Humans have always depended upon natural resources for our basic needs, building materials, and energy.
But we’ve only just started to feel the consequences of using them on such a massive, worldwide scale.
With a global population at an all-time high, we all must do our part to conserve our planet’s natural resources.
What are Natural Resources?
Natural resources are assets that the Earth inherently provides and that humans need to live:
- Trees and wood for building
- Water for drinking and bathing
- Clean air for breathing
- Plants and animals for food
- Soil to grow crops
- Plants for medicine
- Cotton for clothing
- Natural gas and oil for fuel
We tend to take these natural gifts for granted, commodify them, and distribute them to whoever pays the most. Some natural resources are protected under law – others are vulnerable to overconsumption.
20 Ways to Conserve Natural Resources:
1. Conserve Water
Less than 1% of the water on Earth is available and accessible for human use. We can’t afford to waste it! You can help by taking shorter showers or installing a gray water recycling system in your home.
Check out our other article post on 30 Ways to Conserve Water.
2. Plant Trees
Trees do so much for humanity, from soaking up carbon dioxide to providing medicine. Salicylic acid, the key ingredient in aspirin, comes from the bark of the willow tree.
Check out our other article post for an in-depth look at how trees benefit humanity and the planet at large.
3. Use Less Paper
Paper, of course, comes from trees – which we need in order to have breathable air. So, print less. Cancel magazine or newspaper subscriptions that you don’t use.
Change your mail settings so that you receive emails instead of paper mail.
Reuse wrapping paper, or bypass wrapping gifts altogether! And when you use paper, make sure you opt for recycled printer paper, notebooks, notecards, toilet paper, paper towels, and sticky notes.
4. Eat Less Meat
Chickens, pigs, lambs, fish, and cattle are living, breathing resources. Just like us, they also require natural resources, like water, land, and clean air, to live.
And again, like us, they accumulate polluted water runoff, emit enormous quantities of carbon dioxide, and take up a lot of cultivated land that could otherwise be a nature preserve.
Going vegetarian cuts your carbon footprint in half. Going vegan, on average, saves over 1000 gallons of water and 30 square feet of forest every day, compared to meat-eaters.
Of course, cutting meat out entirely is not realistic, or even healthy, for many people – in which case, consider doing Meatless Mondays!
5. Waste Less Food
Think of all the plants and animals (and land and water) it takes to make meals for everyone in the United States. It’s a lot! According to Feeding America, 40% of food in the United States is wasted!
How can we improve this statistic? Well, instead of making one big grocery store trip every couple of weeks, take smaller trips more often to ensure that you only will buy what you can carry home, and plan to consume. Plan out your meals so you’re not tempted to buy food you don’t need.
Always bring home leftovers from restaurants (in reusable containers, of course!). And lastly, consider growing your own vegetable and herb garden – anything you don’t eat, the squirrels will!
6. Use Eco-friendly Products
Look for items made from recyclable, compostable, biodegradable materials – such as glass, bamboo, recycled cardboard or paper, and organic cotton. Anything else will likely end up polluting our soil, water, and air – in the long run.
7. Use Reusable Goods
Single-use items are a waste of resources. Invest in good quality furniture that will last generations instead of a flimsy plastic chair that will break within the first six months. Buy and donate secondhand items to get full use out of home goods, appliances, and technological devices.
8. Avoid the Use of Plastic
Plastic pollutes bodies of water, and human bodies, and kills over one million marine animals every year. Buy appliances made from recyclable bamboo, glass, and aluminum instead of plastic. Check out our other article post for more ways to reduce plastic use in your daily life.
9. Waste Less
Want less pollution in the world? Cultivate a zero-waste lifestyle! Start by eliminating single-use plastic water bottles and baggies. Then see how fast you can shrink your trash footprint, week by week.
Curbside recycling allows plastic, paper, glass, and aluminum to be remade into a plethora of new items, from running shoes to water bottles.
Always purchase items made from recycled material when given the option. For example, recycled toilet paper uses about half the amount of water it takes to manufacture virgin wood pulp for regular toilet paper.
Reusing goods is even more eco-friendly than recycling them because recycling requires energy, the proper manufacturing facilities, and manpower. Plus, reusing items is free when you embrace hand-me-down clothes, furniture, and toys.
Composting your food, raked leaves, dryer lint, and other organic materials reduces methane, and thus improves air quality.
If your neighborhood doesn’t collect compost bins, you can create your own in your apartment or yard. Use the compost to fertilize your garden – it won’t pollute nearby bodies of water like store-bought fertilizer does.
13. Use Energy-Efficient Appliances
Toilets, washers, dryers, cars, and more have an eco setting. The job gets done just as well but uses less energy, which saves money on your monthly utility bill. Using LED lights helps, too.
If every home in the U.S. swapped out one regular lightbulb for an energy-efficient LED lightbulb, it would be the equivalent of removing 670,000 cars from the highway!
14. Use Renewable Energy
Using renewable energy, like wind or solar power, will conserve natural energy resources that are nonrenewable.
Nonrenewable energy means that once it’s used up, it’s gone for good – such as oil, coal, and natural gas. Plus, wind and solar energy don’t emit greenhouse gases, so it’s a win-win!
15. Conserve Electricity
Electricity, unfortunately, involves burning fossil fuels to harnessing energy. Of course, we all know to turn off the lights when leaving a room. Make sure to also fully use natural sunlight – don’t close your blinds!
Try dedicating one day a month to using candlelight instead of lamps or ceiling lights.
16. Shop Local
Get into the habit of going to local farmers’ markets and art fairs for your gifts, home goods, grocery haul, flowers, and more! This cuts down on the amount of material and energy it takes to pack, ship, and transport goods long distances. Or sign up for a local farm share!
17. Buy Sustainable Clothing
Patagonia, Pact, and tentree are some brands that are committed to sustainable materials and manufacturing practices.
Even fast-fashion brands like H&M realize that consumers want to feel good about what they buy, and are committing to a circular supply chain (meaning they reuse, recycle, repair, and remake garments).
Reusing clothes by wearing hand-me-downs or shopping secondhand is another way to be fashionably sustainable.
18. Drive Less
Cars emit 1.17 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger per mile. Biking and walking emit nothing! Public transportation, like trains and buses, emits less carbon dioxide per passenger per mile.
19. Reduce Air Travel
The jury’s still out on whether carbon offsets accurately make up for the carbon dioxide released by planes. It’s best to travel by train, bus, bike, metro, or carpooling in an electric car. And definitely avoid private planes.
20. Raise Awareness
Raise awareness at your workplace, school, with your friends, and in your family!
It’s vital that all walks of life and all generations agree about natural resource conservation. That way, we make steady progress and avoid a “one step forward, two steps back” situation.
Why is Conserving Natural Resources Important?
There are 7.9 billion people on the planet, and we all require natural resources to live. If there are no legal protections in place, Earth’s beautiful and pristine natural resources will be taken over by the highest bidder, which can create overconsumption and imbalance in distribution.
Not conserving natural resources looks like an oil pipeline threatening the water quality of an aquifer; in cases like that, individuals can organize and protest those corporate decisions and win.
But in our day-to-day lives, what can we do to make sure we’re not overconsuming Earth’s natural resources?
Final Thoughts on How to Conserve Natural Resources
Once you get into the habit of conserving natural resources, it will feel like a gratitude exercise.
Earth freely makes everything we need to live! So saying thank you to our home planet, just use what you need, and no more.
Related content: Human Interaction with the Environment
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