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Ann Arbor ordinance aiming to reduce pollution could impact home Christmas lights

Posted at 11:37 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 05:24:13-05

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Before you channel your inner Chevy Chase this holiday season, the city of Ann Arbor is hoping you think twice about what doing so means for the environment.

“I found it very interesting that people in Ann Arbor were debating a topic like this,” Ann Arbor resident Craig Rimmerman said.

In September, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a new lighting ordinance with the goal of fighting light pollution.

“Light pollution is light that serves no function or purpose,” said Sally Oey, a professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan. “One of the worst things about light pollution is that it really affects the nocturnal environment.”

Oey says human light pollution is leading to declining insect populations and kills up to one billion birds every year by adding unnecessary light to the night sky. It can also impact the quality of sleep for animals and humans.

“It's pretty serious because when we’re talking about destroying an entire ecosystem that is there half of the time, this is our natural environment,” Oey said.

The ordinance makes an exception for temporary lights like Christmas lights, but those can only be up for three months, or 90 days, out of the year, and must now be turned off between midnight and 6 a.m.

“You might want to think about, do you really have to have the super giant bright white snowman? And if you really do, does it really have to be up for four weeks or is one week OK,” Oey said.

Because this is a new ordinance, the city will take a more educational approach and doesn’t expect to issue any citations this holiday season.

“It could ultimately result in a citation," said Brett Lenart, planning director for the city of Ann Arbor. "This obviously is pretty low on the threat to public safety and welfare, so I don’t anticipate a lot of that happening.”

So while it’s perfectly legal to be like Chevy Chase between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight, the city hopes you think twice this holiday season and all year long about the light coming from your home.

"All we need to do really is to light only what is needed, light only when is needed, light no bluer than is needed and light no more than is needed,” Oey said. “Try to think a little bit more in moderation and of the consequences of having lights there."