When my beloved Honda Accord with about 170,000 miles on it finally started breaking down from far too frequent trips to the airport, Wendy and I decided it was time walk the talk and replace it with a hybrid. We did some family research on the matter, talked a lot about why we were making this decision, and narrowed our choices (as if there were a slew) to a Civic Hybrid or a Prius. After a few weeks of scanning the inventories of Cars.com and Vehix, we finally found an appealing, little-used Prius about 30 miles away that we picked up just in time for our Thanksgiving drive to see family in Connecticut.

Almost immediately we were addicted to watching the usage display that relays to the second information about gas consumption and average miles per gallon. On our 150 or so mile jaunt up here, we averaged just over 48 miles per gallon, and I found myself thinking hard about what I could do to increase it. The most obvious was to slow the heck down. When we got stuck in traffic for a few miles, our average started moving north. (I’m not sure if I’ll ever get close to the mid-fifties that are advertised.) Over the next couple of days in around town driving, I’ve been learning a great deal from this constant data feed, and I can already feel my driving habits shifting. (I’ll be leaving earlier for the airport today.) Dare I say it, it’s almost like a video game, trying to nudge the numbers higher as we go.

I keep wondering what an effect just a display like that in every car, one much more simple than the Prius has, perhaps just a LCD readout of mpg at any given moment would have on gas consumption from driving. Probably not as much as $4 or $5 for a gallon of gas, I’m sure, which sounds like where we’re headed. But still, I think it would probably have a pretty big impact.

But despite the fact that we can now fill up our car for less than $30 even on an empty tank, the best part is being able to add this to the lengthening list of choices we’ve made to try to lessen our footprint on the Earth, to the pellet stoves and compost bins and low flush toilets and consignment shop clothes and just reduced consumption in general and more. While I’m not convinced that the personal actions of individuals are enough to overcome the general environmental pillage of big companies and big countries (my visit to Shanghai really shook my faith), and while we are in no way close to perfect in these matters, if nothing else I hope it models for my own kids that everything we buy, everything we do at any given moment is a choice that has an effect on things larger than ourselves.

(Photo by BeigeAlert)

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