school signOliBac via flickrAh, back-to-school season. The rustling of leaves, the squeak of new sneakers, the reassuring sound of chalk on a blackboard. Wait, does anyone still use chalk? And if they do, is it emitting some sort of toxic dust that’s dooming our children to a life of bad health and environmental despair?

School, once that bastion of knowledge and wholesomeness, has become a sort of devil’s playground, presenting dilemmas ranging from toxic threats (probably not chalk, but what about radon or asbestos?) to junk-food lunches to diesel buses. We hereby present a few useful links and resources for navigating the hallways of your educational institution, whether it’s the local Kindergarten or a top-tier college.

Study up on the issues and think about whether your school makes the grade — then give yourself recess. You deserve it.

For the younger (swing)set

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Most of you organized parental types have no doubt finished buying school supplies, but in case you’re scrambling — or all the colored pencils mysteriously break at once — here’s our guide to greener back-to-school shopping and a rundown of materials to avoid and embrace. Think about whether you can buy less overall, and remember: shopping online is better than driving to the mall.

Now that your kiddo is stocked up and off to school, will the bus ride be a source of bad fumes? Visit EPA’s Clean School Bus USA site to find out more about the issue of diesel buses and what school districts are doing to address it.

The toxic fun doesn’t stop when the bus puts on its brakes: unhealthy schools across the country are dealing with a legacy of bad building decisions. Once again, our friends at the EPA have a thorough (if not very pretty) site dedicated to making schools healthier places. You can also visit the Healthy Schools Campaign for a look at the issues and solutions (and enter their photo contest!).

One more major component of your child’s day: school lunch. Today’s lunches are a pale, plastic-wrapped imitation of the hot lunches of yesteryear (which were nothing to write home about, but at least they involved vegetables). A growing contingent is pushing for healthier lunches, and Congress is taking up the Child Nutrition Act this fall. Don’t let them keep feeding your kids crap. Get involved today.

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And if you’re off to college …

Take a look at our list of the 20 greenest colleges in the U.S. If you’re going to one of them or another green-leaning school, good for you! If you missed the boat, you could always transfer … or better yet, check out our green campus special for inspiring profiles of student activists, tips for helping your school see the light, and handy links and resources for making this school year the greenest yet.

And keep an eye out for the newest Umbra Fisk video, coming soon: Umbra visits College of the Atlantic, the country’s first carbon-neutral school.

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