Eighth-graders on the Green Team at Walker Mill Middle School have planted flowers, cleaned up the courtyard and taken out recycling. (Moira E. McLaughlin/The Washington Post)

Tuesday is Earth Day, an annual event that started 44 years ago to draw attention to the environment and the need to protect it.

So much of what we read about the environment is not good. According to a government organization called the Environmental Protection Agency — the EPA — Americans in 2012 produced about 250 million tons of trash a year. That would fill about 251 million small dumpsters, the kind that you probably have at your school. That’s a lot of plastic spoons, old notebooks and soggy chicken tenders that you didn’t eat at lunch.

But there is good news, too. In 1980, less than 10 percent of trash was recycled, according to the EPA. In 2012, about 34 percent of trash was recycled, meaning it didn’t just go to waste — it was turned into something useful. One local county, Prince George’s, has become a leader in recycling, going from being the 11th-best recycler in the state to this year being the third-best. The county recycles more than half of its trash.

So on the day dedicated to the Earth, KidsPost wants to highlight some good. Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights, Maryland, is doing its part to think about the planet not only on Earth Day but every day.

From nothing to something

Two years ago, Walker Mill didn’t have a single recycling bin. Today, it has 43. The school has since recycled than 25,000 pieces of paper.

“Everyone wasn’t doing it at first,” said eighth-grader Kayla Proctor, 14. “We made fliers and put them around the school.”

Kayla and about 30 of her classmates last year were the first members of the school’s Green Team, which tried to encourage fellow students to think about the environment. Now there are about 105 eighth-graders on the Green Team.

Recently, the team gathered to clean up the school, planting new flowers in the courtyard and picking up trash along the school’s border. The students wore shirts that read “Go Green or Go Home.”

“I feel that it’s good to help the community recycle and help make sure the Earth is clean,” said Damontae Erby, 13, who was taking a break from weeding. He was one of the first Green Team members.

“I love helping. This is a good thing,” said the eighth-grader. “It helps the world. If you don’t recycle, then the world is not what it’s meant to be.”

Brandon Thomas, 14, took a break from raking leaves and grass clippings.“I wanted to get involved to help my school out and my teachers out,” he said.

The weight of paper

Part of the Green Team’s job is going into classrooms on Friday mornings to take the recycling outside to the bigger bins.

“Paper isn’t very light,” admitted Dorian Flippen, 13. But she said that emptying the recycling bin makes her proud knowing that “we did something to help the environment.”

Micala Hammond, 14, even wrote a play about the environment called “Friends for a Change.” It’s about a girl with asthma who starts a Green Team at her school. She and her team try to persuade a factory owner to stop polluting the air. Hammond plans to dedicate the play, which will be performed May 22 at the school, to the Walker Mill Green Team.

“It makes me happy,” she said. “Because I’m out making a difference.”

— Moira E. McLaughlin