renewable resource

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Any resource, such as wood or solar energy, that can or will be replenished naturally in the course of time.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


What is a renewable resource?

A renewable resource is a natural resource that is unlimited or that is naturally replenished rather quickly, such as sunlight or water.

In the phrase renewable resource, the word resource refers to a natural resource, a naturally occurring thing that is useful to humans, such as water, wood, or minerals. Renewable means that a supply of something can be replenished. Renewable resources are sometimes simply called renewables.

The term renewable resources contrasts with nonrenewable resources, such as fossil fuels like oil and coal, which will eventually run out. These terms are most often used in discussions of energy production, especially in relation to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change.

Renewable resource vs. nonrenewable resource

It can be hard to imagine that something we use every day may eventually be gone forever. But this is true for most of the common resources we use for energy production, such as oil and uranium (which is used in nuclear power). In both cases, it would take thousands or millions of years for these to be replenished through natural processes. This makes them nonrenewable.

Renewable resources, on the other hand, are those with an unending supply (sunlight), or a supply that can replenish itself (wood from trees). While renewable resources can be used for a variety of purposes, such as using wood for building, the focus of discussions about renewable resources is almost always about energy. Energy production that relies on nonrenewable resources, such as the gas in your car, is relatively cheap and efficient. Generating electricity with renewable resources, such as with solar power, has traditionally been more expensive, and less accessible to the average person.

But the appeal of renewable resources isn’t just that they won’t run out—it’s also that they don’t have the same side effects that nonrenewable resources do. Extracting nonrenewable minerals from the ground can cause environmental damage. More pressingly, burning carbon-based nonrenewable resources like coal and petroleum releases harmful greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, into Earth’s atmosphere, contributing to pollution and climate change. Renewable resources are often touted as sources of clean energy (energy that doesn’t cause pollution), such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric (water-driven) power.

It’s in this context that you’re most likely to hear the term renewable resources, especially as countries, businesses, and individuals attempt to shift from using nonrenewable resources to renewable ones.

And, even though you may not think about it, renewable resources are part of your everyday life. The food you eat, the water you drink and wash with, and the wood that was used to make your house are all renewable resources.

Did you know ... ?

Just because something is natural and abundant doesn’t mean it’s renewable. We take rocks out of the ground for all kinds of uses, but there is a limited amount. This can make them valuable, but it also makes them nonrenewable.

What are real-life examples of renewable resource?

Sunlight, water, wind, and geothermal power (power generated from the heat inside the earth) are all renewable resources often discussed as potential energy sources.



What other words are related to renewable resource?

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