I want a SmartCar because they are so freaking cute! It’s like a little golf cart with windows and a stereo (they do have stereo’s, right?). They come in colors previously found only in bags of Skittles, and I know there has to be tiny raised circles across the top with Lego embossed on them. I want one like I want world peace and six-pack abs.

So I attempt to justify the purchase. It would save money, use less gas, save the environment, and I could park anywhere. I would drive around town flaunting my “green-ness,” which is very trendy right now. So what if the reason I want one is purely selfish — it would still be an environmentally conscious act and I should get credit for that, right?

I recently had an online discussion about being green — the environmentally sensitive type of green, not the vomiting or Kermit variety. The question was raised, “What is the difference between being ‘green’ and just being cheap?” Being “green,” according to some, is connected to a state of mind. If you refill your water bottle because you don’t want to pay for something that flows free, you’re cheap. But if you announce to the world that you are environmentally friendly while you refill, you become a member of the elite and wise who condescend to share the planet with all the wasters and SUV drivers.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s possible that I’m a member of that club — I might even be treasurer. I own non-motorized boats and bikes, carpool whenever possible, reuse grocery bags, and vacation in my own yard. I even walk to church.

But I also know that using huge tractors and machines, along with millions of gallons of water, to grow corn so I can drive around in my bio-fuel car and feel cheery about myself is just plain stupid. I know that charging an electric car requires something, somewhere, to generate energy — and that all these cars are built in huge factories with electric lights, electric equipment and electric refrigerators full of Diet Coke.

I’m afraid the “green” state of mind might be undermining our effectiveness. In an effort to jump on the bandwagon, we don’t always consider the whole effect of our actions. Solving one problem by creating 3 more isn’t a wise use of our resources or brains. But, as Americans, we’re often more interested in the popularity of environmentalism than the actual state of the earth. We want something that will clean up the mess we made, but only if it looks totally cute driving around town.

It’s unlikely I will ever own a SmartCar. My husband won’t fit in one, and I would still need a whole parking space at UVU, even if I only use one-third of it. Just as well. It might be better for the planet if we all put a little less value on being trendy and a little more on just being smart.