Lights Out! How to Combat Light Pollution with Sustainable Design
April 26, 2017 AD&V
Light Pollution

It’s annoying; it can be dangerous; it changes the natural life cycle of humans and wildlife.

It’s artificial light going in all directions and getting into areas where it shouldn’t be, to begin with.

You’ve seen it before. It’s all around us, in the form of city lights, creating a halo around the skyline. Or in the illumination outside certain buildings to make them seem notorious and important.

On highways, it’s those bright digital billboards that distract you from driving safely and even hurt your eyes. At home, it’s that annoying light coming from your neighbor’s patio that creeps in through the window and makes it hard to fall asleep.

It’s called light pollution and it affects us all.  It’s also the reason why you can’t see as many stars in the city as you see in the countryside.

Although little is discussed about light pollution outside of environmental advocate circles, sustainable design plays an important role in reducing light pollution. This is because light pollution is often the result of poor design, poor planning, or both.

Excessive use of artificial light should be brought to the forefront of public economic discussions because it is a waste of energy and money. Reducing light pollution through sustainable design contributes to fewer carbon emissions generated by burning fossil fuels to produce energy. In turn, this helps save taxpayer’s money, and more importantly, save the planet.

sustainable design

How to Reduce Light Pollution

Sustainable design raises important questions that challenge the way buildings and communities are developed and proposes smarter, more efficient ways to do the same.

For instance, a commonly used sustainable design tactic to tackle light pollution in public places is “cutting off horizontal light”. In other words, selecting lighting fixtures that direct the light downwards, where it’s needed, rather than it spreading out to the sides or even up, where it’s wasted.

Another staple of sustainable design to reduce light pollution is placing exterior lighting only in places where it’s required for safety and comfort. Additionally, it should have automatic controls that turn off lighting at scheduled times when it won’t be in use, as well as motion sensors that activate it when needed.

Although design professionals who are versed in sustainable design principles can guide you and provide the correct technical specifications to avoid additional light pollution, you don’t have to be an architect or a designer to help save the planet and make smarter selections.

Many principles of sustainable design can be applied right at home.

sustainable design

Here’s a list of simple practices you can apply now to reduce light pollution:

  1. Reduce and remove any unnecessary lighting from your exterior spaces.
  2. When selecting lighting fixtures, pay attention to their design and where they direct the light and make sure your selections direct light where needed.
  3. Install motion-sensitive lighting or retrofit your existing fixtures with motion sensors.
  4. Use more efficient light bulbs. LED’s use less energy than regular halogen bulbs and provide similar quantities of light. Plus, they last longer, are dimmable and provide better color varieties than fluorescent lights. Win-win-win.
  5. Do as your mom said: Turn the lights off when you leave the room.
  6. Share the knowledge! Many sustainable light principles can easily be applied by the everyday consumer. It just requires developing an awareness and interest in these topics. Help educate others about light pollution and its negative effects on our health and planet!

As Earth Month draws to a close, let’s act now with our everyday actions and buying decisions.

Our planet is at a crossroads. The science is clear. Saving it is up to us.


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