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Editorial: Working together to protect our night sky

It’s often said that to reach big goals, one has to shoot for the stars. When it comes to light pollution, it’s best not to do that. 

In fact, pointing your lights downward is one of the more effective ways to make a difference, according to some very dedicated local volunteers with their own set of lofty objectives.

While the idea of protecting the night sky might seem trivial in the face of so many more dramatic environmental issues, members of the North Fork Dark Sky Coalition aim to spread the message that it’s fairly simple to make an impact on the matter.

As Suffolk Times reporter Brianne Ledda thoroughly reports in this week’s cover story, all it really takes is awareness. Even with the most basic understanding of what to do, we can all play a part and make a difference.

Since 2020, members of the North Fork Dark Sky Coalition have sought support from the Southold Town Board to help spread the word, lobbying both the town and Greenport Village to consider the night sky in upcoming code updates. They’ve even met with school and parks districts about ways they can improve lighting on their properties.

But unlike with other issues, you really don’t need a government partner to change things for the better at your own home or business. With a small investment and the right information, we can all help ensure future generations have an unadulterated view of the sky above.

A first step would be to turn off outdoor lights when they aren’t in use and, if you use a timer, to make sure the way is lit only when necessary.

We should also be paying attention to the bulbs we use. Town code sets a color temperature limit of 3000 Kelvin, but the Dark Sky Coalition recommends not going above 2200 Kelvin.

The intensity and hue of a bulb matters, too. An amber or warm white glow is better than blue-white for both people and the environment. As for light intensity, no outdoor lights should go beyond 6,000 lumens.

We should also avoid the uplighting of trees, buildings, signs and fences, and make sure we shield outdoor fixtures. Point lights away from the sky.

“We’re not telling people to get rid of their lights,” North Fork Dark Sky Coalition member Steven Bellavia told Ms. Ledda. “We’re telling them to use lights smartly, to do it in a way that doesn’t make it go into the sky.”

In other words, let’s all aim away from the stars. 

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