Light Pollution: How much light is too much?

Light Pollution: How much light is too much?

“A little more than 100 years ago, you could walk outside at night even in a city, and see the Milky Way galaxy arch across the night sky. Being able to see thousands of stars as part of everyday life, inspiring artists like Van Gogh or musical composers like Holst or writers like Shakespeare. By allowing artificial lights to wash out our starry night skies, we are losing touch with our cultural heritage (e.g., what has made us who we are). We are also losing touch with what could inspire future generations.” (Globe at Night).

Thanks to modern lighting technology: In large parts of the world, people turn night into day - with many advantages, but also some disadvantages. “Light pollution” means the constant presence of light. But how does this arise and what consequences does it have for us and our environment?

The term "light pollution" describes the complete absence of darkness. This is not only a problem for amateur astronomers - in large parts of Europe the Milky Way is outshone and is no longer visible in the night sky. This also has an impact on people and the environment, says Ian Lin, lighting consultant in the Sunmory. "Light is always based on activity stimulation."

Dealing with lighting has changed

It becomes difficult with the wrong light at the wrong time. Warmer, reddish light has a calming effect on us, humans, blue, cooler light has an activating effect. Modern screens, from smartphones to televisions, therefore often have a night mode that reduces the blue components and is intended to avoid disturbances to the sleep rhythm due to too late screen time. But you cannot influence all light sources: the street lights in front of the house can usually be influenced just as little as the headlights of passing cars. For people, the solution is often: close the curtains and blinds. This means is not available to nature.

"We speak of light pollution when organisms are disturbed in their resting behavior or their genetic behavior," says Ian Lin, "diurnal organisms than do not come to rest sufficiently and nocturnal organisms are misdirected, like insects from street lamps." Ian Lin recommends paying attention to the temperature of the luminaire housing: This should remain below 60 degrees Celsius so that insects that are attracted by the light at least do not burn. This is not a problem with modern LEDs, as they generate much less heat than classic light sources - the challenge here lies elsewhere: the less electricity a single light consumes, the more lights are often used. "With the Christmas lights you can see how the use of outdoor lighting has changed," says the lighting consultant. "Hardly anyone used to have it, now it's almost standard."

Nothing can replace good planning

The economical and flexible LED technology can quickly tempt people to simply use more light - after all, brightness ensures real and perceived safety, especially on paths and driveways. However, this does not make sense everywhere, says Ian Lin: "It is more important to highlight individual areas than to illuminate large areas." The outdoor areas can be structured with targeted accents without flooding the entire garden with light. In particular, one should avoid illuminating the air or even the sky. When used correctly, however, the lights make the depth of the outdoor area recognizable and visually expand the interior to the outside. The right balance between light and darkness is required, especially in outdoor areas, according to the lighting consultant's advice: "The dose makes it."

Technical aids such as motion detectors or timers can help ensure that the areas in front of and behind the house are not illuminated for an unnecessarily long time. But, according to Ian Lin: "Correct planning and an individual lighting concept should always be the basis - better than a poorly placed lamp with a timer is simply a well-placed lamp." In case of doubt, the Sunmory lighting consultants are on hand with help and advice - in person, by phone, or via the Internet.

The most important tips for avoiding light pollution:

  • Less is more! As banal as it sounds: the less light is produced, the less light pollution there is.
  • Use targeted light accents instead of large-area illumination. This gives the room structure instead of just brightness.
  • Don't just rely on technology. The basis of your outdoor lighting should be a good lighting concept, sophisticated technology is the bonus.

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