Dark Sky FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Dark Sky Initiative?
Why does Foothills County need a Dark Sky Initiative?
How has the Dark Sky Initiative been implemented?
Who does the bylaw apply to?
What is light pollution?
What does light pollution look like?
What can I do to reduce light pollution?
If we shut off the outdoor lights at night - how do we keep our property and neighborhood safe?
Do I have to replace all my lights right away?
How much will this cost?
Where can I buy CFL bulbs?
What about light fixtures?
How do I dispose of the compact fluorescent light bulbs?
How does night time light pollution affect animals, plants, and the enviornment?
What do you think might happen in the long term with the multitude of farm yard lights which dot the landscape at night?
Q: What is the Dark Sky Initiative?
A: The Dark Sky Initiative is an effort made by government and non-government organizations to put into place guidelines, policies, and educative materials that will minimize light pollution.
Dark Sky Bylaw
Dark Sky Terms of Reference
Q: Why does Foothills County need a Dark Sky Initiative?
A: Many residences, businesses, organizations, and institutions within the County do not realize that each night they are actually producing a form of pollution. The Dark Sky initiative is in place to aid residents, businesses, and organizations of the County of Foothills in becoming more conscious of the night time environment and how it can be adversely affected.
Q: How has the Dark Sky Initiative been implemented?
A: The initiative has been implemented in two ways, through legislation, and education. Legislation controlling the types of light fixtures, bulbs, and wattages was brought forth to Council and passed in April of 2009. Educational resources such as this webpage have been provided in order that the public may learn more about the subject of light pollution abatement through a multimedia approach. The education initiative has been prepared as an alternative to enforcement of the polices behind the Dark Sky Initiative.
Q: Who does the bylaw apply to?
A: The bylaw, having been adopted in accordance with relevant statutes in the Province of Alberta's Municipal Government Act, encompasses all lands within the Foothills County corporate boundaries. This means that the Dark Sky bylaw affects all residents, businesses, corporations, organizations and institutes in the region under the jurisdiction of Foothills County.
Q: What is light pollution?
A: Light pollution is the result of artificial light, radiating upward and outward which decreases visibility at night and wastes energy. Light pollution disrupts global wildlife, and ecological balance, has been linked to negative consequences in human health, affects astronomers and scientists.
Q: What does light pollution look like?
A: Light pollution can come in various forms, such as glare, up-light, and light trespass.
|Glare reduces visibility and safety for pedestrians, motorists, and the like.||Up-light directs illumination skyward unnecessarily.||Light Trespass is exactly as it sounds, light trespasses from a space that requires illumination, into a space that may not.|
Q: What can I do to reduce light pollution?
A: Use outdoor light at night only when and where it is needed and at appropriate lighting levels. Use fully shielded, light efficient fixtures aimed directly at the ground. Incorporate timers and sensors to shut off lights when not needed.
Q: If we shut off the outdoor lights at night - how do we keep our property and neighborhood safe?
A: Lights should be installed where it is needed, and on during the time it will be used, at levels that enhance visibility. There are recommended levels of lighting for the purposes of safety. Poor lighting creates situations that are more dangerous than if no artificial light were present. For example, security is compromised when deep dark shadows are created as a result of excessive illumination and/ or glare from light, which then provide cover for covert activities.
|Refuse collection area of office building
(lighting causing glare)
|Same building during the day
(notice the entryway on the right)
|Notice how the person on the right is not easily seen (poorly designed lighting)|
Photos courtesy of RASC's Light Pollution Abatement Committee
Q: Do I have to replace all my lights right away?
A: Light bulbs will only need to be replaced as they burn out. The Dark Sky Initiative and associated bylaw do not require any retrofitting of exterior lighting in place prior to April 16th of 2009. You have the choice to voluntarily retrofit existing non-compliant lighting in order to help reduce the existing light pollution.
Q: How much will this cost?
A: Compact flourescent light (CFL) bulbs may cost more than the old regular light bulbs, but they use up to 75% less energy, save $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime and produce less heat.
Q: Where can I buy CFL bulbs?
A: CFL bulbs are now available at most retailers.
Q: What about light fixtures?
A: Use of fully shielded, light efficient fixtures aimed at the ground reduces light pollution. For example:
Q: How do I dispose of the compact fluorescent light bulbs?
A: At this time the Foothills Regional Landfill is not equipped to properly dispose of the CFL bulbs. Home Depot stores have a CFL Bulb Recycling Program, through which a recycling unit is located at the entrance by the special services desk. As the use of CFL bulbs becomes more common, more recycling locations will become available. www.homedepot.ca
Q: How does night time light pollution affect animals, plants, and the enviornment?
A: While the majority of life on earth has evolved through the eons in the regular night/day cycles the sun provides, large scale artificial lighting became popular at the beginning of the industrial revolution only afew hundred years ago. Taking into consideration the difference in time between the evolution of life, and the evolution of artificial lighting, in a general sense there has not been enough time for life to adapt to artificially illuminated nocturnal environments.
Many life forms have internal 'clocks' which dictate when to sleep and when to wake, hormonal secretion, reporductive and migrational habits, and so on. These internal clocks are referred to as circadian rhythms, and are usually biological, physiological, and/or behavioral in nature. Humans have these clocks, so do many plants and animals. These clocks have a direct positive correlation with the natural light and dark provided by the sun and the absence of the sun in a twenty four hour period. Linkages have been made between the disruption of circadian rythms and the development of certain ailments in humans and other life forms.
Because circadian rhythms are directly correlated with the twenty four hour cycle of the earth's rotation on its axis, they can also be affected by artificial illumination of the earth during night time hours. While humans can simply put blinds up or use sleeping masks to aid in creating enough darkness for proper rest, plants and animals depend on the various amounts of daylight and night time that exist throughout the seasons of the year, that they may be 'fooled' into believing it is time to migrate, reproduce, or hibernate, when indeed it is not.
The negative effects of light pollution on many forms of life has become so widespread that it has lead to the creation of a new field of study referred to as scotobiology. For more on this and the issues discussed above please follow the links provided below.
Q: What do you think might happen in the long term with the multitude of farm yard lights which dot the landscape at night?
I have read the bylaw and note that agricultural use is exempted. It seems that many farms have mercury vapour lights in the their yards which are very wasteful and can be seen for long distances.
A: While Section 9.2 (i) of the bylaw does state that agricultural uses are exempt, this only applies to intermittent activities, defined in the bylaw's definitions as "activities lasting 20 consecutive working days (approximately one month) or less, upon which exterior lighting is required at the same time each night".