By Danielle Ray, Senior Reporter
Town residents were asked to participate in a survey this past spring that was put together by a team of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute for an outdoor light use research project.
The students have worked with the town’s Environmental Action Committee (EAC) to learn about the views of Princeton residents concerning light pollution. They created the survey, mapped light use, photographed the night sky, and developed suggestions “for ways to lessen current and future light pollution in our rural town,” according to information posted on the town website.
“Through interviews with light pollution experts and town officials, and through survey results from Princeton residents like you, the students will be able to identify feasible measures to potentially address light pollution,” said EAC Chair Claire Golding in an email to town residents explaining the survey.
“As members of the town’s Environmental Action Committee, Claire Golding and I worked as sponsors to a team of WPI students on an assessment of public attitudes on light pollution in Princeton and possible recommendations for approaches to light pollution mitigation,” said EAC Vice Chair Corey Burnham-Howard. “The light survey was part of this project.”
The EAC is a town committee charged with implementing Princeton’s environmental action plan. It sponsored the 14-week WPI student project.
“The team’s charge was to help the committee assess public attitudes on light pollution in Princeton, as well as possible opportunities and recommendations for approaches to light pollution mitigation,” Burnham-Howard said.
The students surveyed town residents on attitudes toward light pollution and mitigation strategies; mapped current sources of light pollution in town; evaluated current research regarding the effects of light pollution on humans and animals and the efficacy of light as a crime or wildlife deterrent; analyzed existing and proposed related environmental and zoning regulations, bylaws, policies, and incentives; assessed the pros and cons and options of various exterior lighting technology, including those designed to reduce light pollution from residences, businesses, and municipal facilities; evaluated best practices in Massachusetts and elsewhere to mitigate light pollution; and suggested outreach strategies for use in the community.
According to Burnham-Howard there were 255 responses to the survey, approximately 9% of Princeton’s adult population. More than 80% of respondents could identify some examples of light use within the town that was contributing to light trespass or light pollution, and respondents overwhelmingly agreed that every Princeton resident should be able to see a clear, starry night sky, with under 6% disagreeing.
More than 80% of respondents indicated that they were concerned about how light pollution might negatively impact the night sky in Princeton in the future, and in a question asking about support among respondents for different methods to reduce light pollution, over 70% answered that they would support at least one of the methods, with even the least popular method still garnering the support of over 40%.
“Results of the survey show that an overwhelming majority of respondents are concerned about future light pollution in Princeton, and that most support mitigation methods,” Burnham-Howard said. “The EAC is still studying the WPI team’s report, and will work first, assuming Select Board approval, on building community understanding and appreciation of light issues such as light trespass and glare.”
Once completed, a final report from the students will be posted on the town website.