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A Green Story

The following story was published in the Long Beach Business Journal on June 4, 2012.

From left: Co-Producer Dimitris Birbilis; Co-Producer John Edward Lee; Actor Ed O’Ross; Earth Friendly Products President Van Vlahakis; Earth Friendly Products Vice President Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks; Actress Shannon Elizabeth; and Director Nika Agiashvili.

Earth Friendly Products President Van Vlahakis and Green Octopus Consulting President April Economides.

On May 31st, celebrities, dignitaries, Greeks, and a diversity of Angelenos in the film industry walked the red carpet at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. for the opening of the 6th Annual Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. Considering the ailing economic state of Greece, the choice for the opening night film premiere was inspirational: “A Green Story,” a true and triumphant tale of an impoverished and basically orphaned young man who immigrated from Crete to Chicago in 1952 to later become the founder and millionaire behind Earth Friendly Products.

Early in his career, Van Vlahakis was let go as the top chemist for a corporation for refusing to approve toxic chemicals for use in consumer products. He met this challenge with the same resiliency, courage and determination he employed for other difficulties in his life and created his own household product company. Earth Friendly Products now has the best-selling green laundry detergent in the world (called Ecos), along with a diversity of other well-selling non-toxic items – all plant-based and free of petroleum and phosphates, biodegradable, and with a neutral pH.

The company has five plants – all run completely off renewable energy, the nearest one located in Garden Grove – and what appears to be a very dedicated and well-treated staff. Vlahakis and his daughter, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, who now runs the company as the vice president, are green business role models who show how to ‘do well by doing good,’ as the expression goes.

But, just as Vlahakis’ life has never been only about business, neither is the film. Ed O’Ross, who portrayed him in the movie, said, while choking up, “You hear so many stories about people who come to this country…But what I was attracted to more than that was this man’s soul. …When you see what this guy went through – fighting a brain tumor, fighting big business, Nazi occupation, homelessness – I really believe his goal was to make sure his family was taken care of.”

Vlahakis was surrounded by beaming family members at the premiere. “Seeing my father on the big screen has been a tremendous experience,” Kelly said. “And I am his biggest fan.”

Vlahakis clearly views his love for his family and environmental health as two sides of the same coin, and he has dedicated both his personal and professional life to taking care of both. “We need to redirect ourselves away from a life that’s dependent on oil and think about other forms of energy like solar and wind,” he said, “…And also think not so much about wealth but sharing your money with other people.”

In the same spirit and with a nod to the film and the company’s sponsorship of the festival, Kelly said, “It is wonderful to do something positive for our homeland at this time.”

To watch the inspiration trailer and learn more, please visit http://www.agreenstorythemovie.com.

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