Episode 139: Green Blogger Series: Eco-Chick Starre Vartan

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GreenTalk Radio host Sean Daily talks with green blogger and ecofashionista Starre Vartan of Eco-Chick.com.

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This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com.

Sean Daily: Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily, host of Green Talk Radio.  If you haven’t already I want to encourage you to subscribe the GreenLivingIdeas.com, green ideas for the newsletter.  Every issue have the newsletter, it’s packed full of tips and information to help you live a greener more sustainable life including topics like Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Transportation, Simple Living, Natural Foods and Health, Eco Fashion and Seasonal and Holiday Tips.  Signing off a newsletter is quick and easy, it only takes a few seconds, just visit GreenLivingIdeas.com/newsletter.

Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series from GreenLivingIdeas.com.  Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to live more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world.  We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.

Sean Daily: Hey everyone, welcome to Green Talk Radio, I’m your host, Sean Daily.  Today’s episode is the latest installment in our green blogger series where we interview the most influential bloggers in the [sp] Industry.  My guest today is Starre Vartan.  Starre is a green living and environmental writer and expert, a self-described eco-fashionista and the editor-in-chief of the highly popular green blog Eco-Chick.com, which she founded in 2005 to give women who care about the planet a place of their own in the web.  In addition, to her writing on Eco-Chick, she also contributes to a number of other blogs and publications including the Huffington Post, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine, TheDailyGreen.com and she’s also guest blog for Elle.com.  Her first book, the Eco Chick Guide to Life – How to Be Fabulously Green, just recently debuted, Eco-Chick and Starre have been featured in Glamour, Men’s Journal, ABC and Fox TV, The CW, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and others.  Starre, welcome to the program.

Starre Vartan: Thanks for having me.

Sean Daily: And congratulations on all the success books for you and for Eco-Chick.

Starre Vartan: Thanks, yes been quite a while when since Green has become more of a touchstone for a larger group of folks in the last, you know a year or two.

Sean Daily: Yes, and you were definitely there early on, I mean a lot of people recognize your blog as being one of the ones that was out there I mean like treehugger pretty much from the beginning or when it, you know really got onto people’s greater screens for the first time.  So I’m curious just to go back and hear about the story of Starre as well as Eco-Chick, maybe you can just start by telling us I guess really from the beginning, how did you get started with the green movement in the [sp] Industry?  What really inspired you to start all this?

Starre Vartan: Well, going way back I was pretty much born into a very environmentally oriented family.  My father is an Avid-Avid Surfer who lives in Australia and my uncle is in arborist, and I was raised by my grandmother in New York’s Hudson Valley, a really, really special and beautiful area of the world and I was basically let loose in the woods all day, everyday, growing up and hanging out in the swamps and, you know tracking animals and just having a grand old time and we also, in my home, we had an organic garden and we didn’t use any toxic products or plus anything noting down the drain because we live right in an actual wetland and it’s actually a place now where you wouldn’t be able to build a house you know due to due to new restrictions but my grandmother was always very conscious of the fact the everything we used and put down the drain, put on our lawn would go into this wetland and you know, she was a member of the Audubon Society and was really conscious about birds and wildlife.  And so she raised me with this awareness that you know, we’re part of this local ecosystem and so that never lefts me and it wasn’t even something that I thought was unique to my growing up because the time I grow up in was filled with a lot of really creative people who moved out of New York City to be in a place that was more natural and so there was a lot of, you know vegetarian, food and sort of 70s hippie open progressivism endemic to my community, so all the really fantastic place to grow up and my grandmother was incredibly knowledgeable and shared everything she knew with me and so, I became a part of that, I couldn’t help it really.  So, I went from there to I thought I wanted to be a scientist and I did geology and biology and all these other sciences in college and work as an environmental scientist and decided it was not for me, I want to do something more creative and I thought about into writing about science because I have this great, you know bias background, bachelor scientist and so I worked from there and I started writing for E, The Environmental Magazine, then I started blogging for my friend’s site, I was actually political blogger, I was the only girl on the team in 2002, the site called Chick Nag and it was really interesting, I was so in love with the web and the internet.  And you know there were so few women’s voices there, it was really frustrating for me, I would felt like I was representing women and I felt like a lot of women were intimidated by the earlier days of the internet and so after I left the job where I had a friend who is now my webmaster Dan Sieradski who started Chick Nag and moved on, I figured out, you know I thought treehugger happening, I thought all these exciting sites coming up and you know early, late 2004, early 2005 and I thought this is so great but there are still not a lot of women and you know I thought like it was so dominated by guys and girls were like, you know we don’t really feel like a lot of this information applies to us, so I said all right I am comfortable with doing those kinds of work and I love all my stuff and I want to get women involve.  So that’s how I started my site and my friend Dan built it for me on Word Press and you know, it -- we started up in a day and I went from there and it’s just grown into its own little sort of subculture and now of course there are lots of other great women’s oriented blogs and fashion blogs and like every little you know nets you can find and women are more and more comfortable and actually becoming a larger percentage of I think the audience for green living and you know shopping and all that fun starts.  So, I think I was part of the successful movement a women being comfortable on the web and also having content to this actually applicable to their lives.

