pollution you think of, but it is there, and it is a problem. Many nocturnal animals use the light of the moon to navigate by. Hatchling sea turtles move toward it to find the ocean, corals release eggs and sperm based on the moonlight, and other animals adjust their communication methods depending on the moon cycle.
With light being so important to other species at night, it’s easy to see how light pollution can disrupt their habits. LED lights are pretty commonplace now, being used in most of the outdoor lights. They’re better for the environment, and they burn out less, but they still add a whole lot of light pollution. To try and combat that, people are starting to consider changes to the lights that might help reduce light pollution.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see the stars even from a city? Animals probably think so too!
Right now, we don’t have LED lights that can help to reduce light pollution, unless we just start uninstalling lights. But there are some options that you can do to make your lights less distracting. LED’s came out as being one of the most efficient, cost-effective green options to replace traditional light bulbs. They’re so much more energy efficient that they can give up to 25,000 hours of service, which is 25 times longer than a CFL bulb and 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb . In theory, this should have meant that the light pollution remained at the same level it was before, but that’s not exactly what happened.
Instead, what’s happened is the Jevon’s Paradox. This is where new technology increases efficiency, but demand for the products continue to rise regardless. In other words, making better lights didn’t result in us using fewer lights. It just meant people wanted more of them. Overall, the development of LED technology has led to more light pollution, not less. It’s the opposite of what environmentalists were hoping for.
Even though people have a hard time getting enough of a good thing, some ideas are being set up to reduce light usage. One place where the government, on the local level, is working on light pollution is along the coasts. Ever since we discovered that light pollution can cause turtle hatchlings to go toward the light instead of toward the ocean, some cities and towns have been working to reduce that light.
This so-called “mood lighting” has had a dramatic effect, and with minimal effort. The local governments have started installing light “curfews,” they’ve put in downward facing light poles, and many have asked beachfront citizens to turn their lights inland, so they aren’t visible from the beach.
So far, those efforts are working. As for the ideas the government has mandated, you can do those things even if you don’t live on the coast. You can also try to minimize how much outdoor light you produce. You don’t need floodlights and a lit pathway to the front of your house for 10 feet. You can also shield your lights, so they only hit where you want them too. Get rid of unused lights and reduce the wattage on outdoor floodlights.
There are a lot of ideas floating around about shielding streetlights for the same purpose. However, this can cause a severe glare issue. It’s not that big of a deal on your driveway, but it could impair people’s ability to drive at night on a highway. This is especially true of older people or anyone wearing glasses. However, accurately aiming the streetlights can be beneficial. It can reduce light pollution while also making the most of the lights you use, which means you can use fewer of them.
So, if we want to use LED’s to reduce light pollution, we should do the opposite of what we’re doing. We need to reduce the wattage and manufacture the lights with maneuverable shields that allow the light to be directed.
It’s not a complicated solution, but it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Right now, people love the high-intensity LED’s. It’s unlikely that the issues associated with light pollution will cause an abrupt change in the manufacturing designs.
This is a guest post written by Emily Folk.
Emily is a conservation and sustainability writer.
She is the editor of Conservation Folks, and you can see her latest updates by following her on Twitter.