In The Spotlight- Eco Chick Starre Vartan
Unlike Starre Vartan, the subject of today's In the Spotlight interview I was not raised in a very eco-friendly household. To be fair I grew up in Manhattan in the 80's; consumption and consumerism were all the rage. Growing up we went through paper towels and bottled water like they were going out of style (actually they were!) We used tons of plastic and cleaned our house with incredibly toxic chemicals. We never thought about where our food came from or concerned ourselves with eating in season. Pineapple in NYC in February? Great!
As an adult I am constantly trying to make my daily life more green and eco friendly and have certainly come a long, long way in recent years. I no longer use paper towels. All my my cleaning and personal care products are eco-friendly and non-toxic. I don't drink water that comes from a plastic bottle. I eat a plant based diet that is as local and seasonal as possible. While I have a ways to go, I do my part everyday to make sure my daughter will have a planet to live on.
Starre Vartan, the founder and editor-in-chief of Eco Chick and its sister site, Eco Chick Escapes is a wonderful role model when it comes to green and eco-friendly living. She’s an oft-quoted green living expert and the author of the The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green a wonderful read on how to be chic, fabulous AND green!
Starre was kind enough to answer some of my questions about being an Eco Chick and what we can each to do be more green (and more fabulous) every day!
What lead you to be an Eco Chick?
I don’t think I ever became an Eco-Chick, I was born one—or at least I was raised as one. I started my life in Australia playing in the ocean with my father, who is an avid surfer; being in the ocean and exploring the rock pools along the Sydney coast is one of my first memories. I came to be raised New York’s Hudson Valley by my grandmother, and had unlimited woods, wetlands and lakes to play in—mine was a very unstructured childhood spent mostly outdoors when I wasn’t in school (and even my elementary and middle school had a ‘school forest’ which I now know is a pretty unique thing for a public school in a tiny town!) The animals, plants and mushrooms were my friends and we had lots of dogs and cats, and I loved learning about all of them; I was an avid young scientist. My grandmother had a huge garden and fruit trees on our property, and just down the road, a small farm gave us beef; our neighbors always gave us their extra eggs. And my grandma had lived through the depression, so there was very little waste in our household. So living a healthy, sustainable, and environment-conscious life was just how I was raised.
What does being green mean to you? What defines an Eco Chick?
Being green fundamentally means understanding that the connection between personal health and environmental health is tied together inextricably. An Eco-Chick is a person who works, in whatever ways are in their power, to reduce their impact, keep informed, and stand up for human, animal and planetary health.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
I love being able to meet all the other people who are as crazy-passionate as I am! Seriously, it gives me such a tremendous lift when I see someone take whatever it is they care about, whether that be fashion design, educating kids (or adults), cooking, computer programming, furniture design, music, or marketing, and start using it for the good of our stressed and disintegrating (but resilient) environment.
What are three green things you do every single day?
I’ve been vegetarian for almost 20 years (the anniversary comes in a month!), which I think is probably the thing that has most significantly reduced my carbon footprint, my pollution impact, and has directly combated animal suffering. The stats are undeniable; animal consumption contributes more global warming gases to the environment than all the transportation in the world, and all that animal excrement pollutes entire ecosytems, like the already-stressed Gulf of Mexico.
I ride the train or public transportation almost every day, and try to do so wherever I travel. And I wash myself and keep my home clean with all-natural products (some of which I make myself to save money); I learned early on living in a house that was perched on a rock ledge above a wetland that you should never, ever put anything down a drain that you wouldn’t want to drink later.
Do you have any dirty, not so green habits?
My worst is definitely flying; traveling is in my DNA (both sides of my family are quite peripatetic) and it is the thing that makes me happiest in the entire world. I’m glad that newer jets are much more fuel efficient, but it’s still a massive carbon dump every time one hops on a plane.
For a lot of people the process of "going green" can be daunting and overwhelming. What advice would you give to someone wanting to begin to make their life more green?
Start with what you love; if that’s your kids, start feeding them healthier foods, teaching them about where that food comes from (you will learn some fun stuff yourself!) and how much gets wasted. Similarly, if you are a cook, start researching where your ingredients come from and what’s in them. If you work in marketing or law, look into pro-bono cases you might get involved with; if you are a writer or artist, think about the parts of the natural world you most strongly connect with and use them as a springboard to communicate what might be challenging them.
Are their any green products or companies out there that you love right now?
I’m loving Tradeya which is a platform for trading services or talents for other services and even stuff; it’s basically bartering brought into the new millennium. I like it because it keeps money out of corporate hands and gets people to think of what they have to offer that’s not necessarily always valued by credit card companies, banks, and financial organizations. For similar reasons, I love Airbnb!
You are a big traveler. What are some of your favorite destinations to go to get away?
Costa Rica is a top favorite, and every time I go back, I’m more and more impressed with their initiatives; the country eschewed having an army and started educating its citizens in environmental conservation decades ago, and now it’s paying off – it’s also a beautiful place, and the food is terrific.
I spent two months living off-grid on The Big Island of Hawaii, and it has become one of my favorite places in the world; I’m actually figuring out how to move there (and yes, live off-grid)! It’s definitely one of my spiritual homes in the world. Conversely to all of that, I love London and the English countryside around Bath; the English sensibility strikes a chord with me as a writer, and there is something about the natural areas there that keep calling me back. And whenever I get a chance to go to Italy, I take it; I just eat, and eat and eat! I also just went to the mountains outside Mexico City and I was completely floored; Mexico is incredible! I can’t wait to go back, hopefully for several months. I love eating there too!
If you were going on a holiday vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and what five essentials would you pack?
I think Chile is my next destination; I recently edited a story in Coco Eco about Valparaiso, Chile and it sounds fantastic, filled with history, culture, lots of local artists and dramatic scenery and hiking. I would take my trusty black & white striped scarf that goes everywhere with me, my camera (I’ve gotten into photography in the last couple of years, and I think I’m getting better! I love taking portraits of local people), my water bottle – I drink water from the tap pretty much everywhere, my journal, for notes and sketches, and my laptop, which enables me to work anywhere in the world (I’m so grateful for that)!