Sisters Kaitlyn Maher, 8, left, and Julia Maher, 6, hold up bags of trash and recyclables. The pair has made a mission out of cleaning their neighborhood.

Sisters Kaitlyn Maher, 8, left, and Julia Maher, 6, hold up bags of trash and recyclables. The pair has made a mission out of cleaning their neighborhood.

Photo provided by Kathleen Schendel

Young sisters inspire elders with passion for environmentalism

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 31, 2018


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In one Clinton Township neighborhood, two young sisters are proving that environmentalism is a way of life.

Kaitlyn Maher, 8, and her sister, Julia, 6, live between Moravian Drive and Groesbeck Highway. They have developed a reputation among their family and neighbors for being stewards in their community.

Their mother, Kristen Maher, said the family spends plenty of time outside by way of walking, biking, camping and visiting different bodies of water.

She recalled her daughters’ passion for eliminating litter during their old Radio Flyer wagon rides about three years ago. While going down the street, the girls would pick up remnants of trash and put them in the wagon. They started to bring their own bags to use as refuse containers inside the wagon, either for future recycling or disposal.

In the Maher household, it’s a family affair.

“They’re bright, outdoorsy kind of kids,” Kristen said. “In school, they learn stuff about the environment, and we’re avid recyclers. I make a big deal out of it. … They’d always comment while we were out walking. They’d say, ‘The litter bug is out.’ I think they thought it was some creature that dropped trash everywhere.”

They’ve become more acclimated to the outdoors, animals and developing their own interests.

“It’s been a gradual process,” she said. “It’s gradually increasing over the past three years, and the more they see it and talk about in school — like the greater effects — it took more seriously over time.”

She said the girls find their fair share of trash on and close to Metropolitan Parkway, but their efforts, and those of others — another family in the neighborhood is just as diligent, Kristen said — have helped lessen a problem that occurs nearly everywhere.

“I don’t think it’s getting worse,” she said. “I do think it’s generally well-maintained. … But I think because it’s alongside 16 Mile, everything — I don’t know where it even comes from — just because it’s a busy thoroughfare, it tends to accumulate in the grass.”

Her daughters aren’t afraid to call out others for their wrongdoings, either. Kristen joked that the girls have confronted houseguests when they put recyclable items in the trash can, and vice versa.

Kathleen Schendel, the girls’ grandmother, said she’s proud of her granddaughters for making a difference, but more important to her is their compassion about wildlife that may suffer the consequences of the actions of littering.

“As they mature, I know our conversations dealing with compassion will extend to situations they encounter with friends at school, injustices they see and empower them with dialogue that encourages them to do the right thing — even if it is not what the other outside influences may think,” Schendel said.

The girls are doing their part to make the world a better place, and they realize that every plastic bottle, can, piece of paper, piece of cardboard and piece of debris is an eyesore and an environmental hazard that can be easily remedied.

“(I do this) because it helps the environment,” Kaitlyn said. “When stuff is on the side of the road, it flies everywhere. Animals could get stuck in it and get hurt. It can also end up in lakes and oceans polluting the earth. I love the earth.”