My husband and I recently purchased a new refrigerator. This is how I know I’m getting old(er) — I get excited about new kitchen appliances. We opted to go with an LG Wi-Fi-enabled model. I can connect to the refrigerator through LG’s ThinkQ app. My favorite thing about this refrigerator is that I get monthly sustainability reports telling me how many ounces of water we consume. Last month, we drank 2,076 ounces, or the equivalent of saving 123 plastic water bottles from the trash. Not too shabby! It also sends reminders for when to change the air and water filters, as well as reports on energy usage and can break down how often the refrigerator/freezer door was open monthly, weekly or even daily. Modern technology is so cool.

I bring up my new refrigerator to note that every manufacturer in every industry is pushing toward more sustainable product offerings. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the automobile industry, kitchen appliance industry or construction, sustainability is the biggest trend. If you don’t believe me, just look at the Super Bowl last month as an example.

The Super Bowl is always the most-watched event in the United States, and nearly 100 million people were have estimated to turn in last month. With so many captive viewers before, during and after the game, advertisers use the annual sporting event as a means of raising awareness for their products. This year, that meant spending an average $6.5 million for a 30-second slot, according to Statista. And in 2022, the Super Bowl aired the most climate-related advertisements of any Super Bowl ever, with most of them focused on electric vehicles as well as an ad for electric charging technology, according to this TIME magazine article. There was even an advertisement for POWERHOME SOLAR in my market area.

And now, President Joe Biden has issued an executive order and Federal Sustainability Plan that will put the U.S. federal government on a path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which includes directives for federal buildings and facilities to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 through energy efficiency, electrification and use of carbon-free electricity along with sustainability principles.

Buildings are some of the largest energy consumers and carbon contributors, consuming more than one-third of energy and emitting nearly 40% of all carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A GSA study shows that federal efforts to develop green buildings and facilities have reduced carbon emissions and cut operational costs. GSA has calculated that high-performing buildings have 23% lower energy usage; 28% lower water usage; 23% lower building operating expenses; 9% less waste landfilled; and higher overall tenant satisfaction.

Perhaps the push toward sustainable federal buildings will set the example for the rest of the United States. However, many building owners still don’t want to pay the higher associated costs with opting for these types of sustainable technologies over the more traditional fossil fuel variety, according to a poll PM Engineer conducted on during the month of January. The poll questioned readers whether clients are willing to pay more for greener, more sustainable — and often more expensive — building systems. According to the results, only 25% said, yes, clients are asking for these types of systems; 34% responded that clients were willing to pay once engineers showed a reasonable ROI; and 41% said no, clients were not willing to spend more money.

With the federal government moving the needle forward, now is the perfect time for plumbing and mechanical engineers to advise clients that they may want to consider spending the up-front costs now before the government decides to start mandating it.