On a Budget?

You do not have to spend a lot of money to reduce your impact on the night. Here are a few tips, and why they work.

Cover pathways with white crushed stone (limestone or dolomite)

    We see the ground with the light it reflects. If you use asphalt, less than 10% of the light is reflected. If it's a dirt path, then the soil will reflect about 20% of the light - about the same as grass. But crushed stone reflects about 80%. So, you can use much less light for the same visibility. In addition to using less light, a stone surface is easily repaired, and rainwater will drain through rather than forming puddles.
White paint on woodwork.
    There are a few critical features that we NEED to see: steps and handrails - so make them obvious. White paint reflects almost all the incident light. So paint the edges of the step and sides of the railing. They will be much more prominent with only a small flashlight. You can also paint the edges of stone steps. You will be able to notice them under starlight.
Retro-reflective materials
    This is similar to the idea of white paint. We can mount retro reflective materials in isolated places: posts, trees, rocks, etc. to mark their location. They will appear to “glow” when illuminated by a small flashlight and will standout against the darker background.
Use “Bug Lights”
    Bug Lights get their name because they don't attract flying insects as much as white light. You can get these in the form of incandescent, CFL or LED bulbs. They don't emit much blue light, which makes the light look amber. However the CFL and LED bulbs may be “too bright”, so although the illuminated path won´t attract bugs, the brightness of the lamp will. To reduce this, the lamps should be shielded so the glare won't attract the insects. You may still be able to get some low wattage incandescent bulbs (<25W).
Filter the white light
    White light is the mix of all colours, but the blue component is the “ecological disruptor”. To make a white lamp acceptable, block the blue light with a filter. I show how well one filter works here. This Roscolux #15 Deep Straw filter can be purchased from BH Photovideo. I am sure there are others, but this is the one I found first.
Phosphorescent materials
    These materials store up the light energy during the day and re-emit it at night. If the material is thick enough (5 mm) it may glow for the entire night. It has a slight greenish colour. This material is also used as escape lighting along the floor of aircraft, but it is quite thin and doesn´t glow for very long. I have seen these at the Mont-Megantic Observatory and AstroLab facility (Quebec). They are formed into small “pucks” about 4cm in diameter, and help delineate the roadway. They work very well but may be hard to find commercially.
Leave it dark
    As strange as it may seem, it may be safer to leave an area dark. Light attracts attention and raises curiosity. If there is a place where you don't want people to go at night - keep it dark. Most animals know that anonymity is the best security.
Mark a spot?
    What is it you would like to do? Marking a spot or location doesn't need a flood light. A VERY small low-power lamp will work. This will be enough for you to get your bearings. Consider the “morning”, or “evening” star. It appears as a brilliant “spark” in the sky. It's actually the planet Venus, but my point is that it is VERY easy to see. Its “luminance” is 1 cd/m2, which doesn't mean much for most people. But a single LED powered by only a few milliwatts will produce this light. You DON'T need a 10W commercial light fixture.
Illuminate an area
    If you want to illuminate and area like a patio then you will need more light. A good way to select the right fixture is by using the power it consumes. A typical LED light fixture produces (very roughly) 100-lumens of light per watt. A CFL bulb produces about 80-lumens per watt. You need only 1-watt to illuminate a 10m2 patio (~10-feet x 10-feet) to 10-lux with an LED. To put this into perspective, you can read at 2-3 lux. You DON'T need a 10W commercial light fixture unless you want your patio to be brighter than your living room, which will also attract all the bugs in the neighbourhood.
Simply shield
    If you do not want to buy an expensive lamp with a good shield, you can make your own for your current light. If you have a low power (<15W) LED or CFL bulb, you can even use cardboard. If you have an incandescent bulb then you should use metal, because most of the power goes into producing heat, which can char or burn a cardboard shield. Here and here are links to a couple of examples. I paint the cardboard and metal shields with white outdoor metal paint. It will protect the material for many years. These are also nice craft projects for your children and grandchildren, and will get them thinking about the environment and how to protect it.

To Main EcoLights Page