Mark Chung of Verdigris: “I think parents lead by examples”

By involving yourself in sustainability and the environment, and by putting your time and effort there, you can educate your children on how you value your time. Ask where you spend your time and what do you spend your efforts on? Ex. Join a company that has put this effort to sustain humanity into their […]

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By involving yourself in sustainability and the environment, and by putting your time and effort there, you can educate your children on how you value your time. Ask where you spend your time and what do you spend your efforts on? Ex. Join a company that has put this effort to sustain humanity into their values or primary objectives.

As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Chung.

Mark Chung is cofounder & CEO of Verdigris, a company combating the $200B Building Energy Waste problem. Mark is a seasoned engineer with more than 25 years of experience. In his career, Mark has served as principal engineer at a number of famed Silicon Valley startups including NexGen (acq. AMD), Pasemi (acq. Apple), RMI, and NetLogic (acq. Broadcom). Mark holds BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He formed Verdigris with his brother Thomas Chung and Jonathan Chu.

Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?

When our son was born in 2010, I felt a dramatic shift in my perception of time and my own mortality. It triggered an idea of wanting to solve problems that most impacted my son’s generation.

Soon after he was born, I was reflecting on a project that my co-founder Jon Chu and I had worked several weekends on to figure out where my electricity bill had gone haywire for a few months jumping from ~$80/mo to > $500/mo in my house. After much trial and error, we had prototyped a kind of deep packet inspection and made a startling discovery about how every device in my home registered a unique signature. Ultimately after understanding it was a failed pump and after my son was born, I started to dig into how the problem of these phantom loads and the unknown electricity waste, and discovered the problem amounted to some 15% of carbon pollution, much larger than I’d originally thought.

I realized at that moment that we should do something with our technology capability to help the next generation and focus on improving building energy efficiency.

Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?

As a chip designer with a device physics and algorithms background, I really didn’t think about how I could have a direct impact on the environment outside of making sure I use LED bulbs and recycle. I was surprised to find that it just takes a willing attitude to make a contribution. When you start on that path, you’ll find many ways you can contribute your skills even if it’s only a small contribution at first. Ask yourself where your skills add value and then be willing to just do it and be willing to make mistakes and to learn. The journey starts with one first step.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Verdigris is focused on bringing transparency to electricity usage in order to make it easy to understand and identify where waste is happening, and help automate away these inefficiencies by integrating into other control systems and using AI to search for optimal settings dynamically. Real world examples at Jabil, T-Mobile and Hyatt have shown our systems can greatly reduce electrical waste and carbon pollution, in some cases by as much as 50%, as well as make it possible for their systems to be automated so they can easily maintain that reduction.

Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?

Sleep 8 hours every day and exercise. It will help humans perform at an optimal level. This optimal performance will result in awareness of sustainability and create more innovative solutions to an existing problem that affects all humans.

Read and become informed every day about the world around us. I think that information and knowledge will help our collective intelligence be creative in solving climate change.

Turn off the lights when you leave the room.

Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

I think parents lead by examples.

By involving yourself in sustainability and the environment, and by putting your time and effort there, you can educate your children on how you value your time. Ask where you spend your time and what do you spend your efforts on? Ex. Join a company that has put this effort to sustain humanity into their values or primary objectives.

If you can’t directly contribute either through your work or through volunteering, think about the way your actions contribute daily toward improving that common purpose of sustainability. Show your kids what you do. Ex. If you work at McDonalds, show how you put recycling bins everywhere and explain to your kids why this is important.

Help your kids understand a causal link between our behaviors on the planet and the impact to society and their generation, by regular conversation. Ex. When you sit down and have dinner with your family, you could share a story on how you helped the planet today, ask each family member to give an example and help them build a habit of daily contribution.

When you learn about interesting discoveries of climate impact, link it to their interests and then explore with them. For example, did you know that sea turtles’ gender is determined by the temperature of the sand their eggs are buried in ? Involve your kids in the world around them. Evidence of climate change is everywhere. What will happen to sea turtles in the coming years?

Forget all of the above and just focus on building a strong, inclusive moral foundation for your kids. A compassionate, responsible next generation that views us as a human family will understand the link between humankind and our fate on this planet and help shape our response.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

By being efficient in your operations, you can simultaneously be more sustainable and more environmentally impactful. For example, imagine you are a factory and you need to run on electricity. If you are more efficient and require less electricity, you simultaneously become a more profitable business and have lower environmental impact. I also believe consumers care deeply about wanting to have an impact. So by sharing the ways in which you are doing that as a business, you can drive greater customer value and enable a larger market. Ex. T-Mobile, one of our clients who has realized the importance of sustainability, is now moving to 5G, which has made them significantly more profitable and competitive in the market.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are too many people to thank along the way in my own journey. Teachers, friends, employees, mentors, investors, etc. However, I am probably most grateful to my partner Uerica and to our kids. Without Uerica’s encouragement, willingness to sacrifice her own comfort and provide financial and emotional support, it would have been nearly impossible to leave my high-paying and secure job, and take the risks moving into the unknowns of this industry. And without my kids, I wouldn’t have been inspired to contribute as meaningfully to a next generation.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Mindset of the unlimited growth of human potential.

This mindset has changed my perspective on so many things and it provides fuel for me daily to meet the challenges of our work. I think it’s fundamental to our ability to meet and solve the problems of tomorrow.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

“We’ve not inherited this planet from our parents, we’ve borrowed it from our children.” -P. Mishra

This quote speaks to me because I’ve been instilled with the value of duty and responsibility to my family and the way I show my love to my children is by spending my time on this problem.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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