Sean Daily: Yes, definitely well and it’s been interesting too, I mean that’s quite a story and quite a background you have.  But it’s also interesting with some of the recent acquisitions that have happened in this space, you know, we’ve got Ideal Bite, you know 20 million to Disney.  What are your thoughts on that I mean is that -- is that something that kind of makes you sit up and take notice or does it not really get on your radar screen?

Starre Vartan: No, I definitely took notice and I was really kind of bumped to hear that treehugger hadn’t got more after Ideal Bite, but I got 20 million and if you had ---

Sean Daily: You had a gut ---

Starre Vartan: --- for 15, I was like oh ---

Sean Daily: For 15 yes, that was strange.

Starre Vartan: I mean just, I love Graham Hill, you know sort of a long distance friends with him who started treehugger and you know, I know he is so dedicated, the most amazing thing about all of this is that, you know from the Ideal Bite ladies to Graham to all the other green bloggers I worked with everyday, they’re such essence of real dedication to this, I think now in the last six months we’ve seen a lot of interest and people who are, you know, try and maybe make a box in this area but it certainly the strong foundation comes from all these people who are doing this because they really care and they’re trying to figure out how we can get this message to everyone because we have to include everyone involving, you know climax crisis on endangered species issues and all the other environmental, you know issues that people are realizing are incredibly important to the future survival of us and the rest of the animals and life on the planet.

Sean Daily: Yes and I supposed one of the things that might be difficult for people out there who are, you know coming upon these blogs in some cases maybe for the first time, is kind of know, you know separate weed from Chaff in terms of the people that are just trying to make a blog for -- that are, you know really just -- really truly educating from an unbiased point of view that that’s got to be so much challenging I imagine.

Starre Vartan: Yes, I mean I feel like that really wasn’t the case even a year ago and now it has become definitely a challenge.  But, you know that’s part of what happens when things go mainstream and we’re never going to solve the problems that we have right now until we do go mainstream, so we’re going to just have to keep going and you know rise to these new challenges of, you know authenticity and transparency and you know all of that so that people can trusted information that’s coming about.  And there is so much information that is coming out about all of these topics and you know, well I can’t imagine jumping into this now, I’m always trying to keep in mind how, you know somebody who just hears like hey, you know this environmental thing is really important, I just thought in communion truth or I just thought king corn and all of a sudden, you know, I’ve been going to my local farmer’s market and I’m realizing and all these issues are really important, you know, how do I learn more and there’s just almost the deluge of information out there and sort of I would imagine very challenging for the average person to figure out where to go for, for good and so.

