“We have a love affair with city lights, but we are beginning to understand that excessive nighttime lighting has serious unintended consequences,” said Mary Coolidge of Portland Audubon. “Lights Out programs already exist in 25 cities across the U.S., with a great triple bottom line! Participants save energy, see stars, and save lives!” September 30 is a community building event to raise awareness about the opportunity for Portland to go LightsOut every fall and spring migration season.
For 4.5 billion years, there was virtually no light pollution on our planet. But all that has changed since the 1880s and the installation of electric street lights on Broadway in New York City. Today we are awash in light—from streetlights, billboards, sports field lighting, and the accumulation of innumerable sources of poorly designed, improperly shielded lighting.
Portland Audubon has long been concerned about light pollution, which drowns out the stars that birds are using to navigate while migrating, and lures them into cities where they are at risk of colliding with windows. Across the United States, up to 1 billion birds die every year as a result of hitting a window. What’s more, nearly 80 percent of North Americans, including Portlanders, live in places from which they cannot see our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
In addition to environmental and cultural impacts, light pollution can impact human health. Emerging research suggests links between blue-rich white light and a variety of human health concerns including sleep interruption, impaired daytime functioning, damage to the human eye, melatonin suppression, and increased risk for breast cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In June, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted official guidance encouraging municipalities to follow good lighting practices in street lighting selection in order to “minimize potential harmful human and environmental effects.” Light Emitting Diodes (LED) have tremendous energy efficiency benefits, but LED’s that emit blue light have potential to impact health and safety when used as streetlights and in other outdoor settings.
In addition to the city-wide effort, Portland Audubon will be hosting a Lights Out event with Sunnyside Elementary School. Students will be putting together a nocturnal species parade, and volunteers from Rose City Astronomers will be on site with their telescopes to help kids and their families see planets, constellations and galaxies!
We are asking businesses and households around the city to turn off unnecessary lights from dusk to dawn on September 30 to raise awareness about light pollution.
Get Involved in the Lights Out Campaign
1. Turn out all unnecessary lighting from dusk until dawn on September 30, enjoy the stars and and help raise awareness about light pollution!
2. Do an audit of outdoor lighting at your business or home:
- Turn off outdoor lights when you’re not using them
- Make sure that all outside lights point down
- Convert lights to motion sensors so they are only on when needed
- Make sure that lights are well-shielded so that they don’t create glare
- When converting to LED, make sure to select warm bulbs (under 3,000 Kelvins)
- Talk to your employer/building manager about minimizing unnecessary overnight lighting.
- Turn off or dim rooftop lighting, decorative lighting, lobby and atrium lighting
3. Make an extra effort to minimize nighttime lighting during bird migration periods:
- Fall Migration Dates: August 25 to November 15
- Spring Migration Dates: March 15 to June 7
4. Support public policies that minimize light pollution
For more information, visit our Lights Out web page.
Founded in 1902, Portland Audubon is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the nation. It promotes the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats through its conservation and environmental education programs, its 150-acre Nature Sanctuary and Nature Store in northwest Portland, and its Wildlife Care Center.
For more information, call 503-292-6855 or visit www.audubonportland.org.