Chatting with Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks
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In my recent webcast presentation, I spoke about what I consider to be the 5 characteristics of a truly gorgeous woman. Here’s what all the gorgeous women in my life have in common:

  1. Purpose
  2. Passion
  3. Sense of Humor
  4. Generosity
  5. Authenticity

Over the next few weeks, I plan to highlight women who tick all these boxes and feature them on my blog. So, to kick off this series, may I introduce you to the extraordinary Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, CEO of ECOS Earth Friendly Products. Kelly is a woman with a fiery passion for her purpose in life, which is to help make the world a better, cleaner place. She is hugely generous, very funny, and possesses the kind of authenticity that makes me want to hang out with her over a Chai Latte and chat about everything from the difficulty of being a working mom, to how we dream of changing the world. To be specific, we enjoyed our chai lattes at one of my favorite vegan lunch spots in LA – Real Food Daily. If you are as obsessed as I am with trying to create outstanding vegan food, take a look at their menu and get inspired. Anyway – Kelly and I enjoyed insanely delicious salad bowls and got chatting:

Me: How did you get interested in helping the environment?

Kelly: My father Van Vlahakis, the founder of Earth Friendly Products, was a pioneer in the green movement and was very influential in my life. Beginning at a young age, I made the decision to follow in his footsteps and dedicated myself to the pursuit of environmental protection, social advocacy and green-cleaning product innovation.

Me: What is your biggest passion?

 Kelly: My biggest passion is the environment and I consider myself very fortunate that my personal passion coincides so well with my professional career. As a mother, I understand the importance of providing a safe environment for my family, free of toxic chemicals. As CEO of ECOS, I have a responsibility to manufacture products using sustainable practices. 

Me: Tell me a bit about ECOS and what the company does beyond providing Earth-friendly products?

 Kelly: ECOS has been family owned and operated since 1967. We are a team of mothers, fathers, chemists, visionaries and pioneers who passionately uphold the idea that everyone should have access to natural, toxin-free products. In addition, we are a team that is dedicated to sustainability, helping local economies, and providing livable wages for our employees. In 2013, we became the first cleaning manufacturing company in America to declare Carbon Neutrality as a result of our total commitment to sustainability. We source all of our materials locally, providing an economic boost in all five regions we have manufacturing facilities. In 2014, we raised our minimum wage to a “livable wage” by raising it from $15 an hour to $17 an hour – company wide. At ECOS, we not only talk the talk, but we walk the walk.

Me: That is so great, especially about you raising the minimum wage. You really care, and unlike other companies, don’t just think about your bottom line. BTW – why is it that “green” cleaning products are usually more expensive? And how is it that you manage to keep your costs down?

 Kelly: Most green cleaning products produced in the US are made by 3rd party contract manufactures. We are the primary manufacture of our consumer products, blending and filling each bottle of ECOS in one of our five geographically diverse locations across the US. By producing our products ourselves, we are able to not only ensure the highest quality, but also the lowest cost to the consumer by cutting out the “middle man”. Throughout the US, the bottles of ECOS you purchase were made in your region. This also preserves our low prices, as we reduce our shipping costs by manufacturing local.

Most of our competitors outsource the production of their products, driving up their cost. Making ECOS in our five geographically diverse plants has enabled us to keep prices low and quality high, shattering myths that buying “green” has to be expensive.

Me: This is the best thing ever because honestly, one of the biggest gripes I get from my followers and readers is about the extra cost of non-toxic products. How does using non-earth friendly cleaning products such as dish washing and laundry products affect the environment?

Kelly: What is important to remember is that all products have their own life-cycle analysis. When you consider the environmental impact of a product, you need to look at what the product is made from and where it ultimately ends up. Our products are made with plant-derived cleaners, which are renewable and replenishable. For example, many of our cleaners use surfactants (cleaning agents) that are made with coconut oil. Coconut trees can live and produce coconuts for up to 80 years!

All dish washing and laundry products ultimately end up in our water supply and back into the ecosystem. The end of the life-cycle becomes crucial in how it can affect our natural resources. All of our products are readily biodegradable, so they do not bio-accumulate and destroy our resources.

 Traditional cleaners often use very acidic or caustic, and often dangerous ingredients to clean, such as chlorine or ammonia. These ingredients are harmful to you and your families’ health and are detrimental for the environment.

 It has been found that acute health problems and chronic health issues are directly related to exposure to harmful toxic chemicals found in your home. The0se health problems can range from allergy or respiratory conditions too much more chronic and serious conditions. The EPA had ranked indoor air pollution as one of the top 5 environmental risks to public health. Believe it or not, the air inside our own homes is 5 to 70 times more polluted than the air outside.

Me: What are your top 3 tips in making the world a better place?

Kelly:

  • Understand how small choices and decisions can make a big impact on the future. Buying local, making the switch to green cleaners, and seeking out environmentally conscious products has a huge positive impact on the environment.
  • Ask questions. Know what you are buying, and be an informed consumer! You are “voting” at the register every time you shop. If you choose environmentally friendly products, this will persuade more manufactures to produce green products.
  • Get involved: be an advocate for healthy living by joining local groups that promote green lifestyles.

Me: What are your plans for the future?

Kelly: My plan is to continue to innovate formulations and develop new products for families that are safe, powerful and cost-effective, so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of our earth.

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Sophie Uliano is New York Times best-selling author and leading expert in the field of natural health and beauty, who takes a down-to-earth approach to beauty focusing on what's truly healthy. Join my masterclass to get started.

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