Sustainable Resource Management: What It Is, Examples, Methods, & More

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.


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

It can be one of the core pillars of sustainability – specifically environmental sustainability (which also impacts economic and social sustainability)


What Is Resource Depletion?

Resource depletion is when resources are being consumed faster than they are being replenished

The likely result of resource depletion is that resource supplies reach a level of scarcity where demand for those resources can’t adequately be met

Some instances of resource depletion may either be very difficult to reverse, or take a very long time to reverse, or, depletion can in some instances be irreversible

Resource depletion might be addressed with effective sustainable resource management practices 


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 


Natural Resources vs Man Made Resources – Difference, & Examples

Two of the main types of resources are natural resources, and man made resources.


Natural Resources

Natural resources come directly from nature without manufacture or modification from humans.

Some examples include water, wood, metal ores, other minerals from the ground, and fossil fuels in raw form.


Man Made Resources

Man made resources are manufactured by humans, usually with chemical reactions and other processes.

Some examples include plastic, paper, refined oils and fuels, refined metal (like steel or aluminum), and so on.


Renewable vs Non-Renewable Resources – Difference, & Examples

Renewable and non-renewable resources are another way to categorise the different types of resources.


Renewable Resources

Renewable resources are resources that replenish at the same rate, or a faster rate than they are being used

This means they don’t reach a level where they are at risk of being depleted

One example of a renewable resource is solar energy


Non-Renewable Resources

Non-renewable resources either don’t replenish at all, or replenish on a time scale that is far slower than the rate they are being used

They are at risk of depletion as they continue to be used 

Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are claimed to be non-renewable


Why Is The Sustainable Management Of Natural Resources Necessary & 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

Some of the methods to manage resources in a sustainable way might include:

– 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 


– 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 plastics

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.


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.


– Water

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


– Marine

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.


– Biological

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.


– Mineral 

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.


Guides On 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:

What Resources Are We Running Out Of, & How Much Do We Have Left?

Will We Run Out Of Resources In The Future, & What Will Happen If We Do?

We Might Never Run Out Of Mined Resources – Here’s Why




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides and resources

Leave a Comment