The White House has announced a new multibillion-dollar federal push to renovate public schools in ways that are healthier both for children and the planet — and often, that save money, too.

As Vice President Kamala Harris put it, “In most school districts, the second-largest yearly expense after salaries is the energy bill.”

The funds are spread across several different agencies and programs, according to a report from NPR:

  • Heating and cooling upgrades: Studies show that schools are on deck to spend $9.7 billion of American Rescue Plan funds to upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems — something that became top of mind to curb the spread of COVID-19. More efficient HVAC systems could lower energy costs and emissions.
  • Cleaner transportation: A $5 billion rebate program from the Environmental Protection Agency will replace old, mostly diesel-fueled buses. Half the money is specifically for electric buses.
  • Carbon-free commuting: Some of the $90 billion in the Department of Transportation’s highway safety funds can be used to help with route planning so more students can walk or bike to school.
  • Lower power costs, more light: A $500 million Department of Energy grant program, paid for by the infrastructure law, can be used for things like LED lights, better insulation and solar panels.

According to Harris, many of these changes bring health benefits to students. Cleaner, fresher air in buildings and lower emissions from buses mean fewer asthma attacks and less severe allergies. And improved ventilation in school buildings lowers the risk of spreading some illnesses. Bike-friendly schools invite students to get more exercise. Better ventilation and more comfortable temperatures are consistently linked to better performance in school.

School leaders should keep in mind that greener renovations bring long-term savings, but sometimes have upfront costs. Still, it’s funding worth investigating.