Making Eco-Friendly Products Can Also Be Profitable

By Briana Vannozzi

Conveyor belts lined with all-purpose cleaner bottles are being filled and prepped for shipping. It’s just one out of more than 200 plant-based cleaning agents developed and manufactured at the Earth Friendly Products facility in Parsippany.

“We’re the only company in the nation to achieve the triple crown in sustainability and that includes water neutrality, carbon neutrality and platinum zero waste,” said Earth Friendly Products President and CEO Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks.

The company is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary in conjunction with global Earth Day events as one of its earliest supporters. Vlahakis-Hanks’ father started the line in the late ’60s as a visionary in the eco-friendly products space. During a time when “green” was simply a color.

“He was the first to use orange oil in products and enzymes in products, and all sorts of innovative things,” she said.

Today the family-owned and operated business sells its products in 62 countries, with four sustainable manufacturing sites in the U.S., New Jersey is one of the newest. It helped usher in the EPA‘s safer choice partner of the year award, twice.

“One way that we cut down on costs but also ensure they’re safe is using less chemicals to achieve the same result. So instead of putting in a blue dye that actually doesn’t do something in the product or a fragrance that just masks odors, we really try to utilize plant power that have dual purposes. An example I like to give is in our toilet bowl cleaner, we actually use a cedar wood oil, which seems like an interesting choice but cedar trees actually grow in highly dense foggy areas. So they have adapted natural anti-fungal properties,” said Earth Friendly Products Product Development Director Jenna Arkin.

“Every poll that we’ve done and that we’ve seen shows the American public wants to know what’s in their products. They want to know who’s making their products. But most importantly, they’ve understood the connection between hazardous chemicals and their health,” said American Sustainable Business Council President and CEO David Levine.

Levine believes Earth Friendly Products is the blueprint for the future of manufacturing. The company is helping launch New Jersey’s first sustainable business council and guiding national work.

“Which is to drive on good policy as well as large market shifts to get us to that kind of economy that understands that you can take care of the Earth, you can take care of your employees and you can be profitable as a business,” Levine said.

But the company is hoping to break more green barriers.

“I actually am hoping to have a little more regulation in terms of product labeling because as it stands today, there is no requirement for household products labeling. So unlike Europe and Asia where you can look at the back of your product and know what’s in the cleaning product, the United States hasn’t taken that stand yet,” Vlahakis-Hanks said.

For businesses and manufacturers to succeed in the future, leaders at this company say they’ll have to fall in line with the demands of the eco-minded consumer. And practice what they’ve dubbed the three Ps — people, planet and profit.