Want to help the planet while shopping? Take a lesson from this teen designer.

Like a lot of 8-year-old girls, Maya Penn was all about fashion. Unlike most 8-year-old girls, however, she had an idea to change the industry rather than just buy from it.

With a dad who won NASA awards for solar energy projects and a mom who loved to garden, Maya was always encouraged to be eco-conscious. When she decided to start her own clothing line, she knew she wanted it to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Of course, like any savvy businessperson, Maya recognized this meant doing a lot of research first.


"I did a lot of research about fashion and the environment and how the fashion industry has such a negative impact," Maya explains.

In fact, she learned the fashion industry is the second largest planet-wide polluter, right behind oil.

In order to shrink her clothing line's carbon footprint, Maya first began creating her own designs using vintage clothes she had around the house.

"I love vintage so much," says Maya. "Every piece has its own story to tell you."

It's also a great way to repurpose cool fashion, which means you're not using energy to make it or creating waste.

"I thought, let me try something different that won't create as much of a strain on the planet," Maya recalls.

Once she'd amassed a number of revitalized vintage pieces, Maya opened her own store on Etsy. It didn't take long for her to get noticed. After all, how many 8-year-olds are running a fashion line — and an eco-friendly one at that?

The buzz around her store snowballed, and by the time she was 10, Maya had been featured in a number of publications.

Maya in Essence Magazine. All photos via Maya Penn, used with permission.

Naturally, that led to a huge spike in sales, so she decided to start her own website. By herself.

Since she's a "bit of a techie," Maya decided to learn how to code and construct her own website. She called it Maya's Ideas. The end result was more than Maya could've ever hoped for.

Once it was clear she's a wunderkind of many talents, Maya was asked to speak at a number of tech organizations, including Google and IBM. She's also the youngest woman to give back-to-back TED Talks — in fact, her latest is one of TED’s official top 15 TEDWomen Talks of all time.

Mind you, this is all before she turned 20.

Despite all this early notoriety, Maya's not taking her eyes off her main goal — to offset the environmental impact of fashion. That's why she started consulting with major brands on eco-friendly practices.

The fashion industry is starting to move in an eco-friendly direction largely because consumers are becoming more and more conscientious. However, there's still an accessibility issue — either eco-friendly products aren't available locally, or they're too expensive for the average consumer. Maya is helping brands tackle this by showing them how she's made it work on the boutique level.

Along with the recycled vintage materials she initially used, Maya creates fashion pieces from 100% organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo. She's always working on fabric production methods to make her carbon footprint even smaller. What's more, she sends 10% of all her profits to local and global charities and environmental nonprofit organizations.

Needless to say, she's on the cutting edge of eco-fashion (pun intended).

And she hasn't stopped there. Maya also has an ongoing project where she designs eco-friendly sanitary pads for people in developing countries.

Maya's eco-friendly sanitary pads.

It's just one aspect of her nonprofit, Maya's Ideas 4 the Planet.

"Many [people] don’t have access to [sanitary pads]," Maya explains. "It prevents their ability to work and get an education for days out of every month." Not only are the pads organic and durable — they're washable and biodegradable.

Anyone else thinking this girl is a real-life superhero?

After working 10-plus years in eco-friendly fashion, Maya's still finding new ways to advocate for sustainability. But her mission is about more than the environment now.

The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Photo Via Roosevelt Skerrit/Flickr.

"I think now more than ever people are starting to realize that environmental issues are human rights issues as well," explains Maya.

Climate change is already affecting the human race on a massive scale. Just this past year, there have been a monumental amount of catastrophic weather phenomena that devastated entire island chains, inspiring a new and terrifying term — climate refugees.

While that may sound overwhelming, thankfully there are brilliant young people out there like Maya who are working tirelessly to help clean up our act and slow the change.

That said, she can't do it alone.

The next time you want to pick up a new outfit, try looking for eco-friendly brands, or head to your local secondhand store and hunt for an awesome vintage piece. It's one fashion-forward way you can do your part to protect the world we call home.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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