Sean Daily: Yes, it’s true, it’s funny because I come from, I originally come from the technology industry and I thought that that was also drinking from the fire hose and so sort of moving over into the environmental movement, you know I took those skills and that interest but you know I always thought well, this would be a lot simple than what I doubt with in technology.  Little did I know that I’d be drinking from what’s a larger fire hose it’s much more comprehensive that affects every area of way if not just technology, so that’s only a subtopic underneath of an environmentalism and ecology and so yes that’s true.  Well, I have a lot of other questions for you but we’re going to take a quick break and then we will be back.  We are talking today with Starre Vartan and she is the green living and environmental writer and expert, and the founder of Eco-Chick.com and we’ll be right back on Green Talk Radio.  Thanks everyone.

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Sean Daily: Everybody we’re back, this is Sean Daily, talking today with Starre Vartan, who’s the founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com and the author of the recently published book, The Eco-Chick Guide to Life – How to Be Fabulously Green.  And we were talking before the break about Starre, about your background and how you got into this and how you started Eco-Chick and why.  And I’m just curious in trying to bring this information that you gathered in your upbringing sort of forward to the folks, to the message.  Is this an uphill battle for you at times you do this?

Starre Vartan: I think that for me to present information to people has become a little bit more complicated as we are just talking about.  I think that this -- the environmental thinking is just that, it’s a whole concept of thinking about a number of issues from scientific personal, you know looking at evidence, science based evidence and then also figuring out what actually works in people’s life, sort of creative, creative and science brought together, which I think can be really challenging but because of the fact that it has become such a large market and people are so excited about it, which has obviously has a negative side to what we discussed.  There’s also become so much easier to be environmentally aware and also contribute in a positive way through your purchases and through your behaviors because there are tons of great information about out there you know if you want to know how to reduce your gas consumption on your commute every morning, there’s at least 15 great articles that will tell you everything from how to get your car and tiptop shape for the fossil fuel to car pooling, sedan pooling to walking maps on Google to you know everything in between.  So the resources are absolutely there and the products are there too.  So, if I decide I don’t want to buy any non-conventional cotton, I mean conventional cotton anymore, I only want to buy organic cotton because I read an article about how incredibly destructive the cotton industry is with contributing so many pesticides and toxic chemicals to water supplies around the world.  Now, I would be absolutely able to cloth myself and my family completely inorganic cotton if I wanted to.  There is jeans, there is T–shirt, there is beautiful dresses for work, there is coats and trends coats and you know jean jacket, everything you could possible worn, sweatpants, yoga gear in natural and sustainable fabrics, same thing with cleaning products.  You now don’t have to just choose between seven generation and method, there is Caldrea, and Mrs. Meyers, and even green works from Clorox, I mean there is so much choice and availability of all these items in big box stores and a regular supermarket, so I think it’s become much, much easier to be green without having to spend all your time on mine doing research.  And, you know sort of -- and becoming some sort of weird hobby rather than just you know, an easy purchasing decision when you’re standing in the supermarket or the drug store.

Sean Daily: And I’m glad you mention that too because the products that you mention really kind of lead into my next question, which is very apparent in reading your book that you’ve done your homework about the companies and products you’re talking about and, and in general that you’re just trying to focus on the companies that are really green and not green washers as we all are.  How important do you think authenticity you mention that how important do you think authenticity is in this space in your -- do you think the consumers are going to make sure that the brands are walking to walk in addition to talking their talk or most of these companies still getting people would believe that you know whatever the green marketing hype is that their departments are throwing out there?

Starre Vartan: Well I think there’s two levels of sort of green washing that go on.  One is straight up green washing where a company like I don’t know, like naturally who does, who produces a pollen spring water, tries to paint their water is green now because they, their bottles used 30 percent less plastic, which is you know great you know but like that doesn’t address to me problem over cycling.  So containers which you know only 70, you know 30 percent of plastic bottles get recycle that doesn’t adjust the problem of taking ground water from local, you know water supplies, then shipping it all over the place using fossil fuels, blah, blah, blah, so ---

Sean Daily: Right.  That’s not a very big step I mean I think it’d be hard to agree that that’s a very bold, you know a courageous move to take 30 percent versus say something that’s more wholesale and inspiring.

