Lights Out Toronto: Motorized commercial blinds could help save migrating birds

There are numerous benefits associated with commercial blinds and shades: they can help regulate a building’s internal temperature, lower heating and cooling costs, increase privacy, and more. Who would have thought that among these considerable benefits we’d also find that these modern window coverings can have a positive impact on migratory wildlife, of all things?

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Credit: svetazi

Birds migrating after sundown are colliding with brightly-lit buildings located in dense urban environments at an alarming rate. In fact, such collisions are a leading cause of death for migratory birds, second only to habitat loss. So how exactly are these commercial motorized window shades play a role?

Why Do Birds Collide With Buildings?

Many may beg the question as to why birds are colliding with buildings in the first place, especially when they’re well lit. After all, buildings are about the largest manmade structures around, making them difficult to miss and many of them have been standing for years.

Since they need to travel long distances, migratory birds use the light of the moon and stars to orient themselves in the night sky. Under normal circumstances, this is an ideal way to get to where they’re going, but light pollution emitted from buildings can confuse the birds and cause them to fly directly into the interfering structure, at great peril.

Buildings can be equally perilous during the day, as highly reflective windows reflect the sky, indicating a false route of safe passage to the birds. While the obvious, knee-jerk solution is to start building glassless skyscrapers, such a solution is hardly practical, nor does it address the millions of buildings already erected using glass construction. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that our fowl friends need to resign themselves to such an undignified fate.

What is the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)?

The appropriately named Fatal Light Awareness Program, or FLAP, is a Canadian, non-profit organization whose guiding purpose is to protect migratory birds as they navigate over and through our most populous urban centres. It’s estimated that 1 to 10 birds die by a collision for each building in any given year. In a city the size of Toronto, that’s nearly a million birds that die needlessly each and every year. Extrapolate that figure across the whole of North America, and that figure climbs to the hundreds of millions.

FLAP and their legion of volunteers focus their efforts on educating the public on the dangers posed to migratory birds through a number of community initiatives, and help drive change in business practices by providing the corporate tenants of buildings with information on how to retrofit their spaces so that they pose less of a risk.

What is Lights Out Toronto?

One such initiative spearheaded by FLAP is Lights Out Toronto! (LOT!) – an ongoing awareness campaign that combines the need to protect migratory birds and energy conservation, particularly during peak migratory times. The goal, as simple as it may seem, is to get people across the city to turn off their lights when they aren’t in use, so as to reduce the number of birds that collide with buildings. For some, turning off the lights at dusk isn’t always possible, particularly for businesses with operating hours outside the normal 9 to 5.

The alternative, of course, to turning off the lights entirely is to limit the amount of light pollution that is emitted from the business. Fortunately, this is something that is quite easy to achieve and, as we alluded to previously, can come with a myriad of additional benefits.

Can Motorized Automated Commercial Blinds with Blackout Option Help?

Yes, motorized commercial blinds can make a big impact on this initiative, and at a very reasonable cost. The built-in automation means that these blinds can be controlled remotely so that even on the days you’ve forgotten to turn out the lights, you can remotely lower the shades and thereby reduce the chances of a migratory bird from colliding with your building. Pairing motorized shades with a blackout option will reduce light emissivity even further. The nice thing about these products is that even if protecting birds is not a primary motivator, you and/or your business still stands to benefit. High-quality blackout shades help to limit the amount of solar heat that can permeate the space, lowering your cooling costs and saving you money. Let’s face it though; no one is going to suggest that saving wildlife is any less important than a utility bill!

To summarize, there are a number of benefits to turning out the lights when they aren’t in use. The obvious benefits include lower utility bills and a lower carbon footprint, but doing so can have a more immediate benefit to the wellbeing of our wildlife. Here are a few more things you can do to help the environment and help migratory birds:

  • Turn off lights on unoccupied floors
  • When working late, use a light at your workstation rather than overhead lighting
  • If applicable, turn off any ceiling lights adjacent to windows to reduce the chances their confuse passing birds
  • Lower blinds when possible
  • Avoid using exterior flood lights during migratory seasons

For more information about what you can do to help, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program and be sure to check out Elite WF’s stock of motorized window shades to find those that will complement your workspace!


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