For many of us, the highlight of a summer camping trip is sitting around the campfire, roasting s’mores, enjoying the brisk air, and looking up to see an expansive sky twinkling with stars. It’s a luxury we have here in Idaho and an experience well worth preserving.
Here at ICL, we’re working to do just that. Over the last two years, we’ve partnered with cities in Central Idaho to explore ways that we can continue to meet our community lighting needs while also minimizing excess light pollution. Yes, it can be done and it’s actually not that difficult!
Why Care About the Night Sky?
Light pollution is a growing concern nationally as well as across the globe. Recent research suggests that more than 80% of humanity experiences light-polluted night skies. And that matters because light pollution doesn’t just impact our ability to see the night sky-it is harmful to our wildlands, wildlife and even human health. It’s often difficult to imagine not seeing the Milky Way or shooting stars when we live in places where we have exceptional night skies. But recognizing that we are actually in a very small population of people that have this experience puts light pollution in perspective.
What is ICL doing?
Bringing Dark Sky Places to Idaho
ICL is working with communities in and around Central Idaho to achieve formal accreditation from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Accreditation through IDA’s dark sky program highlights the good work communities have done to combat light pollution and can help boost local astro-tourism. Just last week, an application for the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve was submitted. If approved, the Central Idaho area, including the communities of Stanley, Ketchum and Sun Valley, would become the first Dark Sky Reserve in the United States. Visit the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve website to learn more.
Advocating for Smart Community Ordinances
At the heart of reducing light pollution is smart community planning. Numerous cities and counties in Central Idaho already have dark sky ordinances that require shielding of outdoor lighting. But given changes in lighting technology and the recent surge in LED popularity, revisions to many older dark sky ordinances are becoming necessary. ICL has been working with local governments to assess the need for adopting or improving existing ordinances.
Expanding Dark Sky Efforts
Moving forward, ICL hopes to connect with other communities across the state that are interested in exploring ways to preserve their own night sky. We are also looking for opportunities to work with industry leaders here in Idaho to incorporate night sky preservation into their business models.
How You Can Help
There are several things you can do personally and locally to help fight light pollution. Below are just a few ideas for what you can do around your home, business and within your community.
1. Inspect the lighting around your home
Poor lighting not only creates glare and light pollution but also wastes enormous amounts of energy and money. Learn how to inspect your property for inefficient, poorly installed and unnecessary outdoor lighting by visiting the IDA’s residential and business lighting webpage.
2. Use dark-sky friendly lighting at your home and business
Look for the International Dark-Sky Association’s fixture seal of approval on any outdoor lighting you purchase. IDA maintains a searchable database of lighting products certified to minimize glare, light trespass and skyglow. These products are recommended when replacing outdated or inappropriate lighting fixtures.
3. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors
You can be a powerful dark sky advocate in your neighborhood, your city, and even your state and country. Solving the light pollution problem involves raising awareness of the issue so that people are empowered to make better decisions as consumers, voters and community members. Use resources like IDA’s general brochure, "Losing the Dark” video, or mobile apps to help spread the word.
4. Advocate for a lighting ordinance in your town
Local lighting ordinances ensure that your municipality is addressing artificial light at night. Find out if your town has a lighting ordinance. If not, try working with them to pass one. If your town does have an ordinance, make sure that it’s being enforced.
You’ll be surprised how much eliminating or adjusting a few bulbs around your home improves the view! After you have made a couple of changes, get reacquainted with the nighttime sky. If you’re really interested in preserving our night sky, take a moment and learn about the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.