For years, Starre Vartan lived life at the speed of light. The author, editor, and stylist pursued an MFA at Columbia University, blogged at Eco-Chick, published a book, and helped launch Greenopia. Suffice to say, she needed a break. “Since my two favorite things in the world are travel and writing,” Vartan tells Ecouterre, “I have been incredibly happy to be able to indulge in both at the same time over these past months.” From her home in Connecticut to visiting relatives in Sydney (with pit stops in Hawaii and L.A.), Vartan reveals how she keeps her closet green even when she’s living out of a suitcase.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

About 50-60 percent of my wardrobe is eco-friendly, including vintage, used, swapped, and new sustainable designs, but taking five months away from my home presented a real packing challenge. I was going to be spending time in major cities and also living off-grid at the solar-powered Lova Lava Land eco-resort in the middle of the lava fields of Hawaii’s Big Island.

Taking five months away from my home presented a packing challenge.

After much deliberation, I decided on a color scheme (black, white, blue, and blue-green, with a bit of red) and a guiding aesthetic (classic patterns like stripes and polka dots, plus lots of solid tones I could color-block for interest). Above, a vintage reconstructed dress by Hairy Mary’s and a hemp-and-upcycled-leather bag by Teich.

Starre Vartan, author The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

What would I do without my Carol Young Undesigned LBD? This dress has been my standby and the single best piece I have in my suitcase. I’ve worn it over my black-and-white polka dot bikini paired with Chacos for lava-field exploring and beach time, as well as dressed up with a Rag & Bone scarf and hipster Fiona Campbell shoes for EcoStiletto’s Green Blogger Convention in L.A.

This dress is made from factory-second fabric, which designer Carol Young then subjected to a special bath which perma-wrinkled it in just the right way. It’s quick drying (15 minutes in the breeze!), incredibly flattering on my more curvy shape, and totally comfortable (I slept in it once!). Young’s collections are inspired by urban nomads, so it’s no coincidence that this dress is a world-class traveler.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

My Levi’s Eco Collection organic denim jeans are a classic shape and color. I wore them when I went riding in Hawaiian ranch country recently (and also above to go out in L.A.). The top is a deceptively simple organic cotton one from Green Goods Apparel that has the best-cut basic tees I’ve found, period.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

I fell in love with this bamboo and modal tunic from Feral Childe when I was shooting an eco-fashion video for Greenopia at KAIGHT in NYC’s East Village. I find this top to have a lot of humor; the combo of the thick eggplant on purple seersucker print and the flattering (but definitely odd) puff of fabric that comes up from the lower back. It’s paired here with a vintage copper bracelet that was my grandmother’s.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

This Ryann vest is a striking piece that I brought because even though it’s a knockout, the warm neutral color means it can work in multiple ways. I’m a big fan of Raina Bleyer’s designs, and this hemp one adds a feminine flair without being fussy.

Underneath, I’ve layered an EDUN (Bono and wife Ali Hewson’s line) tank I can’t stop wearing. The bodice is lined so I can get away with donning it sans bra (one of the benefits of being small-busted) which is ideal in hot climes. Creamy organic linen pants from Under the Canopy keep the mosquitoes and cool breezes off my legs. The necklace, made from bamboo and recycled sterling silver, is by Ingle and Rhode.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

Yes, I’m wearing a skirt and ruffled top to explore a cave! Why not? This pretty blouse is part of the Urban Renewal collection at Urban Outfitters. I love that this huge chain store has continued the idea of local designers making vintage-inspired (and some modern) looks from vintage fabrics.

Under the skirt (not eco), my American Apparel leggings, which are made fairly in L.A., are must-haves for travel. They serve as a layer under dresses on chilly evenings, a comfy layer on planes, and sometimes as pajamas, too. I have a full-length pair in navy and a three-quarter-length pair in black.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

I’m completely in love with this organic cotton tunic shirt from Romp in L.A. It has these slightly longer short sleeves and a fit that hugs me perfectly. Plus, it has a dirty poem en Francais on the front, which occasionally someone is able to read and finds quite shocking!

Here, it’s paired with my trusty pair of black jeans from Aristocrat, which are sustainably dyed and have held their blackness wonderfully. They wear so well that I rarely wash them, which is great when you’re living off-grid.

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

I found this vintage Calvin Klein dress at Beacon’s Closet in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and it fits like it was made for me. I love digging through second-hand clothes to find that piece that you never knew you couldn’t live without, and Beacon’s has the most amazing selection.

I wore this dress as part of my Halloween costume—I was the “Spirit of Native Hawaiian Plants” and wrapped vines around my body and put flowers in my hair for the party I attended. I was lucky to find “Volcano Woman” at the party; together we represented The Big Island!

Starre Vartan, author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life

I’ve been a fan of Doie for years; I think Sara Kirsner’s pieces have witty shapes and they are also incredibly comfy! This white organic cotton dress goes wonderfully with my tan (I haven’t been this brown since summer camp as a kid!) and is another one that can be dressed up or down. (It can also be worn short, with the elastic hem pulled up under or long with the hem showing).

I wore this to the Project Green Search wrap party in L.A. with a blue silk bolero-sweater and espadrilles.

+ Eco-Chick