In the guide below, we discuss various aspects of sustainable resource management.
We discuss the different types of resources, outline what sustainable resource management is, provide examples and methods of sustainable resource management, and more.
Firstly, What Is Resource Depletion?
Resource depletion is when resources are being consumed faster than they are being replenished or replaced
We put together a separate guide outlining what resource depletion is, and the different aspects of resource depletion here
What Is Sustainable Resource Management?
Sustainable resource management is the management of resources to meet the needs of current generations, without depleting resources to the point that the resource needs of future generations can’t adequately be met
So, it can help address resource depletion as an issue
It can be one of the core pillars of sustainability – specifically environmental sustainability (which also impacts economic and social sustainability)
The sustainable management of resources may also be one of the goals of different sustainability concepts, such as the ‘Green Economy’.
What Is The Sustainable Management Of Natural Resources?
The sustainable management of natural resources is the same principle, except it focusses specifically on natural resources, which can be differentiated from man made resources
Why Is The Sustainable Management Of Natural Resources Important?
There might be two main reasons for this:
– Natural resources are critical as the building blocks for many man made resources, and are used for many critical everyday things we do or use in society
– Once some natural resources are depleted past a certain point, they may be either very difficult to replenish, take a very long time to replenish, or can’t be replenished at all
Methods Of Sustainable Resource Management (Solutions To Manage Resources Sustainably)
Some of the methods to manage resources in a sustainable way might include:
– Measuring, tracking and recording resource supply levels
Measuring, tracking and recording resource supply levels not only provides a way to immediately get an indication of how much of a particular resource is available in supply, but, it can also help with identifying whether that resource and it’s supply level is trending up, down, or sideways over time.
One example of tracking and recording resource supply levels is how some cities and towns measure and and provide records of freshwater supplies (by volume of water currently stored, or how much water can be generated from certain sources like desalination).
Another example is how organisations like USGS measure and record estimates of commodity total resources, also also proven reserve totals.
– Reducing the consumption of resources
This might involve total consumption, but also the rate of consumption
An example of reducing consumption is reducing the amount of water used per day for an individual, or a business
– Being more efficient when using resources
In some instances, less resources can be used to get the same level of output from those resources.
Where this is the case, resources are used more efficiently
There’s other examples like closed loop recycling where less waste might be generated from recycling, or, less new raw materials might be used in production for the recycled material or product
– Reducing either the waste or loss of resources
This might involve total waste or loss, but also the rate of waste or loss
An example of reducing waste or loss is reducing food loss during production, and reducing food waste during consumption
Re-using or repurposing materials and products so they become waste at lower rates is another example of this.
Some plastics for example can be re-used or repurposed in several ways to prevent them from becoming waste after their first use
– Recycling, recovering and reclaiming resources from products and items
There’s ultimately many examples of recycling different materials, or recovering and reclaiming resources from products and items.
A few examples include:
Recycling waste water and other types of water where possible and safe to do so
Recycling different metals, and recovering metal from products like e-waste where possible
You can read more about the recycling rates of different materials across society in this guide.
– Generating resources or augmenting the supply of resources where possible
Augmenting the supply of resources by generating more of that resource helps address depletion, and puts less burden on natural supplies.
One example of augmenting supply is generating more fresh water.
Desalination is one solution that some cities implement to augment water supplies, however there might be other methods like atmospheric water generation too.
It’s worth mentioning that these solutions use resources of their own, such as energy sources to power equipment (some desalination plants might use fossil fuels for example).
In the example of fresh water, other solutions like collecting/harvesting rainwater can also impact the water supply.
Some new technologies being developed may even have the ability in the future to convert plastic back into oil again.
– Switching from using non renewable resources to renewable resources
The renewable or replacement rate of renewable resources may make them more sustainable from a resource management perspective than some non renewable resources
In some instances, some non renewable resources have alternate renewable resources that can be used for the same end application.
The most common example of this is renewable energy sources that can sometimes be used in place of non renewable fossil fuel based energy sources.
– Reducing environmental pollution and degradation from human activity
Environmental pollution and degradation from human activity may have the ability to degrade natural resources.
Some examples are the impact environmental degradation can have on water quality, land and soil health, wildlife populations, and plants and vegetation
– Consider meta factors in use of resources across society and on Earth
Meta factors include factors such as:
– Population growth and overpopulation
– The types of lifestyles people are living, and whether they are overconsuming compared the the rate at which resources are being produced and replenished
– And, other factors
– Consider how space exploration and space mining may play a role in resource management in the future
Some reports indicate that space mining may be one option in the future to access more resources than are available on Earth
However, there may be technological, practical and feasibility related challenges in engaging in space mining, and extracting resources from space at this point in time
Sustainable Use Of Resources – Natural, Water, Marine, Biological, Mineral, & Others
One aspect of sustainable resource management is the sustainable use of resources.
Some examples of this might include:
– Natural Resources
May involve the sustainable use of water, wood, fossil fuel, metal ores, and other natural resources.
The sustainable use of freshwater from sources such as lakes, rivers, and groundwater (aquifers)
We’ve put together various guides on using water more sustainably and efficiently across several aspects of society:
How Individuals Can Use Water More Efficiently & Sustainably
How We Might Use Water More Efficiently & Sustainably In Agriculture
How We Might Use Water More Efficiently & Sustainably In Industry
How We Might Use Water More Efficiently & Sustainably For Municipal Use
This might refer mainly to marine life that is fished from the ocean (as we consume marine life like fish as a source of food)
Overfishing for example is a practice that can deplete marine life populations.
Sustainable fishing practices, and other practices that help conserve marine environments and ocean themselves, can help conserve marine life and other marine resources.
This might mainly refer to biological diversity (i.e. biodiversity)
Biodiversity applies to all environments on Earth, and involves keeping a diverse variety of genes, species, organisms and ecosystems in the various environments on Earth (marine, land based, etc)
One example of a loss of biodiversity can be when monocultures erode crop and plant life biodiversity in agriculture.
Growing a diverse range of crops and plant life, and preserving wildlife population numbers (particularly of endangered or protected species), can help with biodiversity issues.
Minerals may specifically refer to mined resources like fossil fuels, and metal ores.
The sustainable use of these resources might involve not only using them in a sustainable way, but also recovering metal materials from products where possible, and in the case of fossil fuels, using alternate energy sources or renewable energy sources where possible to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.
Other Guides On Earth’s Resource Supplies
We’ve put together several guides about resource supplies on Earth that are relevant to issues relating to the management of resources discussed above:
How Much Resources Are Left On Earth, Will We Run Out, & What Happens If We Do?
We Might Never Run Out Of Mined Resources – Here’s Why
1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides