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Our primordial fear of the dark has led us to light the night, worldwide. Without thinking, our outdoor lights not only shine where we want them on our streets and buildings, but also up, into the sky. Big cities like Toronto glow intensely, visible testaments to incomplete planning and wasted energy. 

The impact is far-reaching. Nocturnal animals, wildlife mating instincts and migrating birds have their natural patterns disrupted. Fossil fuels are burned for no purpose. Glare exceeds the ability of the eye to properly use the created light. The Northern Lights are rendered invisible. City children get a stunted intrinsic understanding of the night sky and the universe.

- Chris Hadfield Colonel, Astronaut (ret’d), Torontonian 

To address light pollution, the City of Toronto with input from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, has created the Best Practices for Effective Lighting document. In this document, we show what residents, architects, urban designers and planners can do to provide well designed, energy efficient lighting that is cost-effective and has a low impact on the environment. Many of these measures - such as shielding outdoor lamps - can be done as retrofits or incorporated into new design. 

Lighting is an important component of urban life. Properly designed lighting provides safety and security so the city may be navigated and used at night. Well designed lighting both uses energy efficiently and minimizes the negative effects on human and nocturnal animal life. Effective lighting improves the quality of urban life for everyone. 

Although artificial lighting has had a positive impact on city life, it has resulted in negative effects where it has been poorly designed or improperly installed. Most types of lighting are beneficial, but glare, light trespass, overlighting and sky glow can actually worsen visibility for city inhabitants. 

Light pollution is growing faster than the rate of increase of population. Controlling this wasted light results in energy savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Lighting improvements can pay for themselves in energy savings, sometimes in a matter of months. 

The document provides guidance for the ‘light pollution’ section of the Toronto Green Standard, a ‘made in Toronto’ set of performance measures intended to improve the overall quality of life in Toronto. The Toronto Green Standard encourages sustainable site development to a standard that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, improve air and water quality, protect urban forest and wildlife habitat, reduce waste, and minimize the impact of lighting in the night sky. A new or existing building that meets the ‘Best Practices for Effective Lighting’ would contribute to Toronto’s overall sustainability and resiliency. 

City of Toronto - Best Practice for Effective Lighting 

Download the Best Practices for Effective Lighting document.