PAWS Chicago News item | PAWS Chicago

Clean Can Be Green

by Patty Donmoyer | May 01, 2009

The Vlahakis family is saving homeless pets and the environment with Earth Friendly Products.

John Vlahakis showed green tendencies at an early age. At 12 years of age, with six of his classmates in tow, John hit the streets distributing paper bags painted with “Clean Earth” messages, encouraging passers-by to take responsibility for the environment and avoid littering. The police ‘rewarded’ the group for their efforts by reprimanding them for obstructing traffic, and offered them a chance to defend their cause at a Glenview, Illinois town meeting. 

“That happened during a time when everyone was challenging authority, but it was also the first time I argued publicly for change,” explains John. “We ended up getting permission to pass the bags out at the train station during certain hours, but our target was people who threw trash from their cars, so that let some of the air out of our mission,” he laughs. 

John’s interest in keeping the environment clean and healthy and conserving its resources persevered. Today, John and his wife, Stephanie, own Earth Friendly Products, a green evolution of his father’s company, Venus Laboratories, Inc., which manufactured industrial cleaning products. 

Tapping into his Kellogg School of Management MBA, John started Earth Friendly Products in 1993 with four environmentally safe, non-toxic cleaning products, which he introduced to the retail world by cold calling grocery and health food stores. Both he and Stephanie attribute John’s decision to create the company to “the innate feeling you get as a new parent, to protect your child.” After his infant daughter, Zandra, developed a rash on her face that doctors guessed was caused by toxins in the air, John realized that he needed to do what he could to protect her and preserve the world for her and future generations. Earth Friendly Products are all non-toxic, plant-based, biodegradable and contain no petrochemicals, bleach, ammonia, phosphates or other harmful ingredients. They manufacture in a way that minimizes their footprint and they never test on animals or use animal ingredients. 

Today, the company offers more than 60 products, including a line of pet-friendly stain and odor removers, detergent, dander removers, pet training aids and kitty litter treatments which are sold at major grocery chains such as Treasure Island, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Costco and Jewel. Last year, after touring the PAWS Chicago Adoption & Humane Center, John and his family began to donate Earth Friendly cleaning products and supplies to PAWS Chicago, saving the organization thousands of dollars each month.

John is also currently working on a book about people living greener lives, which explains everything from sustainable organic gardening to vertical farming. Whether it’s operating his own environmentally sound business, contributing to the welfare of Chicago’s homeless animals through his donations, or continuing to spread awareness about environmental issues, John Vlahakis and his family are living proof that, as John puts it, “We can make a positive difference in our health, the health of our pets, and keep our planet healthy. One by one, we can change the world.”

For more information about Earth Friendly Products and where they are distributed, please visit