Anisa Heming has been working on making schools more sustainable for a decade and a half, now as director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington nonprofit. And she’s never seen a moment of opportunity quite like this. “It’s an out-of-body experience, honestly,” she said. “Communities are demanding it, federal money is here, and the districts that didn’t do the prep work are scrambling.”

Since President Joe Biden took office in early 2021, three different giant federal spending packages have passed: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act. Each includes grants and tax credits school districts can use to benefit the climate while also, typically, saving money in energy bills over time. There are billions and billions for boosting building efficiency; replacing boilers, ovens and other appliances with clean-running electric models; solar and battery installations; electric school buses; charging stations; and more.

In some cases, districts can make upgrades with no upfront cost at all.

Anya Kamenetz

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