Meet Maya S Penn, the teenaged eco-activist who has done more than most adults to make the world a better place
By Chere Di Boscio
She’s a prolific blogger, she’s got her own clothing line, has written a book, and she’s given TED talks about sustainability. As a teenager, Maya S Penn has achieved more than most adults could dream of.
She started her first company, Maya’s Ideas, when she was only 8 years old, and has since been featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, The Kind Life and many other publications.
Recently, she was honoured as an entrepreneur at the 2012 SCLC Women’s 33rd Annual Drum Major for Justice Awards in the Youth Category, along with the likes of Sean Penn, Samuel L. Jackson, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, amongst other luminaries.
Here, she tells Eluxe about being a young entrepreneur, stopping Keystone XL and growing your own beauty products.
We adore this young woman’s spirit and can’t wait to see what she does next!
Meet Maya S Penn, The Keen, Green Wünder Teen
Do you think bloggers are becoming increasingly important in the publishing world?
Bloggers give personal perspective and fresh viewpoint on stories. They can speak their mind, and not just say what the media wants. In a way, they are more in step with what is going on in the real world, as opposed to mainstream media, which can pander to the likes and opinions of a few. Of course, there are good and bad bloggers out there, but the beauty of it is in the freedom of choice that readers all over the world get to read blogs, gain new information, and ultimately make up their own minds as to what they read. Bloggers can introduce the world to new trends and ideas long before they become popular in the wider culture.
Which green fashion labels are currently on your must have list?
I personally love my Maya’s Ideas line because I can create anything my imagination brings to me and make things you don’t see everyday in the marketplace. I’m a huge fan of TOMS and I especially love their vegan shoes! I’ve gotten some really great organic T-shirts from Edun. I admire TOMS and Edun because of the amazing contributions these companies have made to make the world a better place through their humanitarian and philanthropic works. For me, it is important for a company to have a social conscience as well as have great looking clothing. It goes hand in hand, and these companies do that extremely well.
How do you merge ethical and non-ethical brands in you wardrobe?
Most of my wardrobe consists of vintage clothing and clothing I’ve made myself or re-purposed, including my organic cotton T-shirts with my original characters from my animated short films. I developed my love of vintage from my mom. Me and my mom love to watch old movies together and I always admired the vintage style the actresses wore. My cloche hat collection is an homage to that. Vintage clothes are constructed so well, with wonderful detailing like hand embroidery, natural fabrics and attention to detail. It’s easy for me to blend vintage clothing along with my own organic clothing, both are recyclable and sustainable.
Do you use any green skincare/shampoo/beauty products?
My mom has an organic beauty line coming out in the fall. We’ve had an organic garden for about 4 years and we use some of the fruits/vegetables from my organic garden in her skin care products. I make mixtures of organic coconut, shea butter, argan oil, and other natural oils for my hair and face. Other brands I use are Josie Maran (I love the body butter and cheek/lip colors), Tarte (I love their lip colors and Amazonian clay mascara), Acure Organics (I’m crazy about their brightening facial scrub!), and Caudalie (I love the radiance serum and organic grape water).
What do you think is better: buying ‘green’ or buying vintage?
Honestly, both! I buy vintage and green fashion. It’s awesome that today’s eco-friendly fashion will be vintage fashion in the future.
What’s your position on leather? Fur?
Personally, I don’t wear or design anything with leather or fur. I don’t eat meat. I am a longtime animal rights supporter, yet I have still had to undergo an evolution of sorts to come full circle with what that exactly means. For example, when I started my company at 8 years old, I used to use wool (which was vintage and recycled) and silks in some of my designs.
Now that I’m 13, I don’t use wool anymore and I use Peace Silk or wild silk because it is ethically more sound. I have always used organic cotton from day one in my designs, but I have been adding Tencel items to my collection, along with bamboo and hemp pieces. I think it is important for people to do their research and find how the clothing they buy is being made.
Some companies used reclaimed leathers and do not harm any animals. Some are the complete opposite. It’s important to find out which ones do or don’t and act accordingly.
Which habits do you think are most important for people to change in order to be more sustainable?
Small things, like deciding to recycle your garbage instead of simply throwing it in the trash where it will only go to the landfill can have an impact. I takes 700 years for plastic bottles to START decomposing. Changing everyday habits can make a huge difference.
What do you think governments need to do most urgently to save the environment?
The first thing the government here in North America needs to do is stop the pipeline, known as Keystone XL. It will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels on the planet: tar sands oil. Along its route from Alberta, Canada to Texas, USA, this pipeline could devastate ecosystems, pollute water sources, reduce investment in the clean energy economy, and jeopardise public health. This is a very controversial topic, but this is simply my opinion.
How are you adding to a ‘greener’ world?
I feel that I am part of the new wave of entrepreneurs that not only seeks to have a successful business but also a sustainable future. I believe that I can meet the needs of my customers without compromising the ability of future generations to live in a greener tomorrow by being an environmentally responsible individual and business owner. I feel that I’m adding to a greener world by fulfilling my passion, while helping others. Everyone has gifts and talents and I believe that your gifts and talents should be used for good.
You can see more about Maya on CNN here.
Update: Maya also guest edited Eluxe Magazine’s 17th edition in paper. See her wonderful work here.