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12.31: Conservation

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    How can you help conserve our natural resources?

    Reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are steps that you personally can take to conserve our natural resources and reduce waste. The waste that an individual creates is small in proportion to all the waste produced by society. Yet all small contributions, when added up, make a difference.

    Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

    Why conserve resources? During your lifetime, it is possible that the world may run out of some nonrenewable resources, especially as the population passes 8 then 9 billion people. So it is necessary to try to make these resources last as long as possible. You may have heard people say, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." You may know that this is the slogan of the campaign to conserve resources. But what do each one of those words truly mean?


    What exactly does it mean to reduce? Reducing means decreasing the amount of waste we create. That could also mean cutting down on use of natural resources. In addition, many ways to reduce also result in saving money. Minimizing of waste may be difficult to achieve for individuals and households, but here are some starting points that you can include in your daily routine to reduce the use of resources:

    • Turn lights off when not using them.
    • Turn the television off when no one is watching.
    • Replace burned out bulbs with ones that are more energy-efficient (Figure below).
    • Reduce water use by turning off faucets when not using water.
    • Use low-flow shower heads, which save on water and use less energy.
    • Use low-flush and composting toilets.
    • Put kitchen and garden waste into a compost pile.
    • In the summer, change filters on your air conditioner and use as little air conditioning as possible. The use of air conditioning uses a lot of energy.
    • In winter, make sure your furnace is working properly and make sure there is enough insulation on windows and doors.
    • Mend broken or worn items instead of buying new ones.
    • When you go shopping for items, buy quantities you know you will use without waste.
    • Walk or bicycle instead of using an automobile, in order to save on fuel usage and costs, and to cut down on pollution.
    • When buying a new vehicle, check into hybrid, semi-hybrid, or electric models to cut down on gas usage and air pollution.
    Fluorescent light bulbs are much more efficient than standard incandescent light bulbs.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): These fluorescent light bulbs are much more energy efficient than standard light bulbs.


    Let’s now look at what we can reuse. Reusing includes using the same item again for the same function and also using an item again for a new function. Reuse can have both economic and environmental benefits. New packaging regulations are helping society to move towards these goals. Water is a resource that can be reused for numerous purposes. You may not drink used water, but it is quite useful for other purposes. Some ways of reusing resources include:

    • Use reusable bags when shopping.
    • Use gray water. Water that has been used for laundry, for example, can be used to water the garden or flush toilets.
    • At the town level, purified sewage water can be used for fountains, watering public parks or golf courses, fire fighting, and irrigating crops.
    • Rain can be caught in rain barrels and used to water your garden.

    What are some other ways to reuse resources?


    Now we move on to recycle. Sometimes it may be difficult to understand the differences between reusing and recycling. Recycling involves processing used materials in order to make them suitable for other uses. That usually means taking a used item, breaking it down, and reusing the pieces. Even though recycling requires extra energy, it does often make use of items which are broken, worn out, or cannot be reused.

    The things that are commonly recycled include:

    • Batteries.
    • Biodegradable waste.
    • Electronics.
    • Iron and steel.
    • Aluminum (Figure below).
    • Glass.
    • Paper.
    • Plastic.
    • Textiles, such as clothing.
    • Timber.
    • Tires.
    Recycling aluminum cans help saves a large amount of energy
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): These aluminum cans are packed together in a recycling plant to be reused.

    Each type of recyclable requires a different recycling technique. Here are some things you can do to recycle in your home, school, or community:

    • If you have recycling in your community, make sure you separate aluminum, plastics, glass, and paper products.
    • See if your school recycles. If not, you and some friends could start a recycling club, or organize efforts to better recycling goals.

    Laws can also be created to make sure people and companies reduce, reuse, and recycle. Individuals can vote for leaders who stand for sustainable ecological practices. They can also tell their leaders to make wise use of natural resources. You can also influence companies. If you and your family only buy from companies and restaurants that support recycling or eco-friendly packaging, then other companies will also change to be more environmentally friendly.

    Science Friday: The Big Sort: An Insider's Tour of a Recycling Plant

    This video by Science Friday shows the Sims Municipal Recycling facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where roughly 800 tons of recyclables meander through a tangle of machines, scanners, and conveyor belts every day.



    • Reducing waste, as well as reusing and recycling resources, can help save natural resources
    • Consumers can influence companies to become more environmentally friendly.

    Explore More

    Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

    1. What are the Zabaleen?
    2. Why are solar water heaters beneficial?

    See Cairo puts its faith in ragpickers to manage the city's waste problem at for additional information on the Zabaleen.


    1. What are four examples of recyclable materials?
    2. What are two ways you can reduce the amount of waste you create?
    3. What are two ways of reusing materials?

    This page titled 12.31: Conservation is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by CK-12 Foundation via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.