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John Vlahakis ’85, founder and president of Earth Friendly Products, spoke to Kellogg students as part of Green Week 2009. “We have a finite time here on the planet and you want to do more than make money,” he said.

John Vlahakis ’85

Focus on sustainability

Environmental concerns come to the fore during Green Week at the Kellogg School


5/15/2009 - Keeping in step with global concerns about the environment, Kellogg students hosted the second annual “Green Week” at the Kellogg School May 4-8.

Green Week organizers from the Net Impact and Environmental Sustainability Business clubs offered a series of events around the theme of going green on both a personal and professional level. Staffing a booth in the Kellogg Atrium, ESBC members encouraged students to make a “green pledge” and handed out giveaways and coupons from local businesses such as Uncle Dan’s, Blind Faith Café and I-GO Car Sharing. Students also worked with Kafé Kellogg to swap plastic utensils with biodegradable ones, and parked a solar car outside the Donald P. Jacobs Center.

Green Week coincided with a visit by Michael Mandelbaum, author and professor at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who presented the lecture “How Green Will Our Future Be?” on May 5. In addition, students organized lectures by Laura Flanigan, a consultant from Five Winds International, and John Vlahakis ’85, founder and president of Winnetka, Ill.-based Earth Friendly Products.
 
Founded in 1993, Earth Friendly Products manufacturers more than 60 household products and 16 pet-care items made from corn, coconut, citrus, plant oils and herbs. In 2003, Earth Friendly Products received the Socially Responsible Business Award from the Social Business Network.
 
The family-run business sells its products at distributors such as Sam’s Club and Costo, where it competes with Clorox and Proctor & Gamble’s green products. “What separates us is that we’re the only guy that makes its own product,” Vlahakis told students. “And we’re beating the big boys at their own game — we’re beating Procter & Gamble in 154 Sam’s Club stores.” Vlahakis has also used his company’s small size to his advantage. “I can turn on a dime,” he said. “When I want to make changes, they happen. I don’t have to go through committees.”

Vlahakis encouraged Kellogg students to seek careers that give back, socially or environmentally. That is what motivates him, he said. “I’m using [my company] as a tool to do more in society,” Vlahakis said. “We have a finite time here on the planet and you want to do more than make money.”