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Our Climate Journey with Michael Mazgaloff

“I want to leave the world at least as good as I found it, not worse, hopefully better. We have to preserve what we have and regenerate what we use.”

Michael Mazgaloff
Senior Director, Financial Planning & Analysis

Michael Mazgaloff is Senior Director of Financial Planning & Analysis at Zum and has been with the company since September 2021. Born and raised in Bulgaria, Michael graduated from the Air Force academy with major in Aeronautical Engineering and was an officer of Bulgarian Air Force before relocating to the U.S. He holds an MBA in Finance from the Lam Family College of Business at San Francisco State University, and previously covered pricing and products for United Airlines. An expert in FP&A, Michael is an invaluable part of Zum’s team.

1. Sustainability

At Zum, we’re revolutionizing student transportation in order to build a green, sustainable future. What does sustainability mean to you?

Well, at a global level, sustainability is our capacity to preserve and maintain natural resources, which aren’t infinite. Personally, I’m the father of three kids. I want to leave the world at least as good as I found it, not worse, hopefully better. We have to preserve what we have and regenerate what we use.

Electrification—of transportation, of cities, of infrastructure—is a step in the right direction, but there are also many hidden costs associated with. It’s very land- and resource-intensive to dig up precious minerals for EV batteries. We have to recycle our batteries.

Ultimately, everyone can make small sacrifices and contribute. I have a fireplace that I haven’t used in 10 years. It’s a tiny thing, but if everyone gave up wood-burning fireplaces, we’d be in a much better place. And we have to get kids learning about the environment earlier. Our children should have the option of studying environmental science as early as possible.

2. Climate Change

Climate change is the single greatest threat to our way of life, but it can sometimes feel abstract, far away, a problem for another time. How has climate change affected you personally?

I’ve lived in California for the past twenty years. I remember when the weather was normal. Yes, El Niño came every couple of years, but now we have extreme weather all the time.

I’m an avid skier. It used to be that Tahoe would open every year at Thanksgiving with enough snow to last through July 4th. Now, we’re lucky if we get snow on Christmas. Normal seasonal weather patterns are now the exception. We have dry periods, droughts followed by wildfires, kids breathing orange smoke. I live in a canyon where there’s one road in and out. Few big trees fall across that road because of violent rainfall and erosion, and you’re stuck there for a day or two.

To me, climate change is very immediate. And of course, it’s not just California but a global challenge and should be addressed as such.

3. Leadership

What can Zum do to be a leader in sustainability, to spearhead the charge in the fight against climate change?

First and foremost, Zum should continue setting an example. By electrifying our bus fleets, we are creating a roadmap for other companies to follow in our footsteps. If we show the world that you can make money by transitioning away from fossil fuels, then others will follow. That’s when manufacturers start to pay attention, and supply picks up, meaning prices go down and electrified transportation gets more and more affordable. That’s the virtuous circle we need, harnessing the power of the market for good.

Zum also needs to continue being involved in conversations with the local, state, and federal government. We’re doing it now, and have to keep pushing. EV adoption is growing, but let’s not stop there. Could we change the school transportation regulations so that we can put solar panels on top of our EV school buses and harness energy even when on the road? Zum is at the forefront of electrification and innovation. I want us to stay there.