Earth Friendly Products – Bringing Green to the Mainstream

Today, you can find Earth Friendly Products’ line of household cleaners in major stores such as Walmart, Costco, and Fred Meyer, but the company got its start as Venus Laboratories, a commercial chemical supplier. Then in 1989, concern over the safety of common household cleaners and an eye on the growing market for safer alternatives led founder Van Vlahakis and his son John Vlahakis to form Earth Friendly Products as a new division dedicated to creating products that were environmentally and socially responsible.

Bryan Wheeler moves a pallet of supplies inside
Earth Friendly Products’ Lacey manufacturing

In the decades since, green products have gone from filling a consumer niche to becoming a retail mainstay.

“Ten years ago, you would get shoved in a little corner in the back of the store that they called the natural foods section,” said Matt Arkin, general manager of Earth Friendly Products’ Northwestern Division, which manufactures a range of cleaning products in Lacey, Wash. “Today, the natural section has become a very central part of the store. It’s really allowed both us and our competitors to capture more of the market.”

Naturally, as the market for green cleaners has grown, Earth Friendly Products has faced increased competition from traditional household product manufacturers. Far from hurting the still-family owned company, the competition has brought more suppliers into the sector and driven down costs, allowing Earth Friendly Products to compete not just on safety and sustainability, but price, too.

“For us, it’s part of the bigger plan to bring ‘green’ to the larger market,” said Jenna Arkin, technical director for Earth Friendly Products’ Northwestern Division. “Ultimately, providing a good price is the best way to do that.”

Preparing Ecos-brand laundry detergent ready to
be shipped at Earth Friendly Products’ Lacey

As green cleaners have gone mainstream, the bar has been raised. Earth Friendly Products continually looks for ways to improve its sustainability and safety to show consumers that it is living up to its corporate values and their expectations. A partial list of its safer product accomplishments: no animal-based ingredients, or animal testing; products that are plant-based, biodegradable, phosphate-free, and petroleum-free; no formaldehyde; no salt; eliminating the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane; and listing all of the ingredients of its cleaners on the label, just like food products do.

Is safer chemistry smart business? Earth Friendly Products says its ECOS laundry detergent is the best-selling green detergent in the world, and the company is poised for growth.

“I see a great growth trajectory for the next five years to ten years,” Matt Arkin said.

How Earth Friendly Products puts safer chemistry into practice

One important tool Earth Friendly Products uses to measure its progress in creating safer products is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program.

The Design for the Environment product labeling program investigates the chemicals used to formulate products and approves only those containing the safest available ingredients. Earth Friendly Products currently has more than 40 different Design for the Environment-labeled products in more than 30 categories.

Earth Friendly Products will also only accept new ingredients from its suppliers if they are based on chemicals from the Design for the Environment safer chemicals list.