Sunday, November 05, 2006

Feeling Smug about Driving a Hybrid

The creators of South Park have seized upon the phenomena of hybrid owners feeling "smug" about themselves in an episode called "Smug Alert." As ridiculous as some aspects of the show are, I indeed have felt a sense of superiority by owning and driving a Prius.

I think it starts with the satisfaction that comes when people at the gas station ask what our miles per gallon are and I cheerfully reply "45 to 50." Or the affirmation of knowing that our contribution to carbon emissions (and therefore global warming) is less than regular cars. Or "sticking it" to Big Oil and the American car companies by choosing to put our money where our beliefs are. But most importantly, it proves that we are "champions of the environment."

But something has begun to bother me. I can't push away the inner voice that says: Is that all you can do? I now realize the glaring hypocrisy of considering myself an "environmentalist" strictly by what I drive. What about the rest of my life, not spent in the car? In our household, we don't compost or reuse ziplock sandwich bags. We throw lots of plastic things away and generate a full can of garbage every week. We leave lights on in rooms we aren't in and have an oil-burning furnace for heat. Within this year, we've taken enough airline flights to nullify the good we do by driving the Prius. (Figured HERE.)

For me, hybrid smugness has given way to considering my impact on the world. And it's something I can either live with or start to change. Driving a hybrid is a good step in dealing with the environmental problems of this planet but should not be considered the final one.

(Congrats to Dad for joining the hybrid nation. Welcome to the Smug Club.)

(UPDATE: And of course hats off to Duke who has owned a hybrid since 2001 and had "Insight" long before the rest of us to be kind to the Earth.)

1 comment:

Sean said...

From Sean:

I had a class where we studied marine diesel engines and for a lab report on emissions, we got a couple students' cars plus my motorcycle (you know the one) just for fun. Interestingly enough, my moto's CO2 output was off the charts (a mere fraction of our teacher's late model Honda Accord). Inspecting my bike I noticed, for the first time, there are no smog reducing features in my exhaust system - only a silencer for noise abatement.

One could argue that motorcycles are smaller engines and don't drive as many miles as cars, but my bike's engine displaces 1.1 liters (which isn't much smaller than many cars) and while, yes, I don't drive it as much as a typical commuter, I still log some serious annual mileage.

Long story short...I'm part of the problem.