Doing Our Part to Reduce the Negative Effects of Light Pollution

Tony P

Doing Our Part to Reduce Light Pollution – Sources & Causes of Light Pollution, Effects of Light Pollution, and How We Reduce Light Pollution

Consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious when it comes to pollution. Of course, many responsible municipalities have encouraged the recycling of certain types of household materials by educating their citizens. Responsible homeowners take the time to separate their glass, plastic, paper and metal in order limit what goes into the landfills.

Fact is… The City of Edmonton is a world leader when it comes to Waste Management Technologies it has incorporated at its landfill sites. As a result, it has made it easier to reduce the cities carbon footprint.

Energy efficient appliances and lighting options, such as CFLs and LEDs have become the norm. Improved insulation, double and even triple-paned windows and more efficient heating and cooling systems make keeping cozy even more environmentally friendly. But one source of pollution has only recently begun to be acknowledged, and that’s the effects associated with Light Pollution.

So, before we go any further, let’s define the term associated with Light Pollution…

“Light That is Excessive or Escapes its Area of Intended Use”

Light Pollution just doesn’t receive the same exposure as other types of pollution and in most places, it is still entirely unregulated. But that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. At The Landscaping Lighting Company, we take the impact of Light Pollution very seriously! In an extended effort to be responsible and a leader in the effective management of this type of pollution, we place a lot of focus on our Landscape Lighting Designs. By doing so, we are able to do our part in reducing Light Pollution and the negative and destructive effects directly associated with it.

So What Does “Light Pollution” Look Like You May Ask?

Have you ever noticed the difference between looking up at the night sky in a city, compared to looking up at the night sky in the country? Ever wondered WHY the Northern Lights (Arora Borealis) look so much more vibrant and amazing in the country or remote places? It’s because…

“Of the Effects of Light Pollution

effects of light pollution - Edmonton Area

Light Pollution is also defined as…

“The Excessive, Invasive, or Misdirected Use of Artificial (manmade) Light

And it is a direct result of both interior and exterior lighting in highly populated areas such as Edmonton. When Light Pollution is bad enough, it has the ability to change the colour contrast of the night sky and eclipse natural starlight. It even disrupts the “circadian rhythm” (natural 24-hour cycle) of humans and wildlife.

You can really experience the impact of this effect when you are driving north on the QE2 from Red Deer. As you get closer to the City of Edmonton, the night sky takes on a much different look. It wasn’t that long ago that it used to have more of an “orange glow”, but with the evolution and advancement of the LED light bulb, street and building lights are now being replaced with LEDs. This result in the lights emitting more of a “white glow”. While there are many benefits associated with LED light bulbs compared with those of their counterparts, this type of light can have an even BIGGER impact on the night sky.

causes of light pollution - Edmonton AB

Unfortunately, as human populations spread and industrialize, the effects of Light Pollution continue to grow. If you look up at the night sky and don’t see a clear sky full of bright shining stars, it’s most likely because of low cloud cover, or…

You Live in a HUGE Bubble of Light Pollution

sources of light pollution - Edmonton Alberta

In addition to the negative effect of losing the darkness of the night sky, Light Pollution has a serious impact on the environment.

All that extra (poorly utilized) light translates into billions of watts of wasted electricity, which in turn result in the production of tons of additional and unnecessary carbon emissions being generated by the power stations.

Light Pollution also creates giant islands of light that disrupt wildlife and entire ecosystems. Nocturnal animals are the most drastically affected. Both predators and prey use darkness to their advantage, avoiding detection as they hunt or hide. By turning night into day, the food chain is drastically altered. Many animals also use the nighttime for breeding rituals. Depriving these species of darkness can alter their life cycles and reproduction.

Humans also suffer from Light Pollution. Like most other living things, humans function on a 24-hour natural cycle that is closely tied to the changing light of dawn, midday, dusk, and night. By altering the appearance of light, human physiology is altered, resulting in sleep disruptions, increased stress, and other physical and psychological maladies.

Light Fixtures That Decrease Light Pollution

Light Pollution can be greatly reduced by using the correct type of light fixtures for the purpose intended. The International Dark-Sky Association is the global leader in Light Pollution awareness. They have a great infographic that demonstrates “acceptable” versus “unacceptable” light fixtures. The most important feature of any approved light fixture is its ability to shield light from escaping upward and outward beyond its intended target.

