Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources

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Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources

Renewable and non-renewable resources are two different kinds of sources of energy and other useful phenomena. Renewable resources are often contrasted with non-renewable resources, with people frequently debating the relative benefits of each. But what are renewable and non-renewable resources?

Renewable resources are resources that do not run out when we use them. A good example is solar energy. When we harness the power of the sun’s rays by means of solar panels affixed to our roof, we do not deplete the sun. The sun does not ‘run out’, no matter how much solar energy we use.

By contrast, non-renewable resources are resources that will run out as we use them. One example is oil. There is only a certain amount of oil on the planet. Oil takes millions of years to form, so, the more oil that we use, the less oil there will be left. This is one key reason why people are currently looking for renewable alternatives to non-renewable sources of energy such as oil.

The practice of recycling can turn what we once thought were non-renewable resources into renewable ones. One good example here is water. It might be argued that there is only a certain amount of fresh water in the world, for example, and when we use up all of the water in a nearby reservoir or lake, then we have no water left for our community. However, water treatment plants enable us to ‘recycle’ our waste water, by cleansing and sterilizing it ready for us to drink and wash in once more.

Renewable Vs. Non-Renewable Resources

There are plenty of comparisons and contrasts that can be made between renewable and non-renewable resources. Below, you will find 7 such comparisons.

1. Types of resources.

Renewable and non-renewable resources both come from nature. However, they are both broadly different types of resources. Non-renewable resources, for example, tend to be resources that are classed as ‘fossil fuels’: oil, coal, natural gas and so on. Renewable resources tend to be freely available resources such as wind and solar energy.

2. Environmental impact.

Harnessing renewable resources tends to be better for the environment. Non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels produce vast amounts of greenhouse gasses when they are burnt and this contributes to acid rain, climate change and other ecologically harmful effects. By contrast, wind and solar energy do not produce these dangerous gases.

3. The balance between renewable and non-renewable resources.

Some renewable resources are in danger of becoming non-renewable, unless they are managed properly. One example is wood. Trees naturally grow and replenish themselves, seeding new trees every year. In theory, then, wood ought to be a renewable resource. However, if humans cut down too many trees, forests will struggle to renew themselves. This once renewable resource will become non-renewable.

4. Convenience.

Depending on where you live, it may be more convenient to use one type of resource. For example, people who live beside windy coast lines may find that wind power is the cheapest and most convenient source of energy for them. People who live in hot countries, moreover, may find that they can generate abundant energy from solar panels. However, people in other geographical locations may find it much cheaper and more convenient to use biomass or fossil fuels as their primary source of energy.

5. The need for renewable resources.

By their very definition, non-renewable resources will run out one day. That means that it is essential to find a way for humanity to get all of its energy, water and other needs from renewable resources right now. It is crucial that we take measures to ensure that future generations will not end up in dire need due to our over-consumption of resources in the present.

6. In the abstract.

Renewable and non-renewable resources can be thought of in a more abstract sense as well. For example, it might be said that ideas and creativity and renewable resources. Using our creativity and sharing our ideas does not deplete either our creativity or our stock of ideas. In fact, it often increases it! It is frequently the case that the more that we use our creativity and the more that we share our ideas, the more creativity and ideas we have to go round. Love is another example of a ‘resource’ that does not get depleted (and in fact can be said to increase) the more that it is used. The idea of a ‘resource’ does not need to be a materialistic one.

7. Taking steps to secure renewable resources.

There are many things that we can all do right now to reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources. We can switch to solar or wind energy, or simply reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we burn by driving and flying less and using less energy around the home. Campaigning with others to ask for change at a political level is another powerful way to help to reduce humanity’s need for, and use of, non-renewable resources. And, we can all start recycling, using less water and walking or cycling to work (or taking public transport) rather than driving. It is much easier to make such changes than you might think, and if big companies choose to change as well, the world will be a much cleaner, greener and sustainable living space for us all.


This analysis of the differences between renewable and non-renewable resources has highlighted some key facts. For example, it has demonstrated that renewable resources are much more preferable to non-renewable resources, for many reasons. Renewable resources are better for the environment, and better for future generations as well. These points all derive from the definition of renewable and non-renewable resources. It is precisely because renewable resources can be renewed that they are preferable to non-renewable resources. Another thing that it is important to take into account is the fact that some renewable resources are in danger of becoming non-renewable if we do not use them in a sustainable fashion. It is important for all of us to take good care of our planet – and one central way of doing so is being careful about the type and amount of resources that we use.

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