Renewable resources are elements that can be replenished over time through natural processes such as farming. We tend to envision those little blue bins with the recycle symbol on them, but renewable resources span far beyond what we toss in the recycling bin.
Examples of Renewable Resources
Renewable resources afford us the opportunity to be self-sustaining through our own efforts. Perhaps, one day, we won't need to rely on major oil companies to propel our cars down to the grocery store. Until then, read on to enjoy several notable examples of renewable resources.
Prominent Renewable Resources
Renewable resources can be used repeatedly and replaced naturally. This type of energy theoretically never runs out. Perhaps the most popular example of that is solar power. Unless the sun ceases to rise in the east, we'll always have solar energy. Oxygen and water are two more examples.
Alcohol, particularly ethanol, is derived from glucose. More specifically, alcohol is primarily derived from the starch in corn kernels. It can also be harvested from sugar cane, wheat straw, and switchgrass, among other sources.
Through photosynthesis, glucose is synthesized from carbon dioxide and water. It's a renewable resource because the energy from the sun, captured during photosynthesis, produces energy when combusted. In the right amount, and often blended with other fuels, this is enough to power a motor vehicle. This is one form of biofuel.
Methane is a natural gas. That is, it's always present in the air and anytime we inhale, we're breathing in a small percentage of methane. It's derived from greenhouse emissions, livestock, and other natural sources such as wetlands.
When compared to its non-renewable counterparts, like coal or petroleum, methane burns very cleanly. It produces fewer pollutants and toxic air contaminants.
As such, methane can be used for cooking (as you might see in a gas stove), heating water in hot water heaters, heating entire homes, and powering generators.
Geothermal energy refers to capturing the heat trapped within the earth's surface and converting it to usable energy. It's a renewable resource because it's constantly being produced inside the earth. Geothermal heat pumps can heat and cool buildings.
The most common application of geothermal energy involves pumping cool water deep into the earth. The water is naturally heated, the hot water is pumped back up to the surface, and the resulting steam is used to power turbines and other generators to produce electricity.
Geothermal energy can be used to power entire plants to engineer a host of goods for human consumption. Geothermal energy is highly predictable and stable, making it a fan favorite in power plants. It facilitates energy planning with a high level of accuracy. It is also useful on a smaller scale as a source of renewable energy for smaller buildings, like homes in rural areas.
Trees and Lumber
Trees are a renewable resource. They can be harvested and planted by humans or they can naturally reproduce as they drop seedlings and germinate on their own.
Without trees (and plants), we couldn't survive. They produce the oxygen we need to breathe. When we breathe, we release carbon dioxide. Trees absorb that carbon dioxide only to release more oxygen, and so the cycle continues.
Beyond sustaining our very lives, we also depend on trees for a wide variety of reasons. We burn wood to make heat. We manufacture furniture and entire homes out of lumber. On a more delicate note, wood from trees is also processed to produce the paper we write on.
Certain species of trees, however, are more useful than others as a renewable resource. For example, bamboo grows much more quickly than, say, oak trees. So, their ability to emit oxygen and, over time, produce things from paper to houses is far more sustainable. Bamboo is commonly seen as a sustainable and more eco-friendly alternative to plastic and even cotton.
Water was one of the first renewable resources discovered by man. It'll be a renewable resource for as long as the sun rises in the east. The sun heats the surface of lakes, rivers, and oceans, causing some water to evaporate.
That water then condenses into the clouds and falls as rain or snow. That rain and snow collects into rivers and streams, which eventually drain into oceans and lakes, where the water will soon evaporate all over again, thanks to the sun.
Water can then be used as hydropower. That is, extensive amounts of natural water can be stored in dams and flowing rivers to generate electricity in hydro-powered plants. The flowing water drives turbines, which in turn produces the electricity we use in our everyday lives.
Important Renewable Food Crops
Food crops can be produced in large quantities under the direction of a skilled farmer. Isn't it interesting to consider that the vegetable oil we use to make brownies can also motorize machinery?
Science never ceases to create new wonders. So, the next time you're grocery shopping, consider how some of our favorite fruits and veggies hold the power to do much more than nourish our bodies.
Here are some examples of crops that serve as renewable resources:
Animals Used for Food
Can you imagine a time when you had to hunt or fish for your meat? There was no quick trip to the local supermarket for flounder on a bed of sautéed spinach. Even though we don't have to go to such great lengths to secure a protein-rich meal, we still rely on many of the same sources for food.
Below, you'll find an extensive list of animals that are used for food.
Protect Our Resources
With the right care and protection, we can go on to grow bumper crops of potatoes and never cease to rely on hydropower. Does all this make you wonder which of our resources are not renewable?
Some of the big ones are coal, diesel, and petroleum (gas). This lends itself to the increased focus on finding biodiesel, biogas, and bioplastic alternatives that are more sustainable and less harmful to the environment. Read our examples of non-renewable resources we may have to replace before we run out.