At The Landscape Lighting Company, we use light fixtures that direct the light to the object that we want to illuminate, while minimizing the effect of escaping light.

There are two main ways to shield light. The first is to use Landscape Lighting Fixtures that have an adjustable “Cowell” or “Shield” that covers the lens. As a result, the light can be directed towards the intended object reducing the loss of light to unwanted areas, such as the night sky. This is the most basic form of shielding and should be a baseline for all Landscape Lighting decisions. Unshielded lights such as Flood Lights that were (and still are in some cases) used on Landscape Lighting Systems of the past, looked more like lights that belonged on a Boeing 747 than in a yard. At The Landscape Lighting Company, we come across these Dinosaur’s all of the time. They may be great for lighting up a Runway, Amusement Park or Commonwealth Stadium, but not so good in your front or backyard. These types of fixtures are a perfect example of Light Pollution and should be replaced or avoided at all costs!

The next step in preventing Light Pollution is to consider the “cutoff” of each light fixture. The cutoff of a light fixture is the angle beyond which no light can escape. A full cutoff would be a light that shines absolutely no light above a 90º angle from the light source. In other words, all light is directed downward and outward, with none escaping toward the sky. Full cutoff, with no glare above 90º, requires the effective area of lighting to be reduced to no more than an 80º angle from the source. Standard cutoff reduces the effective lighting area to within 90º of the light source but allows some light to escape upward. Semi-cutoff light fixtures allow a larger amount of light to escape upward but may have at least a small cap to keep some light pollution under control. Zero cutoff lights allow light to shine equally in all directions, including upward toward the sky. This is WHY…

“The Landscape Lighting Company Places a LOT of Focus on the Landscape Lighting Design and Light Fixture Selection Process”

Reduce Light Pollution by Utilizing the Correct Bulbs

The type of bulb we use also makes a big difference in controlling the negative effects of Light Pollution. Did you know… the most harmful Light Pollution is “Short Wavelength Blue Light”. Light doesn’t have to appear blue to have short wavelength light. Any light that appears “Cool” (has a lighting temperature of 4000K or more) is giving off a lot of Short Wavelength Light. Short wavelength Light scatters most easily into the atmosphere, causing the worst Light Pollution. Daylight also tends to be “Cooler”, so the greatest disruption to wildlife comes from light at 4000K or more. The ideal light to use outdoors is “warm” light (around 3000K). This light is less harsh on the eyes and less disruptive to wildlife, and as a result it is the preferred choice of The Landscape Lighting Company.

Responsible Landscape Lighting Practices that Reduce the effects of Light Pollution

Typically, outdoor lighting serves three primary functions: Utility, Security, and Beauty. By examining each of these three functions, we can determine the best way to adjust our use of light in order to reduce pollution. Utility is the function of outdoor lighting to make spaces useful and safe at night. For instance, lighting a deck, garden, pool area or another area of your property at night increases your usable OutdoorSpace and makes it safer to navigate. But just like you would turn the lights out in a room that you’re not using, there’s no need to light an area that you’re not using. Creating outdoor lighting that can be controlled in zones makes it possible to turn off lights that are not in use without turning off the whole system. One way to make sure you only have the lights on when you need them is to install motion sensors. The motion sensors make sure the lights go on when you’re present, but turn them off automatically when you leave.

Security is another significant benefit of outdoor lighting. Some lights should stay on all night in order to discourage any uninvited and unwanted visitors. But other lights, especially really bright lights, can be put on sensors. Anyone approaching your property will be welcomed by a flood of light. But the lights can turn off when you don’t need them.

The third function of outdoor lighting is Beauty. It’s the hardest to quantify. Of course, you want some lights to stay on all night to beautify your home and bring your OutdoorSpace to life after the sun goes down. But do you really need them on all night? Using a timer or pre-programmed schedule to shut the lights off once everyone is tucked into bed can save electricity and reduce the pollution associated with lights.

The Importance of Creating an Effective Landscape Lighting Design

One of the most significant ways we can reduce the negative effects of Light Pollution is by incorporating an environmentally conscious and responsible design. When you work with The Landscape Lighting Company, we commit to…

“Designing and Installing a Landscape Lighting System that Will… Direct Light Where You Want it, and Not Where You Don’t Want it”

To schedule your free, no-obligation outdoor lighting consultation, contact us today!

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