Vida Verde: A Green Cleaning Co-Op
Somehow my search for green cleaning supplies turned into a search for green cleaning services. (Okay, I do know how—Sharon.) I really didn’t want to use a regular cleaning service. Not only do conventional cleaning supplies use lots of packaging and include potentially toxic ingredients, but often the workers aren’t paid well. If I were to use a service like that, it would go against all my morals.
But Sharon told me about Vida Verde. It’s a co-op of Brazilian women who make their own cleaning supplies. It was started because they were poorly paid at their cleaning services or, if they were self-employed, they were forced to buy client lists from more established cleaners—for hundreds of dollars!
So they started this group. All the women are self-employed, but the group helps them connect with customers, learn English, deal with taxes and legal questions, and generally learn how to advocate for themselves. Now they work fewer hours and are paid more per house.
They choose to make their own cleaning supplies not only because it’s cheaper, but because breathing the fumes from conventional cleaning supplies all day can lead to asthma and other respiratory problems. Janitors and house cleaners have far higher rates of asthma and bronchitis than people who don’t clean for a living.
I have to admit to being really conflicted about hiring someone to clean my house. On the one hand, I hate cleaning. Because of that I rarely actually do it often enough to assuage my guilt at the state of the house. (Jason doesn’t feel that guilt. I hate to fall into stereotypical gender roles, but this may be one.)
On the other hand, I cleaned someone else’s house the summer before college and hated every minute of it. I don’t want to inflict that misery on someone else. And I really don’t want to become the Man.
Now, I know that whenever I eat out or buy anything, I’m paying someone to do something that I don’t want to do. Unless I go completely off the grid and make everything by hand, that’s going to be the case. This is just different because I imagine that everyone hates cleaning as much as I do and I’m allowing someone into my house. (We saw how well that went with the cat sitter.)
But I signed up for Vida Verde’s service a month ago, and so far I feel really good about it. Ruth comes once every two weeks and does all the things that I never seem to get to: mopping the floors, cleaning the shower, dusting—even washing the trash can. And starting with a clean house and knowing that she’s coming makes us keep the house neater than we normally would. I still kind of feel like the Man, but I also think it’s fair to trade a few hours of something I enjoy (working at Berklee) for something I hate (cleaning).
What do you think? Am I rationalizing a bad choice or just overthinking a good one? Would you hire someone to clean your house, too? Am I the Man?