13 Iconic Portland Buildings Went Lights Out to Fight Light Pollution

PORTLAND, OREGON — On September 30, more than 2,500 residents and 13 iconic Portland buildings turned off their unnecessary lights, taking part in the 2016 launch of the Bird Alliance of Oregon’s LightsOut campaign, an effort designed to encourage Portlanders to save energy, save lives and see stars. Households and businesses pledged to turn off their non-essential lights from dusk until dawn, and then to go outside to gaze at the night sky. This event marked the start of Bird Alliance of Oregon’s longer term effort to address the growing issue of light pollution in the Portland metropolitan region.


Sunset by A. Davey

The Portland cityscape looked different on Friday night thanks to participating iconic buildings including the Fox Tower, the Wells Fargo Tower, OMSI, Bonneville Power Administration, 200 Market, Lloyd 700 Building, Lloyd Tower, Metro Regional Center, the 911 Federal Building, East West College, the Bank of America Financial Tower, Montgomery Park and the Oregon Convention Center. The Lloyd EcoDistrict cosponsored the launch event with their own district-wide effort, #LightsOutLloyd, which included 7 participating buildings!

“We were so inspired by the community effort to participate in turning off unnecessary lighting to help raise awareness about the plight of migrating birds!” said BirdSafe Portland Campaign Coordinator Mary Coolidge. “The level of participation we had in this event demonstrated the huge interest that people have in the issue of light pollution.”

In addition to the citywide effort, more than 400 people came out to Sunnyside Environmental School’s LightsOut Portland event on Friday night. Fifth graders organized games, crafts, informational materials, a migratory bird parade, and a raffle to highlight bird migration and to celebrate dark skies. Students enjoyed OMSI’s Portable Planetarium, and volunteers from Rose City Astronomers gave enthusiastic stargazers a chance to see Saturn’s rings through a break in the clouds!

Bird Alliance of Oregon has long been concerned about light pollution, which drowns out the stars that birds use to navigate while migrating, and lures them into cities where they are at risk of colliding with windows. Across the United States, up to 1 billion birds die every year as a result of hitting a window. What’s more, nearly 80 percent of North Americans, including Portlanders, live in places from which they cannot see our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

In addition to environmental and cultural impacts, light pollution can impact human health. Emerging research suggests links between blue-rich white light and a variety of human health concerns including sleep interruption, impaired daytime functioning, damage to the human eye, melatonin suppression, and increased risk for breast cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In June, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted official guidance encouraging municipalities to follow good lighting practices in street lighting selection in order to “minimize potential harmful human and environmental effects.” Light Emitting Diodes (LED) have tremendous energy efficiency benefits, but LED’s that emit blue light have potential to impact health and safety when used as streetlights and in other outdoor settings.

Get Involved in the Lights Out Campaign:

1. Turn out all unnecessary lighting from dusk until dawn, enjoy the stars and and help raise awareness about light pollution!

2. Do an audit of outdoor lighting at your business or home:

  • Turn off outdoor lights when you’re not using them
  • Make sure that all outside lights point down
  • Convert lights to motion sensors so they are only on when needed
  • Make sure that lights are well-shielded so that they don’t create glare
  • When converting to LED, make sure to select warm bulbs (under 3,000 Kelvins)
  • Talk to your employer/building manager about minimizing unnecessary overnight lighting.
  • Turn off or dim rooftop lighting, decorative lighting, lobby and atrium lighting

3. Make an extra effort to minimize nighttime lighting during bird migration periods:

  • Fall Migration Dates: August 25 to November 15
  • Spring Migration Dates: March 15 to June 7

4. Support public policies that minimize light pollution

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s LightsOut PDX campaign is working to promote policies and practices that reduce light pollution in the Portland metropolitan area. For more information, click here. 

Founded in 1902, Bird Alliance of Oregon is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the nation. It promotes the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats through its conservation and environmental education programs, its 150-acre Nature Sanctuary and Nature Store in northwest Portland, and its Wildlife Care Center.

For more information, call 503-292-6855 or visit birdallianceoregon.org.