Reducing light pollution – Municipality of Amsterdam

An important goal for the Municipality of Amsterdam is to reduce the amount of artificial light in Amsterdam to reduce energy use and improve the health of humans and ecosystems. Our team combined literature study, field trips, expert interviews and qualitative evaluation among stakeholders to create a practical plan for reducing lights in a way that is socially accepted and embedded in scientific knowledge. The plan has a systemic approach, taking into account ecological factors, social neighborhood dynamics, energy efficiency, technical feasibility, costs and the Municipality’s organizational structure. The Municipality is currently working on a set of pilot projects and organizational changes to put the plan into practice.

More about the project

From space, it can be seen that the Netherlands is completely lit up by the amount of artificial lights. 5% percent of all lighting in the Netherlands is in Amsterdam. Sufficient lighting is important to traffic and social safety, atmosphere and livability in a city. However, artificial light uses precious energy and resources and can have negative effects on humans and ecosystems (i.e. artificial lights influence biorhythms, and there are associations between artificial light and certain diseases). Therefore, an important goal for the Municipality of Amsterdam is to reduce the amount of artificial light in the city. It is however challenging to simply remove artificial lights once put in place, since inhabitants get accustomed to the lights and fear that removing them will negatively impact the livability of their neighborhood. When done right however, reducing the amount of artificial lights positively impacts the livability of a neighborhood. This project makes an overview of all factors relevant to reducing lights in the city, and presents a concrete plan to support the Municipality in its first steps towards realizing it.

Lighting in public spaces in Amsterdam falls under the responsibility of the municipality. Due to various social and technological developments, there is a need for a new perspective on lighting in Amsterdam. In addition, the municipality has various ambitions with regard to livability, the quality of life in public spaces and sustainability, in which lighting can play a role. The municipality already conducted multiple pilot projects with regard to sustainability and livability, e.g. smart lights that are controlled via an app in the Port area or sensors that are connected to street poles at Rembrandtplein that are temporarily intensified in case of emergency. However, while these projects mainly introduced new, alternative lights, there has been minimal progress in reducing light where possible. Therefore, in our project focuses on minimizing the negative effects of light on humans and ecosystems and increasing sustainability by reducing artificial light in promising locations in Amsterdam. 


Simon Cramer, Kaya Lucker, Channah Osinga