Delaware’s ambitious goal to plant 1 tree for every resident

Delaware Gov. John Carney helps plant a tree at Lt. Joseph L. Szczerba Memorial Park

Delaware Gov. John Carney helps plant a tree at Lt. Joseph L. Szczerba Memorial Park near New Castle Tuesday morning as part of an effort to plant one tree for every resident in the state. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

In most states, planting a tree for every resident would be a monumental task.

State leaders in Delaware hope the state’s small size will make their new tree-planting mission more doable. But with the 2020 U.S. Census clocking the state’s population at just under one million, the goal is still daunting.

“This is something that we all can take part in, and it’s something that each of us can step up and do our part to help with climate and air quality and water quality,” said Shawn Garvin, Secretary of the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

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The program is called the Tree for Every Delawarean Initiative, or TEDI for short. The state is calling on residents to join in the effort.

Garvin gathered with other state leaders, including Gov. John Carney, at Lt. Joseph L. Szczerba Memorial Park near New Castle to do some planting of their own Tuesday morning.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Carney said, “about the opportunity to get out across our state and plant trees, and in doing so, address this existential challenge facing our state, our country, and the world.”

Urban forester Tayrn Davidson demonstrates the proper tree planting technique as Delaware Gov. John Carney and other state leaders look on at at Lt. Joseph L. Szczerba Memorial Park near New Castle
Urban forester Tayrn Davidson demonstrates the proper tree planting technique as Delaware Gov. John Carney and other state leaders look on. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

The effort fits in with Delaware’s Climate Action Plan, which Carney unveiled last week, to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and improve its resilience in the face of rising seas due to climate change.

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In addition to helping the environment, planting more trees can also benefit the health of Delawareans, said Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse.

“Research has shown that trees absorb 17.4 million tons of air pollutants a year, helping to prevent 670,000 cases of asthma or other acute respiratory symptoms annually,” Scuse said, citing a 2014 study published by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The state Forest Service has already been helping local communities and homeowners plant trees in neighborhoods throughout the state. “We’re already on track. This year alone, our foresters supervised the planting of more than 28,000 seedlings in communities across the state,” he said.

New Castle County has also partnered with the Forest Service to plant 700 trees on behalf of county residents as part of the TEDI effort.

“If you do the math, that means we have about 569,300 left to do in New Castle County,” County Executive Matt Meyer said of the number of trees planted compared to New Castle County’s population of about 570,000.

Residents can follow the state’s progress on its TEDI goal, and even upload information about where they’ve planted trees, at TEDI’s website. The site also offers tips on what types of trees grow best in the area and how to plant and care for the trees as they grow.

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