Light Pollution

Light pollution is the easiest, and simplest type of pollution to fix because it is instantly reversible.

You Can Help – Right Now!

You can start by minimising the light from your own home at night. You can do this by following these simple steps.

  • Only use lighting when and where it’s needed, point outdoor lights downwards.
  • If safety is a concern, install motion detector lights and/or timers.
  • Properly shield all outdoor lights (or point them… downwards!)
  • Keep your blinds and curtains drawn to keep light inside
  • Become a citizen scientist and help to measure light pollution

Learn more about Outdoor Lighting Basics

Want to do more? Get Involved Now

guests at Kielder Observatory in Northumberland watching the milky way.
The Milky Way over Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. Image: Kielder Observatory

Less than 100 years ago, everyone could look up and see a spectacular starry night sky. Now, millions of people across the globe will never see the Milky Way where they live. The use of artificial light at night is not only impairing our view of the universe, it is adversely affecting our environment, our safety, our energy consumption and our health.

The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago . . . had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.

— Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

What is Light Pollution?

Most of us are familiar with air, water, and land pollution, but light can also be a pollutant?

The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light – known as light pollution – has serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and our climate. Components of light pollution include:

  • Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort
  • Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas
  • Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed
  • Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources

Light pollution sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. Unfortunately, most artificial light at night, (ALAN) is inefficient, too bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and often completely unnecessary. This light, and the electricity used to create it, is wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on the actual objects and areas where it is needed.

How Bad is Light Pollution?

With much of the Earth’s population living under light-polluted skies, overlighting is an international concern. If you live in an urban or suburban area all you have to do to see this type of pollution is go outside at night and look up at the sky.

According to the 2016 groundbreaking “World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness,” 80 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. In the United States and Europe, 99 percent of the public can’t experience a natural night!

Before and after a good lighting retrofit by Dani Robertson at Capel Curig

Before and during the 2003 Northeast blackout, a massive power outage that affected 55 million people. Photo by Todd Carlson

NASA Blue Marble Navigator
Globe at Night light pollution map

Effects of Light Pollution

Life on Earth exists in a natural rhythm of light and dark created solely by the illumination of the Sun, Moon and stars. However artificial lights overpower the darkness and our cities glow at night, disrupting the natural day-night pattern and shifting the delicate balance of our environment. A growing body of evidence links the brightening night sky directly to measurable negative impacts including

  • Increasing energy consumption and carbon emissions
  • Disrupting the ecosystem and wildlife
  • Harming human health
  • Effecting crime and safety

Light pollution affects everyone, but everyone can implement practical solutions to combat light pollution locally, nationally and internationally.