My Neighbor’s Lighting

(source: International Dark Sky Assn)

Light trespass is an unshielded fixture that casts a bright light that spills onto your property and perhaps even inside your home. Your neighbor may not realize their unshielded lighting is shining on your property, wasting energy, money, and creating a safety hazard. Don’t hesitate to ask them for their advice to solve the problem.

International Dark Sky Association suggests taking the following steps to educate your neighbor and by extension your community, about the value of dark sky-friendly lighting.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend (Black and White Edit) | Flickr

Practical Actions:

  • Make friends. Your neighbors probably don’t even realize their lighting is bothersome.
  • Stay positive. Be tactful and understanding about your neighbor’s right to light their property.
  • Suggest alternatives to their current fixture. Suggest ways they can move the light, shield it, or add a motion sensor so it’s activated only when needed. Offer to help get this done.
  • Talking to your neighbor is a great opportunity to be an advocate for good lighting. There are many reasons to use dark sky-friendly lighting. Read up on the issues regarding light pollution. IDA also has a number of educational resources that can be useful.
  • It’s useful to know the local costs of electricity (cents per KWH) and the local lighting control ordinances. This information is available from your regional utility company and on your utility bill.
  • Use local businesses or homes with good quality lighting as an example of effective security measures that are dark sky-friendly.
  • Suggest they talk with Ace Hardware (in Point Reyes Station) to learn about shielded light fixtures, motion detectors, and timers. Use the IDA Fixture Seal of Approval database to find dark sky-friendly fixtures and devices.
  • Don’t dismiss their need to feel safe. Remember that home is a place where everyone wants to feel relaxed and safe.
  • Explain that light trespass is a form of light pollution.
  • Remember, everyone wants the same thing: a chance to relax in his or her own environment. Work together to create an atmosphere that benefits the community
  • Write a letter. You may find it useful to put your thoughts on paper.

Hold on Pardner, that’s Trespassin’, Sample letter from a Texan “pardner:”

Folks ‘round here pride themselves in being good neighbors.  We watch out for each other’s places and, if anyone is ever in need of assistance, we all pitch in and help.  But there’s one thing that some of us are not so good at and that’s trespassing onto our neighbors’ property.  No, not physically intruding because everyone in Texas knows that can get you shot (or close to it).  But, unfortunately, there is a form of trespass that goes on around here a lot. While it’s not a shootin’ offense, it can be downright annoying.  It’s called light trespass. 

A lot of us moved out here to get away from the city and enjoy country living.  For many of us, part of that enjoyment consists of being able to sit back and enjoy our still wonderfully dark nighttime sky and the peaceful, rural countryside around us.

But, boy oh boy, it can sure be annoying when that view is destroyed by that one neighbor down the way who has a bright light that shines off his place and onto yours!  His light trespasses onto your property to your great annoyance and spoils both your view of the countryside and your enjoyment of the night sky. 

The thing about it is…that neighbor probably doesn’t have a clue that his light is bothering you.  But it is. His light is trespassing onto your property and you just plain don’t like it.

But have you said anything?  How does he know?  If you’ll just mention it to him, you’ll probably discover that he had no idea that his light bothers you and he will be most eager to correct it, especially if you offer to pay for it.  That’s what good neighbors do. 

If you have a light of your own that you’re not sure about, just go out at night and stand on your property line.  If you can see the direct light coming from the fixture — oops!  — that light is shining off your property and is probably trespassing onto someone else’s place.  Whether your neighbor mentions it to you or not, go ahead and do the right thing – shield the light or reposition it so it shines down and stays on your own property.  If we all do that, we’ll all be able to continue to enjoy those beautiful nights we have out here.

Here in the Texas Hill Country, let’s all work together to keep the Stars at Night, Big and Bright!