Living Almost Large wrote a blog post questioning whether a Prius is a good deal or just a status symbol. She compared mileage for several different cars to the Prius, and found that driving 12K miles per year, it would still take at least 6.5 years to make up the difference.
Some people questioned her methods (was she comparing to the right class of cars, how could she think that people only drive 12000 miles per year, etc.) and a few threw out the classic, “Maybe people are doing it for the environment and not to save money!” line.
I’m sure that some people buy a hybrid car because they hear it uses less gas and because they think that would help the environment. This is because most people don’t ever bother to research anything and simply swallow whatever information is given to the public by the manufacturers. After that, it becomes very hard to shake people’s faith in said information. Especially if they’ve already bought the product and bragged about it to their friends.
I discovered a similar effect when I wrote my posts on organic food. Even in the face of scientific proof (or no proof of difference), people aren’t willing to give it up. There is a “gut feeling” that foods made without chemicals must be better for our bodies and for the planet. Anything that says otherwise is a conspiracy from the big farm lobby.
Truthfully, I say buy whatever car you like, buy food from wherever you like. Just be informed about it. And don’t think that throwing your money at a problem is fixing it.
First of all, good luck buying a used Prius. I.e. you’ll be buying the car new, which goes against the best environmental advice: reduce, reuse, recycle. Worse is the report that says a Prius does more environmental damage than a Hummer. (I’m not here to debate the merits of the report. I have read the article and a bunch of other articles support or decrying its content. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of things wrong with the original study, but the combination of the nickel in the battery (which no article attempting to refute the original study ever brings up) and other factors mean that I have doubts about its environmental benefit.)
If you commute 25,000 miles per year, you could buy a hybrid car to lessen your environmental impact. Or you could live closer to work. You could downsize your house in the process. Sure, you’ll be crammed into a condo with only a little space, but that condo will take less energy for heat and electricity. You could even live close enough to walk to work. Now that’s what I call lessening your impact!
Most people will find a million excuses not to do this. They need more room, living close to work is too expensive, the schools are better where they are. Ergo, they throw money at the problem, buy a Prius, and brag about it to their friends who drive perfectly reasonable sedans. They don’t have to give anything up, they don’t have to change the way they live. All of the smug bragging rights, none of the effort.
Similarly, my problem with organic food has never been that I think it’s bad. Mainly, I just don’t see how it’s much better than conventional. Truthfully, if the organic lettuce at Trader Joe’s is green and the regular is sort of yellowish, I buy the organic. And vice versa. But even if organic tomatoes have 5% more flavanoids than regular (which was suggested by a recent study), what is that going to accomplish? Your problem isn’t that you’re eating conventionally-grown produce and geting 5% less flavanoids, it’s that you’re not eating the right kinds of foods. If you drink 5 Cokes per day, it doesn’t matter if it’s made with HFCS or organic cane sugar. Being healthy takes effort, and no amount of fish oil or supplements are going to do better than eating properly. (Full disclosure: I can often be heard complaining about how fat I feel as I eat a slice of cake. I am the very thing I’m complaining about. Doesn’t make it untrue.)
It’s easy to throw money at a problem. It’s harder to make meaningful choices that will have a much greater impact.
Do you agree? Or do you think that people won’t make the big effort so we should just be glad they make the smaller ones? Of it’s the latter, should they still be allowed to brag about it?