Save Our Dark Skies

The photos used in this post to illustrate the astronomical wonders that dark skies bring us were all submitted to our #inthewildhood photo contest by readers like you!

© Nathan Woodruff  | Lake Livingston SP

Nowadays, light pollution keeps many people from experiencing the wonder and excitement of gazing at the blanket of stars that cover the night sky. 


Because of our industrial society, 80 percent of Americans have never seen the Milky Way. Not only does light pollution hinder us from admiring the stars and planets above, but it also negatively impacts humans and wildlife.  

© Carlos Rio | Inks Lake SP

It can affect our circadian rhythms and serotonin levels, along with animals’ hormone levels and their mating and feeding habits. Light pollution wastes money, lights up places not meant to be lit up (that frustrating neighbor with a glaring streetlamp) and can waste up to 0.5 kWh of energy per house per night (that’s enough energy to power a 50-inch plasma TV for an hour). While many people associate brighter streets with less criminal activity, too much lighting can actually cause a glare, providing the perfect way for intruders to work without getting caught. 


Texas has stepped up to commit to protecting our dark skies, and it has 14 dark sky places, granted by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Light pollution is reversible, and even you can make a difference. Here are some practical ways to reduce light pollution and fight for our dark skies: 


  • Educate yourself. IDA has tons of resources on its website that can help you better understand what light pollution is, its impacts and how to make a difference. They also have a blog on light pollution. 
  • Only the necessities. Make sure to use light only when necessary, where necessary and as bright as necessary. If you’re concerned about safety, consider buying motion-detector sensor lights with timers. Also, keep your blinds shut at night to keep light inside.  
  • Shop right. Colors matter! It’s best to minimize blue-light emissions, as blue light brightens the sky more than any other color. Consider purchasing warmer white colors when shopping for bulbs. Additionally, find light fixtures that shield the light and face downward to reduce light waste. IDA also has a searchable database to find fixtures that have an IDA seal of approval. 
  • Support IDA and dark sky scientists. You can become a citizen scientist and help measure light pollution, all from your fingertips with a smartphone. You can also become an IDA member and receive calls-to-action or become an IDA chapter volunteer to advocate for dark skies. Also, check out an IDA dark sky park and give your tourism dollars toward protecting those areas. Texas’ IDA dark sky parks include Big Bend Ranch, Enchanted Rock, Copper Breaks and South Llano River. 
  • Educate others. Many people aren’t aware of light pollution, nor do they understand its impact. Consider talking to friends and family, and even kindly addressing your neighbors about their bright light fixture in their front yard. Become an advocate online, set up a table at a local event, give a public talk. Just tell people about it! 


© ofonsecamd | Chihuahuan Desert

Small steps make a big difference — 20 to 50 percent of outdoor residential lighting is wasted due to poor shielding alone. You can help protect our dark skies and everything that lives under them! 


Read more about dark skies in state parks in this Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine story. 

© Ryan Nelms | Copper Breaks SP

If you want to learn more about conservation efforts in Texas subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!


  1. Amen. I live on a dead end street against a small creek. It is a little bit of heaven. Have to go to the back yard to see the night sky. The front is illuminated by a directional LED type security light on a pole from Duke Energy. No one down here requested it, unless it was the small town? Have been thinking about moving further out into a wooded area of this small, lightly populated county. It is a shame when you can tell a town/city is on the way by the night sky 20 miles from arrival.

  2. Living in a large city I always had to drive 20 miles away from town to use my telescope. It was worth the trip.

  3. I moved to Bandera Texas, which is what you would call, out in the country. My next door neighbor has an LED street light in the front, hanging lights all over their front lawn and they leave them on all night. This is their second home and are here only one weekend a month. Can’t see the stars here. And they complain about their electric bill.