The wife and I recently made a fairly difficult decision about where to send our 6-year-old to school for first grade next year. We had the following dilemma: he tested into the gifted program at our neighborhood school, but he also tested into the highly gifted program, which is run at a school across town.

Our neighborhood school is quite nice, and to boot, once he’s old enough he could easily walk or bike there. It would be nice to have easy access to after-school events, volunteer opportunities, etc. And on a philosophical level, we both believe it’s worthwhile to support schools, businesses, etc. in your own walkshed.

However! At the highly gifted program across town, he would be learning two grade levels ahead of his peers. He would be surrounded by smart kids and free of the stigma that occasionally comes from being bookish and intelligent. All the parents at the school are highly involved and philosophically simpatico. And (embarrassing to say, but real) he’d be on a track to get into better high schools and eventually better colleges, which would be helpful since he’s going to be president some day. Or a Nobel-winning scientist. His choice.

However! The highly gifted program is at a school that’s waaay across town. He’d probably be on the bus an hour both ways. That’s two hours on a bus every day … ugh. We could drive him (or carpool) some days, but it would be fairly inconvenient. And then there’s getting there for after-school events, meetings, extra-curricular activities, PTA meetings … ugh again.

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Anyway! Ultimately we decided to send him across town. And when we decided that, we started thinking, “Hm, we don’t want to make that trip over and over again in our big ol’ minivan. Maybe it’s time to buy a smaller, fuel-efficient car. Wonder how much that fully electric Nissan Leaf is gonna cost …”

Nissan LeafNissan Leaf fully electric car

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Happily for us, Nissan has just announced Leaf pricing, and it’s lower than generally expected. Including all federal tax credits, the base Leaf model will run about $26,000 (less than a Prius). If you live in California or Georgia (wha?), you can get an additional $5,000 credit, which brings the total almost down to $20K. The 220-volt home charging station runs $2,200, which includes installation, though it looks like we can get one for free as part of a federal incentive program along the I-5 corridor. Lots more on the ins and outs of the Leaf and its pricing can be found at Autopia and AutoBlogGreen.

I run through all this not just to air out my private dilemmas, but as a kind of illustration of how decisions about sustainability and mobility are made “in the field.” Yes, the carbon footprint of our commute is a big factor for us. So is the general principle that building up and supporting your own neighborhood/community is important. But those are not the only considerations. They never are.

Anyway: given that we’re sending our child on an atmosphere-destroying trip across town every day … should we buy a Leaf?