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Montana Learning Center shares ways to reduce light pollution

Ryan Hannahoe at desk
Posted at 2:30 PM, Feb 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-17 16:30:10-05

HELENA — A benefit of living in a rural state is fewer city lights and more opportunities to see the stars, but light pollution can impact your view.

"Here in Montana, it's kind of our heritage. What we're used to is a dark night sky, where you can see the Milky Way," said Ryan Hannnahoe, the executive director of The Montana Learning Center.

According to Hannahoe, who provided satellite images, light pollution in Helena has grown substantially since 2013, mainly because of the growing population.

Helena Artificial Light at Night

The International Dark-Sky Association says, "35 percent of light is wasted [which is] 10 dollars per year spent on energy for every man, woman, and child in the United States."

Hannahoe said, "Light fixtures need to be pointed down; that's where lights are intended. You don't need to light up the sky; there's no use, and it's just wasted energy."

According to experts, the increased energy use and money spent on light pollution can also have health impacts.

"The bluer the LED, the higher the Kelvin value, the more impacts to your sleep. And it's actually starting to be linked, and research is being done to different diseases and whatnot," said Hannahoe.

Artificial light at night negatively affects human health, including increased risk for sleep disorders and depression.

It can also impact your metabolism, raising risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, according to DarkSky International.

Light pollution also negatively affects migration patterns for animals like birds and sea turtles.

Light pollution comparison

Hannahoe said, "The great thing about light pollution is that it is 100 percent correctable."

Here's what you can do to reduce light pollution: use energy-efficient lights only when needed, shield your light, and ensure it is directed down.

Use light only when you need and swap out the bright white light bulbs for warm yellow-hued ones.

You are also able to adjust lighting with shielding, intensity, and putting a timer on them.

Types of lighting chart

Some hardware stores sell light bulbs made to decrease light pollution, marked on the box with dark-sky approval.

If street lights have been interfering with your sleep, Northwest Energy can attach shields to the lights they operate to contain where they shine.

For more information on light pollution, visit darksky.org, and for details on how you can collect data on it, visit montanalearning.org.