Ory Zik: Measuring sustainability by the gallon

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

This week's conversation was with Ory Zik, Founder and CEO of a Cambridge, Mass.-based start-up called Energy Points. In 2010, while running his solar thermal company, HelioFocus, Ory started to notice a big hole in the conceptual understanding of environmental sustainability. He observed that people had a propensity to describe sustainability in adjectives rather than numbers, leaving the basic understanding of one's environmental impact quite nebulous. So he created a point system (and a company around it) based on rigorous quantitative analysis to simplify things. And it's catching on. We talked about his company, why it's working, and plans for the future.

Ory says:

"When people think about their impact on the environment, they don't have a number system like calories or weight watchers point where they can quantify their activity intuitively."

Until now.

How does it work? Energy Points converts all environmental resource domains (including heating oil, electricity, water, transportation, etc.) into a unit of measurement that is universally recognized -- a gallon of gasoline. One Energy Point, for instance, equals the primary energy value of a gallon of gasoline.

As discussed on their Web site and further explained by Ory,

Ory Zik"Both location and time are assigned a value that we call EPG (energy per gallon), thus making the results intuitive, in analogy similar to the well-known MPG. Consumption divided by EPG equals the EP footprint, because familiarity and consistency are essential for inducing behavioral change. EPG takes into account location-specific factors, such as local energy mix (coal, hydro, natural gas, wind, etc) and contributing factors, such as scarcity, to enable accurate location-based decisions. The results are then presented in tandem with the financial metrics that are typically known."

The practical implications of this calculation allows corporate decision makers to best choose the most effective projects within their sustainability budgets. As is often the case, sustainability professionals when tasked with a lighting retrofit or an energy management system, are often in a quandary about what makes the most sense in terms of saving money and even if the project is actually truly sustainable. This eliminates the guesswork and as Ory puts it, "helps companies get the best sustainability bang for the buck."

Energy Points has completed a rigorous backend and created an intuitive front end that is garnering the attention of Fortune 500s and sustainability consultants alike who are able to utilize these calculations to support their work.

A universal metric to measure sustainability. I think they are on to something.

George Papoulias edited this podcast


Gas can photo via Shutterstock.