Using outdoor lighting to help local wildlife and environment

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Updated May 17, 2023
Photo: Chip-N-Dales Custom LandscapingPhoto: Chip-N-Dales Custom Landscaping

Outdoor lighting is not only a project that’s beneficial for landscaping companies, it also brings multiple benefits to your customers. But can these outdoor lighting fixtures be negatively affecting the environment and nearby wildlife?

Many studies show that the use of certain outdoor lighting has the potential to disrupt the natural flow of wildlife, such as a moth circling your customer’s outside lights or sea turtles being drawn toward the bright lights of condos and beachside homes.

Experts at the International Dark-Sky Association tell us that the addition of so many extra lights into the ecosystem could potentially be keeping wildlife from functioning properly at night.

“Predators use light to hunt, and prey species use darkness as cover,” research scientist Christopher Kyba told the IDA. “Near cities, cloudy skies are now hundreds, or even thousands of times brighter than they were 200 years ago. We are only beginning to learn what a drastic effect this has had on nocturnal ecology.”

Artificial lights can produce a glare that can disrupt the nighttime mating rituals of many amphibians, which ultimately could play a role in the reduction of the species.

In Florida alone, millions of hatchling sea turtles are drawn away from the light of the moon toward even brighter condo and home lights, which ultimately leads to their demise.

Birds can wander off their migratory course at night if they are unable to accurately determine which light is the moon and which is not, and those that hunt at night are sometimes at a disadvantage because their night vision is inhibited.

While there may be a good bit of negative information about outdoor lighting, it’s not a taboo project to undertake. When talking to your customers about installing outdoor lighting, keep these important ecological facts in mind and take into consideration their location, the weather, and local animal life, and plan accordingly.

Once you’ve helped them make an educated decision on the best and most eco-friendly way to go about installing lighting, it’s time to start on the project. Check out a couple of recommendations to remember the next time your customers begin asking the pros and cons of outdoor lighting.

Choosing the right type of light  

Common light sources typically include low-pressure sodium (LPS), metal halide, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and high-pressure sodium (HPS). HPS lights are commonly used for street lighting in many cities. LPS lights, while energy-efficient, do emit only a narrow spectrum of what could be considered pumpkin-colored light. In environmentally sensitive areas, LPS is the popular choice.

In areas where white light is preferred, metal halide and LEDs are the top picks. LED lighting can be dimmed, which makes them one of the preferred options. When they are not needed, they can be turned off, or the intensity can be dimmed to match whatever the occasion calls for. This allows customers to save energy and reduce light pollution during the night.

With the introduction of LED bulbs and LED fixtures and knowing the proper ways to use this outdoor lighting, the negative effects can be significantly lowered. According to, in 2011 LEDs made up just about nine percent of the global lighting market; they estimate that by 2020, they will account for 69 percent.

Once your customers have picked out the type of bulb they want to work with, another important factor is picking out the proper fixture. There’s a multitude of different fixtures out there, but for helping protect wildlife and the surrounding environment, there are a specific few that are the best choices. For a full list of acceptable and unacceptable lighting fixtures, click here.

Light color matters

Along with having the correct fixture and light, it’s also important to have the correct color light. Large amounts of blue light are present in both LEDs and metal halide lights. It’s important to limit the amount of blue light emitted because blue light brightens the night sky more than any other color of light.

Studies have also shown that exposure to blue lights at night can be harmful to wildlife and human health, therefore the IDA recommends using lighting that sports a color temperature of no more than 3,000 Kelvins.

Be sure to use different levels of lighting for different purposes, such as using low lights for path lighting or soft mood lighting. Brighter lights can be used as accents throughout the landscape.

Consider talking to your customers about the option of using dimmers and timers to alternate when the lights are on and off.

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