Seeing Stars: Reduce Light Pollution

Our top four tips for getting rid of light pollution


Hutton Metalcrafts’ amber-enclosed wall sconce is approved by the International Dark-Sky Association.

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Lying on the lawn after dark to catch an August meteor shower used to be a well-loved summer ritual, but unless you’re willing to drive into the country for stargazing, you may be out of luck. The culprit: light pollution, which hides all but the brightest night objects.

Darkening areas around your home may help, says Nancy Clanton of Clanton and Associates, an environmentally sensitive lighting design firm in Boulder, Colorado. What you can do:

• SHINE LIGHTS RIGHT. Exterior fixtures should aim down instead of out so beams don’t radiate higher than ninety degrees from vertical. Step to the edge of your property: You should see a mellow glow rather than the bulb itself.

• SKIP LANDSCAPE LIGHTING. Nightly light exposure can damage plants over time. “Imagine someone shining a spotlight on you while you’re sleeping,” says Clanton. Bring out decorative lights only for parties.

• SHADE THE BULB. Louvers and frosted-glass shades block glare, especially when you use a forty-watt (or less) bulb. A beautiful pick: Hutton Metalcrafts’ amber-enclosed wall sconce ($199). Or opt for pendant fixtures that shine light downward, such as the Outdoor Captain’s Lantern Sconce from Restoration Hardware ($89).

• LEAVE LIGHTS OFF. Connect security floodlights to motion sensors aimed at your driveway, not the sidewalk. You’ll have light when you need it—without leaving the home fires burning twenty-four/seven.

Information on light pollution: International Dark-Sky Association: