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What’s the most carbon-neutral way to road trip from Arizona to Panama? While walking might seem like the obvious choice, that would be a considerably long walk. Fortunately, The Clean Cruiser Project had another idea.

Embark on a 60-day road trip to Panama behind the wheel of two restored Land Cruisers. But what makes the trip carbon-neutral? The Clean Cruiser Project planted trees to neutralize the vehicles’ carbon emissions along the way.

A photo of a small town in Panama
A small town in Panama | Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images for National Geographic

What is The Clean Cruiser Project?

In 2017, friends Nathan Stuart and Steve Ploog decided to take six weeks off to get behind the wheel of two restored Land Cruisers and drive to Panama. The pair chose to make the trip in two Land Cruisers they’d spent over a year restoring.

While the two didn’t consider themselves environmental activists at the time, they knew the road trip would leave behind a considerable carbon footprint. Then, came an idea.

“After a few calculations, Nate and I discovered that by planting less than 200 trees in the lush rainforests of Central America, we could offset the emissions produced by our vehicles. That blew me away. It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Ploog explained in an interview with Expedition Portal.

With that revelation, Stuart and Ploog began to plan their road trip. To prove to other drivers that they can travel recreationally and still be environmentally conscious, the duo would plant trees along the way.

Road-tripping behind the wheel of a restored Land Cruiser

While Ploog drove a 1979 BJ 40, Stuart opted to drive a 1982 BJ42 Land Cruiser for the trip. To power the vehicles, they teamed up with Cummins, which provided them with an R2.8 Cummins Turbo Diesel engine.

On the trip, the pair used biodiesel to fuel their Land Cruisers. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or even cooking grease. Cummins says its engines have been able to use B20 biodiesel blends since 2008.

“We hope to inspire individuals to get out and enjoy all that our world has to offer,” the two men told Cummins. “We want to prove that you can enjoy recreational travel and still be environmentally conscious.” 

The pair kickstarted their trip in Stuart’s hometown, with their first stop at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff, Arizona. From there, they drove their Land Cruisers to Mexico. In the end, Stuart and Ploog drove through a total of seven countries as part of their carbon-neutral road trip.

How many trees did The Clean Cruiser Project plant?

The Clean Cruiser Project says it planted more than 600 trees to offset the carbon emissions produced by their two Land Cruisers. They also received a significant number of donations to help fund ongoing reforestation efforts.

The Clean Cruiser Project has gone above and beyond its road trip to continue supporting reforestation efforts too. By partnering with organizations like Kanan Kab, Air Guatemala, and Ecosia & Fundacióndia, The Clean Cruiser Project stays true to its mission to neutralize its vehicles’ carbon emissions.

How can you help?

The Clean Cruiser Project strives to promote eco-conscious travel and certainly proved with its pair of Land Cruisers that its possible to be an eco-conscious traveler. With driving being a culprit for leaving behind a carbon footprint, you might be wondering how you can reduce your carbon footprint when embarking on your next road trip.

According to Terrapass, making sure your car is in good condition is a quick and easy way to lessen your carbon footprint. Equip your vehicle with a clean air filter, and make sure your tires are adequately inflated.

Terrapass also recommends packing lightly and planning out your route ahead of time. And if you’re able to rent a car for your next road trip? Consider opting for a hybrid or plug-in model.