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The City Dark

Premiere Date: July 5, 2012

'The City Dark' in Context

Reducing Light Pollution

Many municipalities, counties and states have begun taking piecemeal approaches to curbing light pollution. For example, in the state of New Hampshire citizens proposed a code that stipulated that street lights require full shielding to reduce light trespass and glare.




Many municipalities, counties and states have begun taking piecemeal approaches to curbing light pollution. For example, in the state of New Hampshire citizens proposed a code that stipulated that street lights require full shielding to reduce light trespass and glare. Maine recently adopted similar proposed legislation into law, becoming one of the first states to do so. Maine's state highway law also now sets maximum limits on light output in an effort to reduce glare. Additionally, the city of San Jose, California, enacted a policy to preserve the night sky for astronomical research by converting street lamps so that they use monochromatic light sources and forbidding light sources to be directed at the sky, which causes urban sky glow. Florida now regulates outdoor lighting strictly for wildlife conservation purposes. For example, Florida has developed a turtle lighting program that requires light sources to emit in narrow bandwidths and at low intensity levels. However, designers struggle to meet light levels required by code when using light sources at their lowest intensity.

On a federal level, new light bulb efficiency standards came into effect on January 1, 2012. Manufacturers are now required by law to produce light bulbs that use 25 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. More importantly, the U.S. Department of Energy is making an effort to change consumers' understanding of light bulbs by using luminous flux, or lumens, instead of radiant flux, or watts, to categorize light bulbs. Rather than identifying a light bulb according to the amount of power it consumes, lumens identify a light bulb according to its perceived brightness. The Federal Trade Commission requires light bulb labels to include lumens in addition to watts.

Finally, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) have developed a model lighting ordinance that communities can use to reduce light pollution and glare. These groups propose the implementation of four defined lighting zones to assist in the customization of lighting within communities. Placing areas within a community in the appropriate lighting zone will allow that community to choose lighting based on the recommended amount of lumens for the zone.

Photo caption: The filmmaker's childhood home in Maine.   Credit: Wicked Delicate Films LLC.

Sources:
» City of San José. "Outdoor Lighting on Private Developments."
» Consumer Reports. "Are Fluorescent Lights Causing My Headaches?"
» Dinan, Stephen. "Congress Overturns Incandescent Light Bulb Ban." The Washington Times, December 16, 2011.
» International Dark-Sky Association and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. "Model Lighting Ordinance."
» Matson, John. "Are Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs Dangerous?" Scientific American, April 10, 2008.
» The Preservationist. "Light Pollution."
» Shogren, Elizabeth. "CFL Bulbs Have One Hitch: Toxic Mercury." NPR, February 15, 2007.
» U.S. Department of Energy. "Lumens and the Lighting Facts Label."
» Zaveri, Mihir. "Environmental News: Congress Debates—Yes—Light Bulbs; the Arguments for; the Reasons Against." The Oregonian, July 12, 2011.



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