For 14 months, Terrill Haigler was a sanitation worker in Philadelphia, living mostly as an anonymous figure in the city, collecting garbage daily until his Instagram posts garnered him national attention for his activism. Now, he’s an internet and local sensation known as “Ya Fav Trashman,” CEO of YaFavTrashman, LLC, and founder of the non-profit Trash 2 Treasure. During the height of the pandemic, and before walking away from his position in February of 2021, Haigler quickly realized how essential his job was. Now, he’s a community activist, an entrepreneur, a brand ambassador, an environmental activist, and most recently, an author.
“I have a theory that the way to have a cleaner, safer city is that every zip code needs to have a clean block,” said Haigler, 32. “Studies show that littering is a learned behavior. I’ve had conversations with my own children about littering, and their responses were really negative. So I decided to write a children’s book to ignite positive interactions with waste and recycling, as well as to advocate for the importance of sanitation workers, and to teach children why they have to keep their communities clean.”
The book, which is titled I’m Cool Too, is a real conversation which Terrill had with his children about his job and how he does it, “but in a very fun way,” he says. “In the book, the kids go to sleep and they have this dream. They end up becoming my new hires on the job, and I take them through the process of being a sanitation worker. I show them the importance of the job, the people, the community, and of not littering.”
Haigler is using the book to raise money for Philadelphia public schools, with $5 from every book sold being donated to The School District of Philadelphia. Haigler’s goal is to sell 200,000 copies, as he is hoping to donate $1 million to Philly schools, dropping off checks to principles to use the funds as they see fit. Haigler said he originally wrote the book for his own kids: Aria (10), Aiden (9), and Aubree (5), but once he completed it he got really excited about the idea of sharing it with other children and using it as a fundraiser to benefit kids in his communty.
Born and raised in North Philadelphia, Haigler currently lives in Germantown, and primarily communicates to the public through his 31,000-plus followers on Instagram, which he grew from zero in less than two years. On July 4, 2021, he spoke at the White House and he recentlyCo-hosted Philadelphia’s first 5K Earth Day Trash Walk, which attracted coverage on the TODAY Show. In May of 2022, Haigler was awarded Waste Expo’s Changemaker Award and also recognized as a “40 Under 40” in the waste industry.
Terrill’s book, which is 32 pages, will be released on June 30th. All of the book’s illustration was done by Deborah Tyson, and Philly-based Empower was in charge of project management for the book. “One day, I just woke up and realized I wanted to write a children’s book,” said Haigler. “Paris and I spoke and we both said, ‘let’s do it,’ and we got working right away. The manuscript was done last September, and since then, we’ve just been working as hard as possible to complete the process and make this dream a reality. The day we surpass 200,000 books sold will be very special, and I know that day is coming soon.”