by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 17 July 2015
Many interesting, and Fremont-esque, businesses quietly occupy space along our portion of the active Aurora Avenue corridor. One of these oft-overlooked enterprises makes its home, literally, in a converted house along the highway. Green Cleaning Seattle – Otium Maid Services is steadily transforming the house at 4615 Aurora Ave N into a green-living showcase, for the benefit of its employees, our community and the world.
On July 29th from 9:30a – 11:30a (and again on August 4th from Noon – 2p, ) this young but energetic company will hold an Open House, for current and potential clients. Visitors can explore the green initiatives taken by this progressive company, and see how it carries out its mission to make lives better, in ways large and small.
Transitions, And Face Plants
Gea Bassett founded Green Cleaning, in 2008, after graduating from Goddard College, while she attended grad school. “I posted on CraigsList, and got clients and then more clients,” Bassett said, “then, I had too many clients.”
Graduate school was a very sedentary pursuit, and cleaning got her up and moving. “I like to keep a mix,” she said of her activity level. In 2009, she hired her first ‘Green Cleaner’ to help her keep up with the work load. “The transition from running the business,” and serving clients directly, she explained, “to letting others do it is hard.”
“It’s a very different style of work,” observed Christina Shinkle, the Green Cleaning Supervisor and Queen of the Mothership, “We’re using a relationship model,” to manage the growing company. “We’re a learning community,” Shinkle explained, or as Bassett clarified, “we’re willing to do face plants and re-group.”
Green Cleaning has occupied the Aurora house since 2013, the two women worked out. Bassett observed that it has felt longer and Shinkle reminded her, “It’s been a lot of evolution.”
Evolution, And Simplifying Life
The business has evolved. The company recently changed its name from Eco Maid to Green Cleaning Seattle – Otium Maid Services which, while very long it is a name that better captures all that the business represents. “‘Otium’ is a Latin term,” Shinkle explained, “it means, ‘time in which to study or rest.’ We give that gift to our clients. We give our clients back their weekends.”
“We are offering to simplify clients’ lives,” Shinkle explained, “we’re here to help.” But these efforts go beyond the clients’ homes. With 35 employees, part-time and full-time, Bassett and Shinkle, and the whole team, look for ways to support the employees – from a restful room set aside entirely for use by employees for before and after their shifts, to keeping communication among staff, owner Bassett, and clients clear and open. “Every time we add an office employee,” Bassett observed, “it changes the way we operate.” The look for, and learn, better and easier ways to serve.
“People want simplicity, to make it feel more personal, and not to burden them,” Bassett explained. Shinkle said that they are looking for ways to interface with clients that makes their lives easier, not just a quicker conversation. “We tend to clear the hurdles before people know the hurdle is there,” Shinkle said, “We do awesome work and we have awesome employees.” For employees, even those who work part-time, Green Cleaning offers steady work, support and client care – Green Cleaners are employees after all, not contract workers.
‘To Make People’s Lives Better’
At the upcoming Open Houses, Bassett and Shinkle will show off the more, shall we say concrete, structural green measures the company has taken at the company base. The house, which has a green-leaf vacuum (the company logo) in neon on the roof, can also be distinguished from the highway by the garden planted in the sidewalk planting strip.
Shinkle and Bassett took a 9-month course in permaculture to learn the techniques they have incorporated on the small property around the house. They’ve installed a rain garden, a 1,320 gallon roof-water-cistern for capturing and reusing rain water, and installed a ‘grey water’ laundry-to-landscape system that turns water used for cleaning rags, towels and rugs into irrigation for the garden.
They’ve installed solar panels, permeable pavers in the slopping driveway, and a chicken coop. They’ve also installed a green-cone composting system – available through the City of Seattle, this very basic garden enhancement allows easy conversion of food scraps into compost, with no need for flipping, spreading or emptying the container. Bassett wrote in praise of the ease of the green cone, “My favorite thing…is the fact that I do not need to stir or spread the compost. If I had a worm bin or compost bin, I’d find myself regularly flipping, watering and checking on my compost. But with the Green Cone, I get to be a lazy gardener.”
In the work they do for clients, cleaning residential homes (and the commercial work they get,) Green Cleaners use readily biodegradable Bio-Clean Products, Ecover floor soap and 100% natural essential oils. These gentler, more eco-friendly products do not contain chlorine bleach, optical brighteners, synthetic colors, or artificial fragrances. Occasionally, these products must, for more stubborn stains or messes, be used in higher concentrates, left to set for more time, or be used with a little more elbow grease, but the products are also kinder, in the long run, to surfaces, to children and pets, and to the employees’ work lives.
“We want our clients to be happy,” Bassett explained, “and our employees to be happy. Our mission is to make people’s lives better.”
Find out more about Green Cleaning through the website, or by visiting their ‘offices’ on Aurora on July 29th, or August 4th. R.S.V.P. to attend an Open House (or get a phone quote on a cleaning job) at 206/307-2270 or email@example.com “We want to provide a relief,” Bassett explained, and “one less thing to think about.”
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©2015 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.