As our cities grow larger and our lights get brighter, many urban and suburban areas are losing their view of the night sky. Light pollution even keeps us from seeing the Milky Way during summer nights. In January 2018, Fountain Hills responded to this problem and became the world’s 17th International Dark Sky Community.
Although municipal lighting codes are vital for dark sky preservation, homeowners can also take steps to minimize their contribution to light pollution. Use these simple and inexpensive tips:
- Shielded lighting. Light fixtures should shield the light to direct it downward where it is needed and prevent it from polluting the sky with scattered light.
- Warmer color temperature. New LED technology gives us warmer colored lights that are easier on the eyes and reduce light scatter. Cool temperature lights can cause temporary night blindness for drivers and disrupt melatonin levels that affect healthful sleep. They also scatter light from air particles, adding to our light pollution.
- Avoid uplighting. Landscaping lights that point upward to illuminate trees and buildings are an unnecessary culprit of light pollution. Illuminate your yard with creative positioning and fixtures for a pleasing effect that is environmentally sensitive.
- Control lighting. Separately zoned lights with timers, motion sensors, and dimmers allow lights to be on only when needed or to be turned down as necessary.
- Refrain from light trespassing. Many municipalities restrict light that trespasses onto a neighbor’s property or into the street. Better light positioning and shielding keep light right where you want it.
Light pollution has been linked to endangering wildlife and harming human health. Wildlife becomes disoriented in navigating direction and knowing day from night. Human circadian rhythms (wakefulness and sleep) become disrupted and cancer risk is increased. Smart lighting practices protect our health as much as it does the views of the night sky.
When it comes to safety, the Chicago Alley Lighting Project found that when alley lighting was increased from 90-watts to 250- watts, crimes in those areas increased. Smart lighting directs light to where it is needed and creates a wonderful balance between safety and starlight.
Dark sky-compliant lighting is not about diminishing safety or aesthetics, but about smarter practices for better health, a better environment, and a chance for future generations to enjoy a view of the stars.
For more information about dark sky-friendly lighting and the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association, visit http://fhdarksky.com/