Last month’s Eagle introduced the International Dark Sky Community and Reserve designation initiatives to our community. To carry forward on that theme, here are some inexpensive ways that you personally can help maintain our local precious dark sky resource, reduce and control your outside lighting, and save as much as 40% to 60% of your lighting energy costs.
1. Inspect the lighting around your home. Poor use of lighting not only creates glare and light pollution but also wastes energy and money. Take a few moments to inspect your property for inefficient, poorly installed, and unnecessary outdoor lighting.
2. Use only the lighting you really need. Too much light wastes energy, impairs vision, affects wildlife, and does not necessarily improve safety or security. Use the lowest illumination level possible on just the area that needs it. There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crime and increases safety (International Dark Sky Association 2019).
3. Use fully shielded, darksky-friendly fixtures. A dark sky does not necessarily mean a dark ground. Shine lights down, not up, and don’t create glare and contrasts. Install timers and dimmer switches and turn off lights when not in use or overnight. Close your window blinds at night. If you must have security lighting, use motion sensors. Look for the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Fixture Seal of Approval on any outdoor lighting you purchase. IDA maintains a searchable database of lighting products certified to minimize glare, light trespass, and skyglow at www.darksky.org/our-work/ lighting/lighting-for-industry/fsa/ fsa-products.
4. Use the right light. Be aware that not all light bulbs are good for dark skies—though energy efficient, both LED and metal halide fixtures may emit very intense white light and contain large amounts of blue light in their spectrums that can brighten the night sky more than any other color. Exposure to blue light at night has been shown to harm human health and endanger wildlife. Consider replacing outside lights with incandescent (including Halogen) and Compact Fluorescent (CFL) lamp types or use red or yellow light bulbs (bug lights or similar) such as a yellow compact fluorescent CF-yellow or amber LED. Use “warm-white” or filtered LEDs (CCT <3000 K; S/P ratio <1.2) to minimize blue emission.
5. Retro-fit existing fixtures. You can create your own inexpensive shielding on existing lights by using tin flashing or other non-flammable materials to fashion cones around existing fixtures to direct light downward. For example—cut the lids off a large coffee can or bean can and place over bulbs in carriage or period style fixtures to direct the light down.
6. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors and know your local lighting ordinances. You can be a powerful dark sky advocate for your neighborhood, your community, and even your state and country. Spread the word online, too, via social media. Both Crestone and the Baca Grande have dark sky lighting ordinances; know and understand these requirements.
7. Become a citizen scientist. There are multiple citizen-scientist campaigns available to participate in to help researchers better assess light pollution across the globe. Most just require reporting via your smart phone, a tablet, or a computer. Globe at Night is just one of these programs—more information on these programs is available at www.darksky.org/light-pollution/measuring-light-pollution.
A plethora of additional information on protective lighting and other ways to contribute to maintaining dark skies, including becoming a member of the IDA, is available at the IDA website, www. darksky.org.
Karen Caddis is a local environmental consultant with over 30 years in the profession. She is a member of the Crestone-Baca Resiliency’s Energy Group, who sponsored this article as part of the Group’s mission to promote energy resiliency and energy education in the Crestone/Baca area.