually work.
Why did you begin your business?
SD: My life changed when my grandmother, a housekeeper from the West Indies, lost her battle to cancer; an illness my family and I believe that she contracted after spending decades inhaling toxic cleaning fumes. My need to honor her and bring meaning to the life she lived and the memory she left, led to the launch of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning in 2006. As a result, my employees work in a toxin-free environment, and the people that live in the spaces they clean enjoy better health and a better quality of life because we exist.
Have you noticed a shift toward individuals and/or businesses being more conscious of sustainable cleaning practices since you started GreenHouse Eco Cleaning?
SD: Consumers that are paying attention are noticing the over abundance of chemicals in our food, outdoor air, and even our water. As a result, we buy fair trade products; reach for organic produce and fruit in the market; and many of us have even turned to cruelty-free, all natural cosmetics in the makeup aisle. Being cautious about the toxins used to clean our homes is a natural extension of the overall awareness we’re all experiencing. This becomes especially important if there are family members or employees with allergies or poor health.
Is it a common misconception that hiring a green cleaner is more expensive? Why or why not?
SD: When GEC first started in 2006 that was a common misconception. Today, I think the concept of living green is much easier because there are more green products and services available. Of course, with the rising green movement, there are a shocking number of cleaning companies that are attempting to capitalize on the environmental movement without making the effort to adjust their equipment. Consumers can weed those businesses out just by asking if only natural cleaning products will be used, and what kind. It’s also important to ensure that a green cleaning company is licensed and insured. If that assurance increases the service price minimally, it should be worth the peace of mind to the homeowner.
Who do you hire and how do you train them in green cleaning techniques and philosophy?
SD: The inspiration for our company, my grandmother, worked hard but she never got the opportunity to advance. My goal is to not only create jobs, but to find, foster, and celebrate greatness within underserved communities. We screen dozens of experienced cleaners and hire those that align with our standards and mission. We hire him or her as an employee, something not many companies in our industry do.
Since we are a B-corporation, which is a sustainable business certification similar to a Fair Trade or organic certification, our cleaners complete a rigorous training and educational curriculum in green living. This includes life skills and personal development.
What are some simple things that we can do to make our homes healthier and better for the environment on our own or in between big cleanings?
SD: It’s vital that you make the switch to natural cleaners because traditional cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that lead to serious illnesses and even cancer. Natural products work just as effectively and use organic oils or plant-based properties to enhance the aroma of the product, not dangerous synthetic fragrances. Vinegar, baking soda and lemon can make almost any type of cleaning agent that you need. You can visit our blog for articles on how to use these items for cleaning.
How do you suggest creating harmony in a space?
SD: Florence Nightingale, a pioneer of modern nursing, famously quoted, “The connection between health and the dwelling of the population is one of the most important that exists.” Our clients often tell us that they experience renewed energy and happiness after one of our visits. When we hear them use words such as “therapeutic,” “relaxing,” and “motivating” to describe their newly cleaned homes and offices we are reminded that a clean environment is truly the best and easiest way to create harmony and allow for creativity and productivity.
How do you define success for your business?
SD: I believe that what you do in your life matters and can change lives. For this reason, I have committed myself to a path that helps our clients and cleaners live healthier, more fulfilling lives. I was recently invited to attend the G20 YEA Summit in Australia along with a handful of other entrepreneurs from the US. We were there to offer recommendations for utilizing entrepreneurship as a powerful driver of economic renewal, job creation, innovation and social change around the world. Effecting that type of sustainability in a global way, whether that’s through the business model I’m creating or through the various small business committees I’m a part of – would be a true measure of success for me.