Building owners and managers curious about the possible impacts of their outdoor lighting can find an abundance of articles citing problems associated with too much or the wrong kind of light.

While outdoor illumination provides clear benefits in the form of better safety and navigation, claims of harm connected with artificial brightening of the night sky abound, from disrupting human sleep patterns and disorienting migratory birds to hindering astronomical research and wasting electricity.

To the latter point, for example, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), reports that a third of all outdoor lighting in the US is wasted – largely by unshielded fixtures that allow light to spill where it’s not needed, costing an unnecessary $3.3 billion and responsible for 21 million tons of carbon emissions annually. Meanwhile, a study by the Sleep Research Society has found that “outdoor nighttime lights clearly impact human sleep and have consequences also on the daytime functioning of human beings”.

Possible implications for nature comprise perhaps the biggest category of worry about light pollution. Uncontrolled outdoor lighting has been blamed for confusing wildlife, triggering unseasonal reproductive behaviors, altering tree flowering patterns and root growth, and disrupting feeding and pollination by insects, birds, and other creatures. 

“Research into the ecological consequences of artificial lighting is revealing numerous connections between light pollution and disruption to myriad species in almost all taxa,” writes the US National Park Service. “A naturally dark environment is a vital resource to all living things.”

With this in mind, in early 2020 the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on Migratory Species adopted Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife, noting that “artificial light, particularly at night, is an emerging issue for the conservation of wildlife, astronomy and human health”.

Consistent with a recent focus on quality of light, as well as increased efficacy, in its Technical Requirements for Solid-State Lighting, the DLC last month formed a LUNA Advisory Group as a first step toward addressing light at night. The Advisory Group will provide guidance on the development of a new DLC program to identify and promote light fixtures that mitigate light pollution and protect the environment while saving energy.

Led by the DLC, the LUNA Advisory Group includes Pete Strasser of the IDA; Terry McGowan of Lighting Ideas, Inc.; Naomi Miller of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Gayathri Unnikrishnan of the International WELL Building Institute; Alex Baker of the Illuminating Engineering Society; Kevin Fitzmaurice of Georgia Power, and Jim Benya of Benya Burnett Consultancy. The panel will provide perspectives and recommendations for criteria related to light at night for products on the DLC’s Solid-State Lighting Qualified Products List (QPL), and advise the DLC on development of a program that includes near-term supplemental SSL and controls specification criteria that will allow QPL users to differentiate products that minimize light pollution. While the LUNA specification will initially address light at night issues at the luminaire level, the DLC plans to introduce additional specifications for controls and systems in future updates.

Defined by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center as “an unwanted consequence of outdoor lighting…(which) includes such effects as sky glow, light trespass, and glare”, light pollution is capturing headlines and public attention in communities around the globe. An article in the journal Sustainability referred to a “paradox” in which “the implementation of supposedly sustainable, energy-efficient LED technology for climate change mitigation can have very unsustainable, ecologically unfriendly side effects on flora, fauna and humans….” As the DLC embarks on this exciting new effort, we look forward to playing a leadership role in the solution. Please keep an eye on our website for updates.