Starre Vartan: Exactly.  I think you know that’s a classic example of what’s a very minimum that we can do, well still you know maintaining our image of you know being green.  And I just think it’s nonsense I mean the PG Waters doing the same thing and you know they’re trying to, you know they’re, they’ve ousted all their curb and now you know blah, blah, blah, you’re still shipping water from P, it’s ridiculous.

Sean Daily: Yes.

Starre Vartan: But that being said, I think there’s also companies that are generally trying to make transition and you know, I’m on the -- I’m not making any decisive opinions yet but I have seen you know some big companies make mistake, try to correct them genuinely you know move their corporations in different directions and here I am thinking about, you know Clorox, I gave him a really, really hard time when I talk to their PR people about their green work line, probably this is great, I’m so happy that there is a product that is so accessible and you know works just like all your regular cleaning products would, so that -- for the person who’d be absolutely terrified of using an actual products that don’t work as well, you know maybe could use theirs and they’d feel very safe and secure, so that you know you have to have this transitional product but you know I gave Clorox a hard time because I said, you know, you still produce very toxic chemicals and all your other lines, things that are going down the drain everyday in America and how are you going to work on that and introducing a green line when green is really cool is, you know obviously just a monetary move for you guys and they said look, you know we’re reformulating all of our products, we’re trying to mitigate you know the environmental impact that everything we do but you know we’re talking about reformulating things just take time, et cetera.  So, I’m going to keep my eye on them and see a failure up to that because from what I -- I would say that they were green washing now except but you know, I spoke with them and they gave me not to worrying about how it takes time and you know I’ve seen how long it can take a company to ship from one direction to another, we’re talking about you know thousands of employees, R&D, et cetera.  But you know they’ve told me that and then a year or two I haven’t seen any movement on that, then you know I’ll know it’s nonsense.  So, you know, it’s a little bit hard because we’re asking for a lot of change very quickly from this companies and I think a lot of them are actually trying really, really hard and they’re trying to get there, I mean they should have been doing this stuff already but you know, better way or never.

Sean Daily: And first of all, I just want to say that I’m glad that you know, you and other people in this industry are serving in a wash dog function in a way that you describe because it’s -- one of the problems with this industry is that it’s highly unregulated and there are very few outside of you know, organizations like the FSC that are you know, monitoring the, you know store ship of forest and such for wood based products, we don’t have that in every sector of this industry, so it’s very difficult and I think for the average consumer it really assess again the greenness of these companies, you know back to the authenticity issue and you mention Clorox and you know companies like Clorox are difficult to gage because they are conglomerate, you know multi company organizations that you know in some cases will acquire a company like for example Birds Bees in the case of Clorox, which was, you know is a great company but now it swallowed up into the overall, you know multiplex of Clorox and then so, how do we then evaluate both Birds Bees are former brand as well as Clorox with then I mean because it’s very difficult to sort of, you can’t just sort of paying with the broad brush rug.

Starre Vartan: Oh I think that the important thing to think about, you know I’ve heard a lot of arguments on both side and so one that I think has relevant but that we need to keep our eye on and sort of goes back to last when I was making is that okay, so there is the possibility for Birds Bees to then some of their practices in the way they do business when they’re absorbed in the Clorox to be, you know taken up by the company as a whole.  And so that can be the advantage of a large company buying a company like Birds Bees, it was incredibly successful.  If it’s just an acquisitions then that’s problematic and you know, really disappointing for people who are fans of Birds Bees like I was -- have been for a long time.  If, however that company really genuinely does take the information that, you know Birds Bees has gained over the last, you know ten years and applies it to the rest of their company that could be a real boon.  So, what we, you know what’s impeditive for us to do is to keep an eye on these companies and then they’re going to say hey we’re going to buy these people and you know we’re working towards these things, yes we’ve got to keep checking up on them, we got to keep up on their back to make sure that they’re following through with that and if they do, then it can be a really positive thing.  If they don’t then it’s green washing.

