Soccer moms, taco shops, even real estate developers – mainstream America is starting to pull the plug and rely on homegrown solar energy. Call it the dawn of the hygrid age.

In the old days, being green meant being hardcore. Earnest enviros plugged their poky electric cars into the wall like four-wheeled toaster ovens. They bought organic food at dusty co-ops staffed by vegan clerks in hemp ponchos. And if they were really serious, they disconnected from planet-ravaging modernity altogether and lived in a creaky cabin off the grid.

Today, hardcore has given way to hybrid. Soccer moms tool around in the Toyota Prius, with its nifty gas-electric engine that saves both fossil fuel and family funds. The suburbs are stuffed with flexitarians – mostly-veggies who pick up their staples from the gleaming organic produce section at the local Whole Foods but also opt for an occasional free-range-chicken breast.

Now come the first stirrings of what may be the most telling sign of this shift from hardcore to hybrid: people who are both middle of the road and off the grid. Across the US some 185,000 households have switched from the local power company to their own homegrown, renewable energy. The fastest-growing segment of this population – their ranks are doubling each year – isn’t doing a full Kaczynski. Sure, these folks are slapping solar panels on the roof and erecting the occasional wind turbine, but they’re staying connected to the grid, just to be safe. And in many cases, they’re operating as mini-utilities, selling excess electricity back to the power company. Just as their cars aren’t kludgy and their food isn’t flavorless, their homes aren’t drafty or dimly lit. Call them hygridders. And look for them soon in a neighborhood near you. Because – trendmeisters, take note – hygrid is the new Prius.

By Daniel H. Pink

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