by Kim Henderson
Cover Story 16.4
Photo: Eric Scot
Most recognizable for her role in American Pie and her
turn on Dancing with the Stars, actress Shannon Elizabeth
exudes a sweet and wholesome femininity. That
endearing sweetness makes her outspoken stands that much
more memorable. As an animal-rights activist, almost vegan
(more on that later) and environmentalist, Shannon is a woman
who acts on her convictions. In celebration of the arrival of spring
and Earth Day this month, she shares with us her current environmentally
inspired film A Green Story and, of course, her favorite
health secrets for feeling and looking good—all just in time for the
skin-baring, sun-filled months ahead!
GREEN MEETS GREEN
Shannon’s forthcoming film A Green Story is at its
core an inspiring tale about the American dream.
Inspired by a true life story, it chronicles the life of
Greek immigrant Van Vlahakis. Van arrived in America
at age 18 with only $22 in his pocket and went on
to create Earth Friendly Products, one of the largest
and most successful players in the green-cleaning
products industry. When filmmaker Nika Agiashvili
needed a beautiful and strong woman who also
had softness about her to play Kelly Vlahakis, Van’s
daughter and the vice president of Earth Friendly
Products, Shannon Elizabeth came to mind. “They
knew I was a committed animal-rights activist and
that I’m vocal about environmental causes,” Shannon
Shannon was drawn to the father-daughter relationship,
which is central to the film. Nika describes
Kelly as “the doting daughter” as well as a “shrewd
businesswoman.” The relationship takes some
dramatic turns, which provided some of the most
moving scenes for Shannon to play. She explains,
“At one point, Van gets very ill and is not sure if he
will make it. He considers selling the company. But
Kelly says no. She’s the one who says this is your
creation, your vision, and I’m going to take care of
you and the company.” Shannon’s passion and
warmth lend perfectly to the role, says filmmaker
Nika. Shannon elaborates, “Ed O’Ross plays Van.
He and I developed a great chemistry—I hope it
captures the dynamic between Van and Kelly.”
Ed O’Ross, Kelly Vlahakis and Shannon Elizabeth.
Shannon took on the role for several reasons.
“I was impressed with how Kelly Vlahakis had risen
in the ranks at Earth Friendly Products through hard
work, taking turns at just about every job in the company.
She has been a woman in a man’s world, going
head-to-head in the boardroom with the toughest
of them. I also liked the challenge of playing a
real person. As an actor, it took a lot of the guesswork
out of it,” Shannon explains. Yet there was even
more that attracted her to the project as a whole. A
longtime loyal customer of Earth Friendly Products,
she felt passionate not only about the company’s
innovation and commitment to creating eco-friendly
cleaning products that work but equally so about
Van’s personal story. She explains, “The message
that you can start your own company, whether you
are from another country or born here, is a great
one. How Van came from nothing and persisted to
make his company succeed is inspiring. And then
to play an intelligent, talented woman who is key
to the company’s success carries a great message
for women. It’s a great message for people overall.
People need the inspiration and need to know that
dreams are possible.” In a country of immigrants,
it’s a message that will speak to many.
Shannon Elizabeth (left) consults with Kelly Vlahakis
and director Nika Agiashvili on the set of A Green Story.
THE EARTH FRIENDLY PRODUCTS STORY
The story of Van Vlahakis is indeed a compelling
one. When Van first came to America in the 1950s,
he intended to study medicine. However, he quickly
became fascinated by chemistry—the language of
chemistry was one he could speak fluently even as
a new immigrant struggling to master English. And
he was good at it. He changed his focus and put
himself through school. By the late 1960s, he had
worked as a research and development chemist for
several manufacturers of industrial cleaners and
had become an able formulator in his own right.
He soon founded his own company, Venus Labs.
Having a strong ethical nature and profoundly affected
by the Rachel Carson book Silent Spring,
which has been widely credited for launching the
environmental movement, Van challenged himself
to formulate effective cleaners that would not harm
or pollute. Shannon explains, “Van witnessed how
bad chemicals are for you. I think that’s something
that not enough people realize—that chemicals are
really harming your health and the environment with
everyday items. Companies use them because it is
cheaper for them and they can mass produce. They
really don’t care about our health and well-being.”
By the late 1980s, creating a brand that used only
environmentally friendly formulations with no animal
testing was a natural progression—hence Earth
Friendly Products was born. Shannon admires
Van’s gumption and entrepreneurial spirit. “Everyone
thought Van was crazy to create this company.
They said it wasn’t doable, and it wouldn’t work.
And he just went and did it!”
Van Vlahakis, founder of
As Earth Friendly Products grew, the company
deepened its commitment by developing and
using only plant-based compounds, ridding any
petroleum-based ingredients from its formulations.
It now has five facilities in the United States positioned
so that transportation energy consumption
is lessened and it does all of its own manufacturing.
Each facility is sustainably furnished, energy
efficient and runs largely on solar energy, supplemented
by renewable energy sources. And the
packaging is among the most recyclable in the
industry. Earth Friendly Products is green from top
to bottom—it is the real deal. It’s not following a
green market trend—Earth Friendly Products created
Earth Friendly Products.
