By Todd Gutner, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Here’s a riddle. What’s dark and green all over? It’s the city of Boston as many of the towers which define the skyline are turning off their lights at night.

Jack Clarke of Mass Audubon coordinates the Lights Out program. He explained that the Hancock Tower, for example, starts dimming their architectural lights, and their interior lights above the 20th floor, from 11pm-5am..

This happens twice a year, during the spring and fall migratory bird seasons, when almost four dozen Boston skyscrapers participate.

WBZ-TV’s Todd Gutner reports

“We started out with half a dozen buildings three years ago; two years ago we were at 38 buildings; and tonight we are at 43,” said Clarke.

That’s good news for the birds according to Clarke. Thousands of birds die each year because of the lights when they are making their trek.

“They get caught up and distracted by the tall lit buildings in the Northeast,” explained Clarke. “They circle those buildings and they collide with those buildings, drop from exhaustion, and collide with each other.”

Turning out the lights can make good business sense for building owners. Energy is the largest operating expense for commercial buildings. Reducing power use also helps reduce carbon emissions.

“In this case, what is good for the birds is good for the people, and for all living and breathing creatures,” said Cindy Luppi, an environmentalist with Clean Water Action in Boston.

Cleaner air has real, direct health benefits said Luppi. “That reduction of pollution means that we have less health damage in our neighborhoods. There are fewer asthma attacks. There are also fewer emergency room visits that are the result of respiratory distress,” she added.

Clarke is proud of the program. “We have practically every one of the buildings that are over 20 floors participating. It’s a win-win and it doesn’t cost anything. It’s not a requirement. It’s voluntary.”

The current session of Lights Out will run until the end of October, which is the end of the fall migration season.

There are similar programs in Toronto, Chicago, and New York. Clarke would like to see the entire Northeast participate, stretching across to the Great Lake area.

A study in Chicago found the number of bird deaths dropped by 80% once the lights were tuned off.

To learn more about the program, CLICK HERE

  1. Jan Paulsen says:

    Why is the State House dome lit up all night long? It used to be shut off at 11:00 pm, but now the lights burn all night. I have been waked up by the loud students and also by 4:00 AM (private contractors) trash trucks coming onto my street, and when I look out the window I see the lights shining on the dome. In these days of budget austerity and green technology wouldn’t it be wise to shut the lights off after a certain hour?

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