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Sunday, May 12, 2024

New Shades of Green for ECOS

Sustainability has long paid dividends for Earth Friendly Products.

The maker of cleaning products, better known as ECOS, has seen annual revenue sky rocket over the past decade, by focusing its efforts on creating environmentally friendly products with plant-powered formulas, while also emphasizing sustainable production design and manufacturing methods.

The ECOS line of over 200 products-including dish soap, window cleaners and furniture polish-are carried in more than 81,000 stores in 60 countries through major retailers including Walmart, Whole Foods, Target, Costco and supermarket chains such as Vons, Ralphs and Anaheim-based Northgate Market.

Approximately 15% of business for the Cypress-based firm-one of the largest women-led, and family-owned companies in Orange County-involves private label contracts.

“We’re aiming to create consumers that demand green cleaning products,” Chief Executive

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks told the Business Journal.

The efforts are paying off, officials said.

“ECOS has experienced robust growth throughout its history, including 55% growth in the last four years,” Vlahakis-Hanks said.

The family-owned maker of cleaning products has used safe, non-toxic ingredients since being founded by Van Vlahakis in 1967. His daughter took over as CEO following his death in 2014.

Innovation Focus

With others in the cleaning industry now putting more emphasis on their own eco-friendly efforts, innovation is being emphasized by ECOS to keep its brand ahead of the curve.

Those efforts are directed toward new products, as well as in its efforts to reduce the company’s environmental footprints in carbon, water and energy.

Much of the company’s latest initiatives are headed by Chief Innovation Officer Jenna Arkin, who has worked for ECOS since 2010 and moved into her current role in late 2021.

New items in the pipeline for 2024 include laundry packs, foaming dish soap and a plastic free version of the company’s well-known stain remover, OXO-Brite. Also, a new line of dishwasher packs is planned for 2025.

Laundry Sheets

ECOS has long emphasized green practices in both its products and its own operations. The firm has achieved carbon neutrality and zero waste at each of its renewable energy-powered facilities, it said. This means ECOS actively reduces carbon dioxide-related emissions and recycles over 99% of its manufacturing and office waste.

Internal efforts have focused on expanding its selection of low-carbon products, meaning the manufacturer is working to eliminate water, size and plastic in its products to reduce the overall carbon footprint.

The first ECOS product to come from this initiative is the company’s laundry detergent sheets, a plastic-free alternative that was initially released in 2020.

For the laundry sheets, Arkin removed plastic by taking water out of the equation and dehydrating the detergent.

“The idea here is with the liquidless product, we can now package it in cardboard, making the packaging entirely plastic free,” Arkin said.

Material Reduction

To achieve a low carbon output in any new product, Arkin uses a few different techniques in the design, such as material reduction and compaction.

A manufacturer can use less materials to shrink the size of the product or it can use a material that can be tightly packed, which fits more product on a delivery truck and takes fuel off the road.

ECOS officials said the firm already practices process emission reduction because their factories run on 100% renewable energy. Arkin also points to material circularity, which means the product must be recyclable and reusable. This also helps in waste reduction.

“It is not just about recovering something and reusing it because that’s a good thing to do,” Arkin said.

“If you keep materials in motion, that’s better for business. “Everything we’re working on in our innovation portfolio has to do with material reduction,” she said. “All of these products are designed to take plastic out, to have more utility per ounce.”

Concentrated Detergent

Another example of the company’s new efforts can be seen in new packaging: ECOS is delivering laundry detergent in an aluminum container for the first time. It will begin sales on Amazon next month.

“It’s super concentrated,” Arkin said.

“Our classic [detergent] is already one of the most concentrated detergents on market, one ounce to one load, and one bottle is 225 loads. This product is five times more concentrated than [the liquid].”

Aluminum containers also achieve positive material circularity since there’s no degradation to the packing material when it’s recycled.

Water Treatment

ECOS has won several certifications from eco-conscious organizations that check and confirm the company is meeting certain criteria across its entire operation, which includes

its four manufacturing facilities in Cypress, Washington, Illinois and New Jersey. A fifth operation in Greece serves its international market.

“It’s important that someone else is also checking the process,” Vlahakis-Hanks said of the certifications.

A newer process the company is testing includes adding a water treatment system to its factories to start recycling wastewater back into the building. The treatment is currently being tried out at an ECOS facility in Washington.

If the system recycles the facility’s wastewater efficiently, ECOS will introduce the system to the rest of its buildings.

“We take an investment point of view,” Vlahakis-Hanks said. “We’re willing to test things out.”

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