The nation’s pioneer and leader of the “green” movement, Mr. Eftychios “Van” Vlahakis passed away on April 6th. Van Vlahakis, known for his philanthropy and dedication to the environment, founded Earth Friendly Products, a global company that topped $100 million in sales last year.
Vlahakis fled war-torn Crete and established himself, struggling at first, as a chemist in Chicago. He recognized the need early on to create a line of cleaning products that wouldn’t harm the environment and launched his first company, Venus Laboratories, way back in 1967.
In 1989, Venus saw tremendous growth and opened plants in California, New Jersey and Florida. That same year Van launched a new division, Earth Friendly Products, formed to focus on the distribution of eco-friendly and green cleaning supplies including the well-known ECOS laundry detergent and Dishmate dishwashing soap.
In 2010, a new facility has opened in Lacey, Washington to help cut down on the company’s carbon footprint.
From a small start in a few green stores, mainstream retail distribution was achieved when the products began appearing on the shelves of Trader Joe’s. Other mass retailers followed including Costco and Sam’s Club. In 2009, ECOS laundry detergent distinguished itself as the top-selling green detergent in the world.
The years have been punctuated by many “firsts.” In 2008, chemists at Earth Friendly Products solved obstinate riddles to completely eliminate 1,4-dioxane from all Earth Friendly Products, an achievement no other green company had been able to accomplish.
Earth Friendly Products’ entire product line is free of 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, phosphates, caustics, chlorine bleach, and other toxins. All products are manufactured in one of the company’s five manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Many of the formulas were developed by Van Vlahakis directly and in collaboration with the company’s chemists.
Emphasizing its commitment to green alternatives, in 2009 Vlahakis spearheaded the effort at the company’s Garden Grove, CA facility to install 265 solar panels becoming the first green facility to produce all of its electricity for production from solar power. Plants in Addison, Illinois and New Jersey are scheduled to be retrofitted as well.
Vlahakis never forgot his homeland, launching a division of his company in Greece, to serve European and Middle Eastern markets.
“I feel a very special connection to my homeland,” said Vlahakis in a press release when the new division was announced. “Greece has fallen on hard times, and I feel it’s my duty as a Greek American who has had the good fortune of creating a life and a business here in America to take some of that success back to Greece. We hope we can lead by example and encourage other Greek American businesses to consider getting involved in restoring the Greek economy.”