Campus SHINE program​

Most colleges and universities have accumulated their outdoor lighting over the years without much consideration of the science of lighting design. Institutional inertia and budgeting constraints lead to significant lag between the advancement of technology and the rate at which existing infrastructure and attitudes change. This usually leads to bad lighting practices with dubious underlying rationales such as “more lighting is better and safer.”  The result is widespread suboptimal or even counterproductive lighting on college campuses.

The Campus SHINE program provides guidance to improve outdoor lighting and implement technological solutions that mitigate and/or eliminate problems such as sky glow, light trespass, and direct glare. The essential question to ask is:

How can we improve campus night-time safety and reassurance by responsibly using modern LED technology?


Implicit in this question is that, like anything else, there are pros and cons associated with the implementation of modern technology. While LEDs can save money due to their efficient use of energy, when used indiscriminately, they can actually be unhealthy and unsafe. On the other hand, if used responsibly, LED technology can provide lighting solutions that will not only make your campus safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, but also more pleasing aesthetically, environmentally friendlier, and cost-effective. All this whilst reducing light trespass, direct glare and sky glow to bring back the stars to your campus.

Once one understands and appreciates the best practices guiding the safe and healthy illumination of the nighttime environment, you can collaborate and formulate solutions with faculty, students, the general public, and campus administrators. Note that the proposed solutions may take a long time to be accepted and be financially feasible. Nevertheless the materials and resources provided here will help you take the first few steps towards finding local solutions to the scientific, environmental, social, and legal aspects of the problem.

Bringing better lighting to your campus

A comprehensive Campus SHINE document will soon (Fall 2024) be available which includes multiple facets of this program: advocacy, assessment, and activism. Here, we outline the main steps necessary to bring better lighting to your campus:

1. Adopt sustainable lighting solutions based on the Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting

2. Build a strong coalition of faculty, staff and students

a. Involve students, student government (example: TSU student government resolution) and student clubs/groups from the very beginning,

b. Incorporate light pollution into your education program/curriculum (Sample exercise I, exercise II; Slide deck), and

c. Address concerns about safety by including campus police from the beginning.

3. Plan and conduct campus outreach events (example presentations)

a. Target local libraries and farmers’ markets etc. and solicit periodic input from community members,

b. Highlight examples of good and bad lighting,

c. Emphasize environmental, ecological, and health concerns arising from ALAN, and

d. Conduct night walks on campus and stargazing events on campus, the local observatory, and local parks.

4. Develop a culture of campus lighting assessment and planned improvements

a. Conduct student surveys (examples: TSU survey, Clanton survey),

b, Develop and maintain a campus lighting inventory and map  (example: TSU inventory map),

c. Acquire and implement tools for measuring lights (directionality, intensity, and color) on campus (click here for a list of options),

d. Acquire and implement tools for measuring sky brightness (click here for a list of options), and

e. Organize and present findings at local conferences and talks on campus.

5. Formulate a Lighting Management Plan (LMP) for your campus (examples: TSU LMP, UC-Berkley, Valdosta)

a. General guidelines for campus lighting,

b. Prioritizing implementation of solutions,

c. Technical and legal considerations, and

d. Exemptions.

6. Establish a ‘lighting management committee’

a. Review LMP periodically and organize night walks once a semester (or year),

b. Reach out to and maintain contact with lighting experts (for example through DarkSky International) to address specific concerns as they arise, and

c. Include faculty, staff, administrators, campus police, and students responsible for moving the work forward.