Imagine a thriving new fast-food restaurant moves next door or across the street from where you live. Along with the scent of grease and the sound of crackling speakers comes an assault on the night’s darkness. Headlights pull in and out of a new parking lot that’s lit up like a stadium. A glut of crisp light crashes through every window in your home, and the curtains close.
Light pollution can be as intrusive as scent and sound.
Several states and many municipalities have begun legislating against it. Ordinances are developing in response to evolving standards meant to curb light pollution in new construction and set timelines for mandated retrofits. Regulations are helpful in exposing the costs of light pollution.
For one thing, we are losing the stars.
A common high-pressure sodium streetlight can affect the night sky up to 200 miles away. Other major sources of light pollution include billboards, skyscrapers, factories, and sports venues. Since most of the world lives in or near cities, most of the world doesn’t realize what they are missing.
The Orion constellation is one of the most recognizable constellations. It includes two of the top ten of the brightest objects in the night sky, the stars Rigel and Betelgeuse. In the winter sky, Orion is easy to find even in the middle of most cities. But if you can manage to escape the light of the city, Orion is nearly swallowed up by the surrounding star field, as you can see in the pictures below.
The costs of light pollution go beyond the aesthetics of our fading overhead canvas. Lighting up the United States accounts for 22% of all the energy we produce, and one-third of that light is wasted. That’s a significant chunk of budget, both as a nation and on a personal scale. There are also costs to wildlife, which can become confused by following genetic instructions regarding light – baby turtles, for example, will follow the light of beachfront hotels rather than following the moon to find the ocean. Even humans can suffer from hiccups in circadian patterns, leading to a weakened immune system. We need the light, sure, but we also need the dark.
A professional lighting audit helps maximize energy efficiency by recommending the most appropriate products and their placement in a specific environment. Our specialists at Steiner Electric assess the needs of homeowners and small businesses, as well as entire municipalities and industrial complexes. We are helping to take back the sky, one star at a time.