Looking up into the night sky to see the glittering and heavenly stars can be truly special. But many people nowadays cannot share in that experience. For roughly one-fifth of the global land, looking up can be boring. You see only darkness against the city and house lights. Although we have accepted this as normal, this darkness showcases a symptom of a type of pollution: light pollution.

Defining light pollution

Explained by researcher Fabio Falchi, light pollution is the negative environmental impact from light level distortion due to artificial lighting at night.

Dangers of light pollution

Light pollution disrupts the circadian rhythm, an internal clock for cycles in life, of both wildlife and humans. According to a collaborative study in 2017, animals exposed to unnaturally bright lights at night experience a distorted reproductive cycle, a decrease in the immune system, and a reduced overall ability to function. Similar ill-effects occur to humans. In various studies, lights at night have been shown to decrease pineal melatonin, a hormone responsible for moderating our sleep cycles, leading to sleeping problems, decreased overall alertness, and even heart issues, among other things. 

But the most potentially dangerous thing about light pollution is that it receives little attention as an issue. Jari Lyymtimäki explains that society has a positive view of bright lights, symbols for progress and comfort. Night effects also hold less relevance to a diurnal species like us. Even though the world does not discuss light pollution as much as other types of pollution, it still poses a great threat to the wellbeing of animals and humans.

How to combat light pollution

Limiting light pollution poses a difficult problem because many night lights are necessary for safety and visible reasons. But here are some alternatives you can use instead to help limit light pollution and also improve your sleeping patterns:

1. Turn off the lights when you leave a room

It’s something that slips our minds when we are busy with tasks but is both energy efficient and light-friendly. Just like outdoor lights, indoor lights pose a threat, as they also release artificial light to the environment through windows. Try to make it a habit to flick that switch on your way out.

2. Limit how many lights you use

Try to use only one light when in a room. The less you use, the less will be carried outside to the surrounding environment, and the less it will limit your ability to fall asleep normally. If you do need more lights on, try investing in blackout curtains that limit the light from escaping to the environment.

3. Point lights downward, below the skyline

Upward-angled light can carry across father distances, affecting an expanded area. If you point the light source downward, the reflected light on the ground actually will add considerable brightness to a concentrated area. This tactic allows you to see better, with a lesser impact on the environment. So, for your outdoor lighting, try to avoid lights that are angled upwards or outwards.

4. Be modest with outdoor decoration

Whether it’s for a holiday or an aesthetic appeal, many of us put lights on the outside of our living spaces. While your house may glow magically at night, it causes harm to animals and people. Try to keep them on during the day only, using a timer. Other than that, try to limit your outdoor lighting to a bare minimum, if any at all. Motion sensor lighting is also an option.

5. Use alternative lighting

When buying lighting, look for products with wavelengths above 540 nm (nanometers). Also, avoid blue lights for any nighttime lighting, indoor or outdoor. According to Fabio Falchi’s study, these kinds of lights damage melatonin rhythms, leading to health issues like sleeping problems, even insomnia. Save the blue light for daytime.

I hope you find these alternatives useful. Even though we may feel rather small against this almost culturally accepted pollution, remember that we all make a big contribution in the little things we do.

© Emeraldology 2018