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Responsible outdoor lighting is: 1. Useful, 2. Targeted, 3. Low Level, 4. Controlled, and 5. Warm-Colored

Too often, outdoor electric lighting installations at night are overlit, left on when not needed, and harmful to the environment. As a result, light pollution is a growing global issue that can negatively affect our environment and impact our quality of life. DarkSky and the Illuminating Engineering Society jointly published the Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting to prevent and reduce light pollution through the proper application of quality outdoor electric lighting.

By applying these principles, properly designed electric lighting at night can be beautiful, healthy, and functional. Projects that incorporate these principles will save energy and money, reduce light pollution, and minimize wildlife disruption.

Responsible outdoor lighting is: 1. Useful, 2. Targeted, 3. Low Level, 4. Controlled, and 5. Warm-Colored

Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

If light is deemed useful and necessary, follow these guidelines to prevent, or when that’s not possible, minimize light pollution.

Responsible outdoor lighting is:

1. Useful

Use light only if it is needed

All light should have a clear purpose. Consider how the use of light will impact the area, including wildlife and their habitats.

Consider using reflective paints or self-luminous markers for signs, curbs, and steps to reduce the need for permanently installed outdoor lighting.

2. Targeted

Direct light so it falls only where it is needed

Use shielding and careful aiming to target the direction of the light beam so that it points downward and does not spill beyond where it is needed.

3. Low level

Light should be no brighter than necessary

Use the lowest light level required. Be mindful of surface conditions, as some surfaces may reflect more light into the night sky than intended.

4. Controlled

Use light only when it is needed

Use controls such as timers or motion detectors to ensure that light is available when it is needed, dimmed when possible, and turned off when not needed.

5. Warm-colored

Use warmer-color lights where possible

Limit the amount of shorter wavelength (blue-violet) light to the least amount needed.

Light where you need it, when you need it, in the amount needed, and no more.


Learn more about Responsible outdoor lighting.

Read the original April 2020 Lighting Principles announcement (includes a Spanish language version).


You’re free to download and distribute the Five Principles in unmodified form.

For printing
Postcard size (8.5″ x 5.5″ with bleeds + crop marks) (PDF)
Postcard size (8.5″ x 5.5″ without bleeds) (PDF)

^ Updated September 2023

For web, social
Web version (1400 x 904 px) (PNG)

^ Updated September 2023

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