It seems that our children are much more progressive about improving our environment than many of us stodgy old stalwarts.

It seems that our children are much more progressive about improving our environment than many of us stodgy old stalwarts.

While some adults seem mired in arguments about whether and how to adapt to climate change, our kids have already done it. Most can already set up a recycling project — and tell you what their carbon footprint is.

Michele Daly, for example, a senior at Washingtonville High School, has been trying to get a recycling program going in her school for years. She and her friends are incensed that recyclables get tossed into the trash cans in the cafeteria. This year, Daly and her friends are working with a Syracuse University Project Advance Public Affairs class to set up a recycling program in her high school. The principal and staff have been supportive, however no funding has been made available for recycling bins. Daly and her friends have been turning in recyclable bottles and cans and saving the money to pay for bins. So far, they have collected almost $50. Daly plans to ask the Rotary Club or another charitable organization to match the money they have raised to provide bins.

TEEGAN KENNEDY IS A FOURTH-GRADE TEACHER at Goshen Intermediate School. She has worked with her class to establish a yearlong recycling program in the school. Using her own money, she purchased recycling bins, which her students decorated and placed outside the doors of their class and the teachers' room. The students wrote a compelling letter to the teachers, urging them to use the new containers. Every Friday, Kennedy's class collects and weighs the paper and plastic, then posts the numbers on the doors to encourage more recycling.

So far, the kids have recycled 2,203 plastic items, such as water bottles and yogurt containers, and 244 pounds of paper. While this might seem like a lot, it is only one classroom worth of waste.

"We're trying to let other people see that if all nine of our fourth-grade classes recycled roughly the same amount during the year, we would have recycled approximately 19,827 items," Kennedy said. "If all the third- and fifth-grade classes also participated in recycling, our numbers would be around 36,054. Paper weight would be over 2 tons." Kennedy's class has been graphing its recycling progress and is working on a school newspaper to encourage other classes to adopt their recycling and composting program.

"I plan on having my class write to the company that supplies the plastic utensils to our cafeteria to find out if they are recyclable," Kennedy said. "If they are, I would buy the cafeteria bins for those items and encourage all of the students in our school to recycle them at the end of each lunch.

"I'm really proud at how conscious the class has become since the beginning of the year," Kennedy said, beaming like a mother hen. "I think we're at a critical point with our environment, where people are finally starting to listen, and if a room full of 10-year-olds can do it, so can anybody else!"

Shawn Dell Joyce is a sustainable artist and activist from Montgomery. She is the founder of the Wallkill River School, combining plein-air painting with environmental activism. Her work can be seen at the Wallkill River Art Gallery or or Visit to read more of Shawn's columns, and contact her with comments or ask questions about the environment and your role in helping to curb climate change.