People all over the world are living under the nighttime glow of artificial light, and it is causing big problems for humans, wildlife, and the environment. There is a global movement to reduce light pollution, and everyone can help. Electric lights have revolutionized our lives, but as illumination increases, the toll on wildlife and human health is becoming harder to ignore.
WHAT IS LIGHT POLLUTION?
Light pollution, the excessive or inappropriate use of outdoor artificial light, is affecting human health, wildlife behavior, and our ability to observe stars and other celestial objects. Out of all the various pollutions humans create, light pollution gets the least attention. But light pollution is one of the most prevalent issues facing the developed and developing worlds today. Light pollution can come in several forms: light trespass is when unwanted light escapes from one property into adjacent properties; over-illumination is using excessive light where it isn't needed; light clutter is the redundant clusters of lighting found in many urban centers; sky glow is the collective light pollution found over big cities. You've seen this on every cloudy night when the sky above Harrisonburg glows yellow from all that light reflected back down to planet Earth. It is an enormous waste of money, of resources, and more importantly, it is harming us.
Effects of Light Pollution
Light pollution adversely affects professional and amateur astronomers, as well as casual observers of the night sky, because it severely reduces the visibility of stars and other celestial objects. The reduction in night sky visibility is a result of “skyglow,” upward-directed light emanating from poorly designed or directed lamps and security floodlights. This wasted light is scattered and reflected by solid or liquid particles in the atmosphere and then returned to the eyes of people on the ground, obliterating their view of the night sky. The effect of skyglow from a town or city is not necessarily localized; it can be observed far from the main source. With beautiful pendant lamps and elegant floor lamps, Mianzi aims to actively participate in reducing light pollution.
Darkness is essential to our biological welfare. For centuries before the development of artificial light, human beings had become used to a day/night cycle of 12 hours of natural light and 12 hours of darkness. That cycle is a part of our circadian rhythms, an essential biological imperative that is dramatically affected by the presence of light at night. Disruption of the circadian rhythm has been linked to sleep disorders like insomnia and delayed sleep-phase syndrome, as well as depression, hypertension, attention deficit disorder, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Another important biological function that is disrupted by the presence of light at night is the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a potent anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogen, and is responsible for regulating metabolism, and immune responses. Less than 15 minutes of exposure to bright light at night can completely halt the production of melatonin. Lowered levels of melatonin have been shown to have a correlation to the rising rates of breast cancer in the developed world. Women who live in areas where it is bright enough to read a book outside at midnight had a 73% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women living in less brightly lit areas.
The role of lighting design in preventing light pollution
If we aim to minimize light pollution, a thoughtfully designed lamp can be of use. The award-winning lighting by Mianzi, while being designed, keeps in consideration all aspects of sustainability, from its form, its geometry, its material, to its function, age, and after-effects. The three important factors from a design perspective that can help us achieve that goal are: use warmer colors, dim the light, and shield it.
a. Warmer colors: It is recommended to use low-temperature LEDs that shine light in softer, yellower, or redder tones (usually not exceeding 3000K) instead of using blue light – which has a greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms. Besides being produced with the same energy efficiency and at similar prices as bluer alternatives, these scatter less light and are thus more night sky-friendly.
b. Dim the Light: In addition, to point towards long-term sustainability, light levels should be moderate, uniform, and be matched accordingly to usage, zone, time, and traffic. In fact, most outdoor lights can be dimmed by 25% without any loss of visibility.
c. Shield: Another crucial factor is ensuring that light is aimed effectively to serve its purpose instead of spreading light into the sky. All light fixtures must be fully shielded or cut-off so that no light escapes above the horizontal. In this way, instead of projecting it upwards, it is directed downwards – ideally with a narrow-angle that further restricts the glow above the city. That’s where the right shade plays an important role.
Here are 5 of our favorite lamps to bring home and contribute to control light pollution.