New Program to Save Birds, Energy and Money

(March 26, 2009)

Golden Gate Audubon Society, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the San Francisco Department of the Environment are proud to announce Lights Out for Birds/San Francisco, a new program that helps building owners, managers and tenants save energy and money while protecting native, migratory birds. Lights Out for Birds asks participants to turn off lights within their buildings during the bird migratory seasons (February-May and August-November each year).

Participants in the Lights Out for Birds program can save natural resources, money, and birds by turning off lighting after dusk each evening and leaving lights off until daylight. Tenants are encouraged to turn out lights or draw blinds at dusk. These recommendations are particularly important for tall buildings and buildings with glass exteriors or windows, especially those near the Bay. Similar programs have been successfully implemented in several cities including New York, Chicago, and Toronto. Building operators and tenants have reported significant savings on energy bills as a result of participation one operator reported a savings of $200,000 in 2006 alone

"Each, year, over 250 species of birds migrate through San Francisco, which is part of the Pacific Flyway and a major route for migratory birds," said Michael Lynes, Golden Gate Audubon Conservation Director. "Many birds migrate at night and are confused by San Francisco's lights, particularly those on tall structures. Lights left on in tall buildings lure many birds into fatal collisions, resulting in millions of bird deaths throughout the United States each year. Given the 'State of the Birds' as reported by the U.S. Dept. of Interior last week, the majority of migratory birds in North America are suffering significant declines due to man-induced stresses, such as habitat loss and collisions. The Lights Out for Birds program will significantly reduce collisions with tall structures in San Francisco," Lynes said.

Even those not concerned with bird populations see the benefits in the Lights Out for Birds program. By switching off or dimming lights, building owners and operators can significant reduce their energy bill. Moreover, reduced energy consumption decreases overall greenhouse gas emissions, which is essential in the effort to combat climate change.

"The Lights Out for Birds campaign is a win-win-win campaign - it saves energy, reduces costs for building owners and managers and prevents birds from being killed," said David Assmann, Deputy Director, San Francisco Department of the Environment. Assmann continued: "With one-third of bird species showing major declines, this campaign accomplishes a major conservation goal while at the same time saving money for building owners and managers and reducing energy consumption. We applaud the building owners and managers who are demonstrating leadership by signing on to this campaign. Turning off non-essential lights saves the lives of thousands of birds, gives managers financial savings and conserves energy."

"For decades, biologists have been charting the decline of migratory bird populations in North America and have understood that collisions significantly contribute to this decline," said Lynes. "Finally, we have a program that will appeal to both environmental and economic interests--who wouldn't want to save birds if it also saves money?"

"PG&E is proud to be a part of this program and to help our customers understand that their energy efficient actions have a positive effect on our environment," stated Diane Ross-leech, Director of Environmental Stewardship for PG&E. "At PG&E, we are turning off our lights and working with our customers in San Francisco to ensure that they take advantage of all energy efficiency programs."

Building owners interested in joining the program should contact their San Francisco Department of the Environment or PG&E representative to learn how to participate. For more information about Bay Area bird populations and how to help them survive, contact the Golden Gate Audubon Society at (510) 843-6551.