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Making a Difference

"Unlike losing a species to extinction, topsoil to erosion, or virgin lands to development, the night sky is 100% recoverable."
—Dan Duriscoe, 2001

Light pollution is not the inevitable side-effect of progress, but is instead indicative of wasteful and inefficient outdoor lighting. The loss of the night sky is unnecessary, and protecting dark skies doesn't mean throwing civilization back into the dark ages; it simply requires that outdoor lights be used judiciously, respecting our human environment, wildlife, and the night sky that we all enjoy.

National parks and cities large and small are taking steps toward improving outdoor lighting and protecting night skies. If every outdoor light across America was made to be night sky friendly, it would save between $2 billion and $10 billion dollars annually in electrical usage. In most cases, upgrading lighting pays for itself in a few short years.

You, your neighbors, and your community can make a difference in conserving our heritage of starry skies. This is a relatively easy problem to fix. Replacing poor quality outdoor lights with modern, efficient fixtures is not only good for the environment but also saves energy and money while improving safety and security. Here are five things you can do that will make a difference:

Enjoy the Night

Ultimately, we are all more willing to protect what we love and cherish.

Use Light Only When You Need It

Use motion sensors to turn lights on and off as needed. This costs less money, improves security, and reduces light pollution. Use timers for lights that are needed only in the evening or early morning. Think twice about installing an outdoor light; the light will draw electricity for years to come, increase your utility bill, and it may not even be necessary.

Example of a good 
                       light fixture
Shielded or full cut-off fixtures, such as this, direct all light downward.

Shield Your Lights

Several types of full cut-off light fixtures are now available for home, business, and municipal use. Existing lights can also be adjusted to point downward or retrofitted with simple metal shrouds. Shielded fixtures allow no light to shine above the horizon.

Use Less Light

An efficient, shielded light fixture can use a smaller wattage bulb and still be effective. Even a 25 or 40 watt incandescent bulb, or a 9 watt compact fluorescent, is enough to light a porch or driveway.

Talk to Your Neighbors

Share your appreciation of the night and ways to protect it with your family, friends, neighbors, and community leaders. Encourage them to make the night a better place for your community and nearby parks.


Dan Duriscoe, "Preserving Pristine Night Skies in National Parks and the Wilderness Ethic," The George Wright Forum, 18:4, 2001.

Last Updated: April 23, 2012