Sean Daily: Well, we can take our last break and then we’ll be right back with Starre Vartan, she is the principle blogger at Eco-Chick.com.  We’ll be right back on Green Talk radio.

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Sean Daily: Hey everybody we’re back on Green Talk Radio, this is Sean Daily, talking today with Starre Vartan, who is the founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Chick.com, which is Eco-Chick.com and author of the recently published book, The Eco-Chick Guide to Life – How to Be Fabulously Green.  Starre, we were talking before the break about the industry, the Lo-Host Industry and green companies and the green washers and all that stuff and I just seemed curious to the step back from now a little bit and talk about, well let’s talk about the book and ask you some questions about that.  You delve into three distinct areas within the book, three distinct areas of focus, which are as you put in the book, you know you, your nest and the world.  Is there one particular area that you’re most passionate about, of those three?  And if so, why?

Starre Vartan: Actually, I’m -- it depends on the day.  Some days I’m real homebody and I love sewing and gardening and hanging out with my animals and I’m really you know into repainting room, using low VOC paints, I love color and all than funny stuff, figuring out way if I can make my home both beautiful and really you know sustainable and that using a lot of new materials when I make changes.  And then other days, you know, trying out a million different outfits and you know something with hair and make-up and then you know other days, I couldn’t care less about either of those things and I drew everything I a bag and I had out on vacations/trips.  I take my laptop with me everywhere, and my iPhone and so I can pretty much work anywhere and so I spent a lot of time in Vermont and the Catskills and basically anywhere my friends live at all, stay for a little while, so I really you know, I’ve also done a lot of international traveling, so I really am all three of those things at the same time just depends on the day or the week I guess.

Sean Daily: Well so, you know and also another thing, we always like to do on the show is to get direct, specific tips from our guests, especially our expert guest that our listeners can put into direct and immediate use, you know in their lives and trying to go green, so I just want to ask you about maybe if you could share with our listeners, your top three suggestions for women that are looking to green their lifestyles.

Starre Vartan: Sure, I would say the first thing is with all your personal products, anything that you used in the shower, a really easy fast way to go green both for yourself and then for the environment is choosing natural products like, like you know Birds Bees as we mentioned earlier, they’d -- there are some, you know bigger names and then there are some smaller names, you might want to do a little bit of research about and like cosmetic safety database about you know which things, which chemicals you might want to avoid, some people are more, have more sensitive skin and others.  But a really great for us to stop is just going for organic or natural products in the shower and so that way, you’re not exposing your body to toxins and you’re also not washing those down the drain, which gets since our water supply which you know either on the up swimming and our drinking eventually or someone that.  The second area is reducing your carbon footprint and really simple ways, replacing your light bulbs, you know we’ve all heard about that and a big one is actually reducing plastics and that has a lot of -- plastic production distribution and disposal use of a lot of energy and a lot of chemicals and so, I’ve been de-plasticizing my life recently and by that it’s you know the obvious, which is get those plastic backs from the grocery store out and you know use your usual bags, which is you know a new brand or but then the next thing is you know all that copperware, all those to go containers, you know recycling those where you can’t open fronts in your community you can go to the recycling area and they will recycle more different types of plastic but you can get those out or you can, you know, use them for things that don’t contain food as storage devices and the start using glass or aluminum, you know water bottles that are useable either aluminum or stainless steel, and all of those are ways to get plastic out of your life, which is another big one so personal care product and plastic will, were both like really fun, easy way to start and can make a pretty, pretty big difference both for your health and then also the planet and then lastly, I wish like to advocate that because people don’t realize that clothing production actually have a huge environmental footprint on mostly due to production of fabric and then the second part is the shipping back and forth of so many clothes or like let’s sat you buy a T-shirt at the Gap, often times, it’s been -- cotton’s been growing in one country where it’s terribly polluting and then it shipped to another country to be died and then it shipped back to the first country to be shown up and then it shipped to another country to get a label put on and then it shipped to the distribution center and it shipped to the store, so you’re talking a huge carbon footprint for a lot of clothes.  So, looking for environmentally friendly clothing that’s made and you know, either your local area or is at least has -- was made in the United States is a good way to go or if you’re on east coast to actually getting products from the UK is -- has about the equivalent carbon footprint is getting stuff from California.  So, sometimes east coast shoppers can look for great ethical stuff in the UK, which -- there are so much going on there.  So those are three sort of fun ways to you know reduce your environmental footprints.

