Is light pollution bad? Well, that depends if you are concerned about ever seeing the stars or about interrupting the natural circadian rhythms of humans and animals alike. If you do care about these things, then yes—light pollution is bad. 

What are the causes of light pollution? What can we do to lower our own light pollution impact? It’s an interesting topic and can be an important conversation to have with others, so Kiwi Energy answers these questions and more. 

street lamps emitting light pollution

What Is Light Pollution?

Light pollution (also called luminous pollution or photo pollution) comes from artificial outdoor lighting that is invasive, misdirected, and/or mismanaged. This results in reduced night sky visibility, interrupted circadian rhythms, a waste of energy resources, and other negative consequences (we talk more about this below).

When most people think of light pollution, they think of Las Vegas or Singapore where night is almost as bright as day. But the fact is, roughly 99% of Americans experience light-polluted night skies. 

How is the light pollution where you live

What Causes Light Pollution?

When light is scattered and wasted, particles in the atmosphere and surrounding surfaces reflect the light back into our eyes. This causes light pollution, or “skyglow.” And skyglow doesn’t only happen at the light’s source—it spreads far and wide.

To quote the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), “The fact is that much outdoor lighting used at night is inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, completely unnecessary. This light, and the electricity used to create it, is being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas that people want illuminated.”

Light pollution is caused by many different things, like:

  • 24/7 lighting for commercial purposes
  • Poor placement of streetlights and signage
  • Tight clusters of business lights
  • Lights that are left on when unneeded
  • Lit signs and billboards
  • Street lamps that don’t adjust for different seasons or daylight savings 
  • Excessive and/or poorly designed outdoor house and yard lighting
  • Christmas lights turned on early or late in the season and/or left on all night
  • Vehicle headlights

What Are the Types of Light Pollution?

The types of light pollution are:

  1. Skyglow – The dome-like cover of light over urban areas caused by light bouncing off the atmosphere back to the earth
  2. Over-Illumination – Caused by the unneeded use of lights
  3. Light Clutter – When placing multiple lights close to each other, light pollution causes high contrast between light and dark areas, which makes shadows appear even darker
  4. Glare – Scattered light reflecting back into the eyes, making it difficult to see clearly
  5. Light Trespass – Unwanted light that enters someone’s property
Diagram of the different components of light pollution (

The infographic above illustrates the different components of light pollution. (Image by Anezka Gocova, in “The Night Issue,” Alternatives Journal 39:5 [2013].)

What Are the Negative Effects of Light Pollution?

Light pollution affects every person, animal, and organism that it sees. From the beginning of time until only a few decades ago, life on earth revolved around the rising and setting of the sun. That natural rhythm has been completely disrupted, which has led to numerous consequences. 

Harm to Your Health

Humans’ biological clock follows a very strict day-night, wake-sleep cycle—and artificial light can disrupt the body’s melatonin production. This can lead to insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Constantly looking directly at bright lights results in the degeneration of rhodopsin, a photopigment in the eye’s rods. Your eyes can regenerate rhodopsin but get less successful at it over time. This lowers your natural night vision level.

Safety Hazards

Outdoor lighting has its purpose—to give visibility and provide safety in the dark. But often these benefits are overstated or overcompensated. In fact, light can be the cause of safety hazards, not the cure for them.

Glare lowers visibility and contributes to auto and auto-pedestrian accidents, stark contrast makes hiding crime in the shadows even easier, and criminals can be emboldened to commit crimes because there is light enough to see. The benefits of lighting must be weighed by the risks.

Choose Kiwi Energy a brighter future. Contact us to take the next steps towards a more environmentally responsible world.

Wasted Energy Consumption

The benefits of light are frequently eclipsed by the downsides light pollution causes, like the huge use (and waste) of fossil fuels (coal and oil). 

Do you want to know what the totals look like? In 2017, it was to the tune of 23 million tons of carbon dioxide and 6.5 billion dollars. Staggering! If you’re wondering just how much energy your lighting uses, there are calculators and tools that can help you do the math.

infographic depicting light pollution (

Disrupted Wildlife Ecosystems

We are only beginning to understand the impact the drastic change in lighting has on nature, both fauna and flora. What we do know is that artificial lights play havoc with nocturnal ecology, including the reproduction, nourishment, sleep, and protection of all species. 

How Can We Reduce Light Pollution and Its Impacts? 

Knowing how to reduce light pollution is a great first step in mitigating the problems over-illumination and poorly designed illumination cause. The next step is to implement as many of these suggestions as possible.

Get Your Outdoor Lighting Right

  • Only install outdoor lighting where necessary for safety purposes, and use timers or motion detectors if possible.
  • Don’t choose blue LED bulbs that are more visible to the eye—choose warm-white LEDs instead.
  • Ensure light fixtures direct light down instead of up into the sky, as shown below.
depiction of light cutoffs

Fix Your Indoor Lighting

  • Turn off all unnecessary lights.
  • Change the color balance on your devices to adapt to the time of day they’re being used.
  • Hang light-blocking curtains to keep your bedroom dark at night.
  • Where needed, use lamps or nightlights to avoid turning on bright overhead lights.
  • Install dimmers, motion sensors, and timers to reduce light pollution and energy levels. 
  • Bounce light off of surrounding objects (ambient light) instead of directing the light beam right where you want to see.
  • Contact Kiwi Energy for information on innovative energy solutions.

Practice and Maintain Your Night Vision

  • Expose your eyes to as little bright light as possible.
  • Close one or both of your eyes when coming from a dark room into a bright one (and vice versa) so your eyes can adjust more naturally.
  • Use your peripheral vision to your advantage instead of always looking straight at something.
  • Try going without a flashlight out in nature, or use one with a red or green light setting (these colors don’t reduce rhodopsin in the eyes, and you can use less light overall).

Where Can We Go to Escape Light Pollution?

We don’t give our own eyes enough credit. The science behind how our eyes adjust in the dark on their own to let enough light in to see in the dark is incredible, given the chance.

All of us could use some light relief, and the best way to do that is to go outside where the sky is dark enough to look up and gaze at the stars. 

Head to these areas to find your place in the universe: