LIVING SUSTAINABLY: We Can See More Stars in Holland
By Paul Lilly and Michelle Gibbs
Living Sustainably Committee
“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky….”
Our fascination with the night sky starts at a young age, and many of us can think back to a time when we were in a remote area – perhaps on a snipe hunt or camping trip – and, gazing upward, we were able to witness the splendor of the Milky Way and were amazed by how many stars we could see. Perhaps we even tried to count them, imagined ourselves flying amongst them, or were lucky enough to see a shooting star!
Unfortunately, many people today have not been able to have this moving and memorable experience. With urbanization and expansion of street lights, parking lot lights, and security lighting, it is getting harder to see the stars. With less free time and more emphasis on screen-based technologies, we forget about taking time out to seek a place free of light pollution to view the night sky.
Our environment is often flooded with omni-directional lighting that can be seen from blocks or miles away – even from space. This light effectively blocks views of the night sky for entire communities. Lighting that is dark-sky friendly is designed to reverse this trend by using more focused, site-specific illumination, which in turn allows clearer views of the moon and constellations.
“Excessive lighting is unnecessarily costly and wasteful, when more targeted illumination is more efficient,” said Anne Saliers, community energy services manager at the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW).
To encourage business customers to consider dark sky-approved lighting, the HBPW offers a 10 percent bonus on its rebates for exterior lighting. According to Pete Strasser of the International Dark-Sky Association, the HBPW is the first entity to offer rebates for dark-sky friendly fixtures.
To learn more about dark sky efforts and reconnect with the stars, join us for the program “Where is Our Starry Night?” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Herrick District Library. Admission is free, and a door prize raffle will feature a 2017 Family Membership to the Outdoor Discovery Center.
The program is part of the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series that seeks to educate and empower Holland area residents to live more sustainably. The series is sponsored by the City of Holland, GreenMichigan.org, Herrick District Library, Hope College, League of Women Voters, Meijer Campus of Grand Valley State University, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council.
In September, the Living Sustainably group received the “2016 Top Project Award” from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Neighborhood Environmental Partners Program. The advocacy group was recognized for its 2015 educational series and for collaborating with 50 local partners on behalf of sustainability education. The announcement was made at the First Annual Michigan Sustainability Conference, held in Grand Rapids. Follow us on Facebook.
- Paul Lilly and Michelle Gibbs are members of the Holland-based Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore Committee.
Three Things to Know about Dark Skies
- Light pollution is costly in both economic and environmental terms.
- We can enjoy the nighttime sky without compromising our sense of safety.
- Holland can reduce its energy costs and carbon footprint in line with its vision for a more energy-efficient future.
Cutline: This NASA image shows the glow seen in space from lighted areas on Earth.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland, and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.
If You Go
What: “Where is our Starry Night?”
Who: Free to everyone, sponsored by Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7
Where: Herrick District Library, 300 S. River, Holland
Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.