Can we have too much outdoor lighting?

Outdoor lighting has become the norm in the modern age. Although we don't often think about them, exterior lights offer a wealth of benefits in a variety of different situations. Whether it's street lamps illuminating our path as we walk home or security lights which deter any potential burglars, safety is a key issue when it comes to outdoor lighting. However, many people install these devices for other reasons, for example as a means of playing sport at night. Of course, we can't forget about decorative lighting which accounts for a large proportion of the outdoor lights we come into contact with. These include everything from landscape lighting in a domestic garden to the spotlights used to illuminate large structures in busy cities. Although outdoor lighting can offer many different advantages, unfortunately they can and do contribute to light pollution.

This may not be something you often think about but you definitely will have experienced it. It's categorised in three different ways- Light Trespass Light hitting areas where it's not needed or wanted, for example street lamps shining into a bedroom window. Glare A bright light source which can cause discomfort, slow reaction time and even temporary blindness. For example, a motion activated flood light. Sky Glow This is when the night sky appears brighter than it should due to high level of light pollution in the local area. This is why it's difficult to see the stars and planets in densely populated areas. Light pollution, like every type of pollution can have a damaging effect on the wider environment. For example, light trespass can be a nuisance for people trying to sleep but it can also have a very negative effect on the surrounding plants and animals. Animals, like all living things are governed by a light cycle and disruption to this cycle can lead to confusion, stress and could even affect predation and migration.

Plants have an even stronger relationship with light and pollution of this kind can have disastrous effects on growth. We should also talk about the energy implications of excess outdoor lighting. Whether the problem is too many lights, lights that are too bright or inefficient devices, energy wastage is an inevitable outcome. This isn't just damaging to your wallet but also harmful to the environment at a time when it can't be afforded. Fortunately, there are ways to tackle outdoor light pollution, without compromising on the advantages that these devices offer. For example, swapping your traditional lights such as incandescent and fluorescent, for LEDs. When it comes to energy efficiency and lifespan, LEDs are head and shoulders above the rest. Whilst in the past, they have been the more expensive option, this has changed in recent years. LEDs also differ in that they have instant on/off capabilities.

This means they can be used only when needed, reducing the likelihood of excess pollution. There are many other ways of tackling the issue of outdoor light pollution, many of which are incredibly simple. In fact, sometimes it can be as easy as choosing not to install unnecessary lighting. If you are forced to install an outdoor light, for safety or mobility issues, there are still solutions available. For example, instead of over illuminating an area you could choose a lower wattage of bulb. The fixtures themselves are also important. Try to purchase fixtures which direct the light at one specific area, rather than emitting it all directions and therefore creating pollution. You can even install shields which help fixtures to do this. Light pollution may not be a topic that is often discussed but that doesn't mean it isn't harmful. Just with a few mindful changes, we can all do our part in tackling this growing problem.