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Mar 272009

Seventeen states and several countries have light pollution laws. In Canada, the city of Calgary replaced all 37,500 streetlights with more efficient ones, saving around $2 million a year.

Flagstaff, Arizona, has the distinction of being the world’s first certified International Dark-Sky Community.  However, even before this designation, Flagstaff has been working to reduce light pollution in the community for many years now – 50, to be exact. In 1958, astronomers at Lowell Observatory were adding a new telescope. They appealed to the city government and the first light pollution ordinance was passed banning searchlights. In 1989, the city went even further, adopting the strictest provisions in the world by restricting light to a specific number of lumens per acre, based on proximity to the Observatory.

“We decided to become a certified dark-sky city mainly to get people to notice it,” says John Grahame, the Program Coordinator for the Coconino County Sustainable Economic Development Initiative. “It’s on a sign when you drive into the city and people are curious and ask about it.”

Grahame, who is also  President of the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition, works with local businesses to help reduce their light pollution. He hopes when visitors can see he stars in Flagstaff is, they’ll want to do improve their own communities.

“Flagstaff is a beautiful place and our dark skies are a huge part of its beauty,” he says. “Even our Taco Bell is gorgeous.”