Shelby Tashoots had enough of the town’s garbage.
While waiting for her grandmother outside the Shoppers Drug Mart at Qwanlin Mall, watching litter float and fly around her, she looked at her aunt.
“That’s it,” she said.
The two of them found an empty bag and some extra gloves in their car and started cleaning the parking lot.
But that wasn’t enough for Shelby.
After their grandmother joined them and they were back in their car, she turned to her aunt again and asked if she could go get some tools for picking up more garbage.
They went to the dollar store and Shelby bought a few “grabbers” and a broom-and-dustpan kit.
That was two weeks ago.
Since then, Shelby has been picking up litter around her home, school and her grandmother’s apartment building.
Shelby is nine-years-old.
“It’s not really that fair that the Earth’s being treated like that,” she said, explaining why she started cleaning up other people’s trash.
“The Earth didn’t do anything to you, so why would you throw garbage on the Earth?”
The plastic grabbers and sweeper kit that Shelby bought from the dollar store cost her $14.
Now, to put this in perspective, she had just received $30 from her mother, grandmother and aunt.
She had just purchased a book. And had been eyeing a $25 used Game Boy.
She had just enough cash to buy it.
And then came that fateful day at Qwanlin Mall.
“I was going to buy that (Game Boy), but I decided I didn’t want to,” she said. “Because I had picked up garbage and I was thinking about it. It was really fun.”
Shelby said she isn’t sure how long she will continue to pick up garbage, but her sister Raven, who is three years older, mentioned once the other “grabber” breaks, that will probably be the end of it.
The dollar store tools have not proven durable and Shelby only has one left.
But her aunt, Ingrid Isaac, may have found a solution.
After hearing all the tools Shelby bought with her own money started breaking, Isaac called the city.
On Thursday she heard back.
“Whitehorse is donating a few “pick up garbage” sticks for Shelby and I,” said Isaac. “They’ll be ready next week!”
But that isn’t the last the city will hear from Shelby.
“She phoned me and said, ‘Auntie, maybe you can help me write a speech and I can go to town hall,” said Isaac.
“I am pretty proud of her for being nine-years-old and deciding to take a stand like that. You don’t see many adults deciding to take a stand like that. And then there’s Shelby – she was just so upset that day. Garbage was flying all over the place and it was disgusting; it was very noticeable that day. She knows she’s part of this society, so why not do what she can, where she can.”
Shelby has always had a caring heart, said Isaac.
Simon Blakesley agrees. The vice-principal of Selkirk Elementary School works with Shelby, a Grade 4 student, in reading group.
“She’s always positive, always has a smile, always cheerful,” he said. “I am not surprised she would say, ‘Yeah, let’s get involved.’”
Shelby’s grandmother, Frances Hillgren isn’t surprised either.
She was three the first time she cleaned up litter, said Hillgren, remembering helping her granddaughter that day.
She also learned to pick up after herself, she added.
“I always taught them that,” she said.
And for Shelby, it’s simple.
Much of the garbage she finds tends to be right around garbage bins, she said.
“I think they’re just throwing it out their windows and I think they were trying to throw it in the garbage,” she said. “They’re just not getting out of their cars. They are being lazy and not picking it up.”
Shelby’s elder sister was surprised when Shelby chose cleaning tools instead of the Game Boy, she said.
She told her friends about what her little sister is doing.
“They were like, ‘That’s weird. Why would you do that?’” she said.
And Shelby does worry sometimes about the looks people give her, she said.
“But I don’t mind because they wouldn’t pick it up. They’d probably say, ‘Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow,’ and then forget and then say they’ll do it the next day.
“But I’m helping the Earth.”
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at