How to Save the Planet: A 14-Year Old Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur Knows the Secret

How to Save the Planet: A 14-Year Old Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur Tells All

Meet Maya Penn, a teen who plans to save the planet one idea at a time.

When I was 14 I spent most of my time talking on the phone, fantasizing about my crushes, and doing my homework. I had no plans to save the planet and quite honestly knew little about my impact on it. But Maya Penn, a 14-year-old fashion entrepreneur and environmentalist, doesn’t just put my teenage accomplishments to shame, she’s also quite impressive compared to most adults I know.

“Ideas make the world go round,” she said in her recent TED talk.

Maya has been expanding on her ideas since long before she was a teen. She founded Maya’s Ideas at age 8, where she designs and handmakes eco-friendly clothing. Her mom taught her to sew and since then she’s been taking bamboo, organic cotton, and leftover fabrics and creating designs that have been purchased from all over the world. They’ve been worn by Michael Franti, Jasmine Guy, Sara Blakely, and Samuel L. Jackson. And she donates 10-20 percent of her profits to environmental charities. Forbes Magazine even featured her business at age 10. She says she’s putting her love of art and the planet to work.

At age 11, she founded Maya’s Ideas For the Planet, a non-profit where she designs T-shirts to save the bees and has sent eco-friendly pads to girls in developing countries. Her parents taught her at a young age how to be a steward of the environment along with the importance of giving back. She’s taken these two lessons to heart and her ideas reflect it. She plans to save the planet through her works.

She’s an artist at heart but also a coder. Her father taught how to take apart a computer and put it back together again. Since then, she’s built her own website in HTML and learned how to code. Maya is also a cartoonist and we’re not talking doodling during class. In fact, she designed and animated her own cartoon. There seems no end to what Maya can accomplish.

Maya feels she’s part of a “new wave of entrepreneurs” that seek to have a successful businesses and sustain the planet. She says it’s the heart that sparks movements, not the head, and we have to appeal to the heart to create change. Her optimism is infectious. Especially when you consider how environmentalists can be so gloomy sometimes.

This teen isn’t just impressive in her own right, she’s a reminder of the true potential of the human spirit. In case you’ve forgotten what you can accomplish as a human being, she’s here to remind you. Whatever your talents, use your time to put them to work. Don’t just go through the motions; find your purpose and follow it. Who knows what Maya will end up doing as an adult, but I’m sure it will be impressive. And she hasn’t wasted any time getting to work.

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Image: Jason Hargrove