Sean Daily: That’s great, that’s a great information and great tips and I really appreciate you sharing those with our audience.  Also, this will be our last question because unfortunately we’re out of time but I want just to ask you so after all the success that you’ve experienced here both yourself and the Eco-Chicks, I am just curious what’s next for both you and the Eco-Chick blog?

Starre Vartan: Well, I mean definitely keep the blog going, I’m more redesigning now, so we’ll have a gorgeous new look very shortly and you know, we’ll see what happens if the book hopefully people will enjoy it and utilize it and I think you know that one people get past the next, you know six, eight months or so.  I think there’s going to -- there has been already starting and there will be a hunger for, okay, I’ve changed my light bulbs, I’m using my back, I am doing you know using a local showerhead, I’ve got my energy efficient, everything and now what?  And so I think there is going to be sort of a next level of, you know being green, beyond, you know the basic stuff that everybody is really lush onto.  And personally I’m also writing a book, we’re just at Columbia finishing my NFA and a non-fiction writing and it’s on before the five senses and how modernization mechanization have sort of detach us from the natural world, so it’s not really, it’s some what of an environmental but it’s also looking at the five senses and how we response differently or four senses in this sort of new modern era, which you know basically we would very similarly a human being up until the 50, 60 years ago and now a lot of that have changed very quickly and, and how we’re responding and dealing with that, that’s a little bit more fun, a little bit more in debt in terms of analyzing culture then my Eco-Chick Guide Book was.

Sean Daily: Cool, well there’s just something that you said made me think through is that it’s interesting in a way there’s an irony in that technology, we’re using technology as the medium to deliver this but in some ways technology takes us away from -- things from nature and from natural sort of human interaction so, a way sort of rustle with that, it just…

Starre Vartan: Me too.

Sean Daily: That’s an inherent irony.  Yes, well, and I just want to say for all the -- for those of you listening in today that are looking for more information on this topic, we certainly recommend that you checkout Starre’s Eco-Chick.com website and also the articles in other podcast found on the GreenLivingIdeas.com website including those under the Fashion and Beauty topic among others, which is accessible from the sites Topic Menu, also if you’re into social networking, you can find today’s guest Starre Vartan on Twitter as Eco-Chickie and myself as Sean Daily, S-E-A-N D-A-I-L-Y, and I should mention that Eco-Chickie is with an I-E at the end.  Or, you can also follow GreenLivingIdeas.com as Green Living Idea because I didn’t have enough letters for Green Living Ideas on Twitter.com and there’s also links to other social networking sites at the top right-hand side of the GreenLivingIdeas.com site.  So, I want to lastly thank all of you out there for listening in today and supporting the show, you’re truly the reason that we do the show week after week and we always welcome your feedback and suggestions.  This is Sean Daily and we’ll see you next time on Green Talk Radio.  Starre, thanks again for being with us.

Starre Vartan: Thank you.

Man:  Thanks is always to everyone listening in today.  Remember, for more free on demand podcast articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com.  We’d also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions.  Send us an email at [email protected].

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