Glacier Toyota is one business in Smithers that is trying to reduce light pollution by having lower lamp posts with LED lighting. (Marisca Bakker)

Resident wants action on light pollution

A star gazer has some bright ideas to reduce light pollution in Smithers

A Smithers resident is asking the Town to step in and help reduce the amount of light pollution coming from commercial buildings.

Len Vanderstar wrote a letter to town council asking them to “phase out the bright lights of Canadian Tire & Toyota, among others to harmonize with the Smithers streetlights moving to LED and to seriously consider amber coloured lights similar to many cities across Canada in cutting down light pollution.”

He said when he moved here in 1989 there was very minimal light pollution in town.

“If you are doing any astronomy work, you are hooped in town,” he said. “In terms of constellations, I can’t even see them from my backyard anymore. I have to go further up the mountain to see what I used to be able to see right in my backyard. I don’t get the clarity of the constellations to the same extent anymore and I’m on the other side of town in Ebenezer Flats.”

Vanderstar said light pollution is a form of pollution and should be treated as such.

“You can see a glow of town when there is a cloud over town,” he said. “When you can see lights reflecting off the clouds, that is light pollution. But if the clouds aren’t there then it interferes with the starlight coming into town. It should be looked at, objectives could be met and could be phased in over time. We don’t need an abundance of bright lights and they can be better directionalized so they aren’t reflecting into space.”

He said large commercial buildings in town have bright white lights that he said could be changed to an amber or yellow colour.

“You could find today in Smithers, you can hardly see the stars. It is largely due to commercial operations,” he said. “The Town of Smithers has nice amber lights, the streetlights are pretty good that way. The amber glow, and they point downwards and reduce light pollution to a large extent.”

There are bylaws in other towns to prevent light pollution and Vanderstar said it is standard in other areas.

“From a municipal point of view, we are almost there,” he said. “The streetlights are amber, so that is great, you can see them but they aren’t bright. But what you’ll see along the service roads, particularly with the big commercial sites, we need them to transition to a more accommodating light that can still serve their objectives but significantly reduces the light pollution. It only takes a couple of big establishments to affect the change.”

Acting Mayor Gladys Atrill said at this time, town council has no plans to formally make any bylaws that would force businesses to cut down on light pollution.

“The town has been changing out its lights with an intention to reduce energy consumption, and has been encouraging BC Hydro to change out the ones it owns,” she added. “To the specific item of light pollution, I am going to speak to specific businesses to see if there is a way to turn on fewer lights, where it’s possible.”

Meanwhile, some businesses are already working on finding a balance between minimizing light pollution while still showcasing their products and keeping enough lights on for security reasons.

Scott Olesiuk of Glacier Toyota said it has been on their radar for a while.

“When we built our store, we kept our lamp posts low to the ground. We went from a 1,000 watt bulbs at the time down to 388 watt LED bulbs. So now we are consuming less, it is all part of our green initiative at the store,” he said.

They need lights for shoppers browsing in the evening and for security reasons but they are controlled and the lights are the most efficient that can be used, he said.

“We strive to continue to make things better, green is what we are all about. Our vehicles are the most efficient so we tried to do the same thing with our business and our dealership,” he added.

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