With the company’s success, billions of dollars
of corporate profits have been upset. Holding on
to its hard-earned green cleaning market segment
has been a fight. Shannon explains, “Large corporations
were trying to buy Van out. Earth Friendly
Products was the new up-and-coming company,
and they didn’t want the competition. So they tried
in multiple and sometimes underhanded ways to
buy Van out.” It didn’t work. As a result, consumers
across the world won a better product line,
protecting not just themselves but plants, animals
and marine life too. With every product used, we
save ourselves and the Earth from further exposure
to harmful chemicals. As Shannon says, “you can
use the natural alternative and it makes a huge difference.”
The company’s ECOS laundry detergent
is the number one green laundry detergent in the
United States today.
Shannon tells me that she is equally impressed
with the way Van and Kelly Vlahakis act on their convictions
even in their own homes. “We filmed at their
homes. Somebody should do a piece just on their
homes because they are both green and absolutely
gorgeous! They are all about saving the planet,” she
says. Using recycled glass, recycled wood and sustainable
construction to minimize energy use, their
homes showed Shannon going green is in no way a
compromise on beauty, quality or function. “You can
do anything,” she says.
WALKING THE WALK
As for Shannon herself, while her home is not green
top to bottom, she does live in thoughtful ways to
minimize her own personal impact on the environment.
She has her own water filtration system and
fills reusable bottles in order to avoid plastic. She’s
also an avid recycler, uses canvas bags for her purchases at the market, buys green cleaning products and shops at markets that use more sustainable
practices like Whole Foods and local health retailers.
“I love Earth Friendly Products Pet Stain & Odor Remover and Parsley Plus. And ECOS laundry detergent and Oxo Brite, of course!”
Having cofounded a nonprofit pet adoption organization
and being the proud owner of five dogs,
she’s an animal lover too. That’s why she has chosen
to be vegetarian. “In Hollywood, that can mean
that you still eat fish, but I really am vegetarian—I
don’t eat any animals from land or sea.” And she’s
“almost” fully vegan. “If I’m at a restaurant and they
use cheese or mayonnaise in something, I’ll eat it.
But I don’t bring dairy into my home,” she says. Of
course, she does not wear fur. She is now finding
many fashionable purses and shoes that are alternatives
to leather. When it comes to personal-care
products, she chooses only brands that are not
tested on animals. (Another reason she likes Earth
Friendly Products is that their formulations are never
tested on animals!) Today, she’s working with Chris
DeRose at Last Chance for Animals to lobby for better
Just as Shannon does her best to tread lightly on
planet Earth and exhibits compassion for animals,
she treats herself well too by eating a healthy diet,
getting the best nutritional supplements and following
a fun and energizing exercise routine. Along with
her mostly vegan diet, the fruits and vegetables she
eats are almost all organic. Supplements are also
key. “I take so many vitamins! I’m always changing
it up. My new favorite line of vitamins is Garden
of Life’s Vitamin Code, because they are raw. My
doctor approved of them. I love that they are raw
and unadulterated. I’m currently taking RAW One (a
multivitamin), RAW CoQ10 and RAW Antioxidants,”
Shannon says. She also takes a vegan omega-3
supplement. For immune health, she takes Chinese
herbs—formulas prescribed by her acupuncturist.
Shannon’s favorite health secret for general health
and detoxification is adding Bragg’s Organic Raw
Apple Cider Vinegar to purified water. She drinks it
all day long. “I was told once that my body’s cells
were not absorbing enough water and that taking
two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with water
each day would help. So I tried it for 10 days and I
felt great. There are so many health benefits to apple
cider vinegar. Weight loss is one of them. Bragg’s
Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar is the one I get,”
she says. But she also likes it because it breaks
up the monotony of plain water. For natural beauty
and anti-aging, Shannon has few products that
she especially likes. “I love Episilk Pure Hyaluronic
Acid—it makes my skin feel tight and plumped up.
I now put this on right after I wash my face both in
the morning and evenings. Beauty Without Cruelty
Rosemary Mint Tea Tree shampoo and conditioner
have a great tingle to them and leave my hair feeling
clean and soft. I’m always looking for great supplements
and really like the ingredients in Kyolic Detox
& Anti-Aging odorless garlic formula,” she says.
For exercise, her latest find is called Cardio
Barre, an hour-long amped-up ballet class that
works every muscle in the body. She goes two to
three times a week and in between hits a power
yoga class. And for her mind and spirit, she meditates.
“I don’t do it as often as I should. But when I
do, I always feel great. I was told, the busier you are
the more you need to meditate,” she says.
CELEBRATING EARTH DAY
A Green Story director Nika wraps up the message
of the film succinctly. He says, “Green is right.
Green is the way to go.” Van Vlahakis and his company
Earth Friendly Products are great examples
of living green—as is his daughter Kelly and Shannon
Elizabeth. They all believe that every choice we
make counts, whether it’s the health of the planet
or individual health. Here’s to celebrating Earth Day
and spring with healthier choices!
Earth Friendly Products
Shannon Elizabeth's New Blog Site
Written and directed by
Paramyth Film’s Nika
Agiashvili, A Green Story
stars Ed O’Ross, Malcolm
McDowell, Billy Zane,
Louis Mandylor, Debbie
Sciorra, George Finn,
Alexis Georgoulis, Julianna
Guill, Mihalis Giannatos
and Roger Bart.
Cover Stories from Past Issues
Cover Story 16.3
Bragg Live Food Products Celebrates 100 Years!
Cover Story 16.2
The Power of Fran: The Happily Divorced Star’s Cancer Prevention Mission and Personal Health Secrets Revealed!
Cover Story 16.1
Donna Richardson Joyner’s Tips for a Healthy 2012
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.