Whereas conspicuous consumption is meant to signal how much green you’ve got, conspicuous conservation signals how green you are. Like carrying that “I’m not a plastic bag” bag, or installing solar panels on the side of your house facing the street -- even if that happens to be the shady side.
During extensive interviews with early hybrid vehicle adopters in California, Heffner et al.  found that symbolism was important to hybrid owners. One interview subject said his Prius “made a statement” to others and that the Civic Hybrid communicated symbolism less effectively than the Prius. The authors reported that most of the individuals they interviewed had “only a basic understanding of environmental issues or the ecological benefits of HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles),” but “bought a symbol of preserving the environment that they could incorporate into a narrative of who they are or who they wish to be.” In addition, anecdotal evidence from popular media reports and opinion surveys lends credence to theories of status seeking among Prius owners (see for instance Maynard and Bunkley 2007-07-04).
The investigators believe that a “licensing effect” might be at work. “When we engage in a good deed, that gives us a kind of satisfaction,” says Nina Mazar, professor of marketing and a co-author of the paper. With that self-satisfied feeling can come tacit permission to behave more selfishly next time we have the opportunity, Mazar says. Previous research has documented this licensing effect in other contexts; a study published last year revealed that asking people to ruminate on their humanitarian qualities actually reduced their charitable giving.
And the Prius drivers of Los Angeles continue to make a horrible name for themselves, reinforcing a negative and misleading stereotype that drivers of hybrid cars are elitist, arrogant, and self-aggrandizing. Honestly, if you see a Prius driver in L.A., chances are you’re not dealing with a socially and environmentally sensitive individual. Rather, you’re just seeing another typical Angeleno concerned about image and false perceptions of global awareness. “Like, I care about the universe! I donate to soup kitchens! Oh my God…what is that whore wearing?”
Original ad:if anyone wants a ride from baltimore to nyc tomorow let me know! i am driving up there sometime tomorow afternoon and would be glad to help someone out if they want to throw up some money for gas. i drive a hybrid, so i wont need much! From Mike Partlow to *************@*********.org
Hello,I do need a ride to New York tomorrow. That would be great. My only concern is the fact that you drive a hybrid car. I don't want to give people the idea that I care about the environment. Do you have another, more manly car that we could ride up in? I really don't want to be seen in a hybrid. I'll gladly compensate you for gas.Mike
From christine ********* to Meno all i have is my hybrid. what is the big deal, who cares what people think? u should be glad to help the enviroment!
From Mike Partlow to christine **********I'm sorry Christine but it isn't the 60's anymore. People aren't a bunch of earth-saving hippies that run around and hug trees anymore. Does your car have tinted windows? I really don't want to be seen riding in that bitch-mobile. My only request is that you stop by a lake somewhere so I can dump a can of motor oil in it, to make up for all of the earth that your car will be saving. Don't worry, I'll pay for the motor oil.Mike
From christine ********* to Mewtf is wrong with u! im not giving u a ride ur a jerk!!!From Mike Partlow to christine **********Well I am sorry you won't have the privilege of riding with me. Fortunately for me, I found a better, more badass ride to NYC. I'll be sure to wave at your crappy little hybrid as we pass you in our F-350, spraying cans of aerosol out the window and throwing empty six-pack holders into the sea. Mike