Light it up!... or down

Leaving the lights on unnecessarily can be a bad habit that we might not even think about. However, this wastes valuable resources and negatively impacts the environment.

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Energy consumption information:

Reduce energy use as well as CO2 emissions, which contribute to climate change, by turning off lights when they are not needed (Washington State Department of Ecology, 2014). If you turn off the lights whenever you leave a room, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 0.15 pounds per hour (Boston University, 2014).

Energy consumption can easily be reduced by 20% through turning off computers and unplugging devices such as: printers, iPods, phone chargers, and external hard drives (Boston University, 2014). To save energy without even lifting a finger; use a smart power strip to automatically switch devices off when your computer is turned off.

Based on a survey, an average student consumes 1.15 kWh/day. 1 kWh is equal to 1.15 pounds of CO2, 1 exercise-ball-sized balloon of 
CO2, driving 1.25 miles in a car, 0.29 gallons of gasoline, or 1.75 hamburgers, as beef is the most energy intensive food in the United States (UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, 2014). Lets use some of the strategies above to cut down on our energy consumption!

What are the ecological effects of light?

It is easy to visualize how leaving lights on wastes energy and contributes to the effects of greenhouse gases. However, leaving lights on can also result in the effects of light pollution.

Some organisms suffer directly due to light pollution. For example, sea turtle hatchlings normally come out at night then orient themselves to the ocean, going towards the bright, seaward horizons. They orient themselves away from dark silhouettes on land. Artificial lights interfere with these natural cues and disrupt hatchling orientation (Bourgeois, et al., 2009). Nesting turtles also have less dark beaches to nest on. In Florida, hatchling losses number in the hundreds of thousands every year due to confusion (Klinkenborg, 2008).

Light pollution also introduces selectivity in the environment that would not have naturally occurred. Species such as: insects (clustering around streetlights), rodents, fruit bats, opossums, and badgers find themselves less suitable for their environment and more susceptible to predators. Predators, in turn, use new predation tactics to their advantage by incorporating light. This is another example of how light pollution has effected natural processes (Klinkenborg, 2008).

Migration schedules can also be affected due to light pollution. Artificial long days allow for increased feeding times, which will affect migration. Additionally, early breeding can be induced by long artificial days and artificially short nights (Klinkenborg, 2008). Changes in natural timing of processes can affect the viability of an organism. For example, if species are migrating during different times they might not have access to resources they normally would while migrating during their usual time. 

(Courtesy of:

"A Watt of What? , UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability." A Watt of What? , UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Bourgeois, Stéphanie, Emmanuelle Gilot-Fromont, Anne Viallefont, François Boussamba, and Sharon L. Deem. "Influence of Artificial Lights, Logs and Erosion on Leatherback Sea Turtle Hatchling Orientation at Pongara National Park, Gabon." Biological Conservation 142.1 (2009): 85-93. EBSCO. Print.
Klinkenborg, Verlyn. "Our Vanishing Night." National Geographic 214.5 (2008): 102-23. EBSCO. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
"Turn Off The Lights." Sustainability Turn Off The Lights Comments. Boston University, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
"What YOU Can Do | Climate Change Education | Washington State Department of Ecology." What YOU Can Do | Climate Change Education | Washington State Department of Ecology. Department of Ecology, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014

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