Reducing one’s impact on the environment usually involves sacrifice, which isn’t always easy. But for local architect John Schiess, who recently acquired a Smart Car, it has been fun.

The eco-friendly two-seater was made available for purchase in the U.S. in January. Measuring a mere 106 inches in length, it has room for two and gets about 40 miles to the gallon on premium gas. Schiess purchased his Smart Car from Loeber Motors in Lincolnwood, one of only two dealerships in Illinois that sell it. Smart Cars are manufactured in France by a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, and begin at $12,000.

“There’s something about the whole package,” Schiess said. “I like how simple and efficient the car is.”

Schiess previously owned a Porsche sport-utility vehicle, and sold it when he received his Smart Car on July 3. His SUV, he said, was wasteful and too big. He “didn’t feel right” about owning such an inefficient vehicle.

According to Josh Dreyer, brand manager at Loeber Motors, there is a one-year waiting list for the Smart Car. The number of reservations made in the U.S. is greater than the production, Dreyer explained. And if someone wants to test-drive the car, they have to call a week in advance.

“It’s a fun car. People are falling in love with it,” Dreyer said.

A year and half ago, Schiess was influenced by his son, an environmental studies student at Indiana University, to change the vision of his architecture firm. The result was MiGreen Home, which aims to design green and sustainable homes. This change was the first in what Schiess and his wife hope to be a series of lifestyle changes that reflect what he called “eco-responsible living.”

And as Schiess has discovered, being responsible has its unexpected perks. Just recently, a group of tourists from California asked Schiess if they could take pictures of themselves seated in his car; Schiess happily obliged. When he’s on the road, there seems to be no end to the number of compliments he receives from other drivers.

“I like the notoriety I get when I’m driving,” Schiess said. “People always have nice things to say about it.”

And while Schiess is thoroughly happy with his purchase, he’s still getting used to its compact size.

“I can’t tow anything, but there’s something good even in that,” Schiess said. “It’s forcing me to rethink how much stuff I need around me.”

Hybrids, electric and natural gas powered cars, bicycles, scooters and other compact vehicles are taking over the roads. Amy Rita, chairman of the Forest Park Fire and Police Commission, has owned a Vespa for almost six years. Up until a few years ago, she seemed to be the only owner of a scooter in the area, she said. Now, people are “zipping all over the place in them,” said Rita.

Because of its light weight, the Vespa gets about 80 miles to the gallon. Rita has driven her Vespa as far as Orland Park and Wheaton. She owns an SUV, but only drives it in the winter. As soon as the snow melts, she’s back on her scooter.

“It’s the best thing I ever bought,” Rita said. “It’s my prized possession. I take it everywhere I go.”