Often we talk about switching to renewable energy. Sometimes, we might also hear sustainable energy whenever we see people talking about moving towards an eco friendly lifestyle. However, many of us don’t realize that renewable and sustainable are two separate concepts. In fact, anything that is renewable might not always be sustainable. So what’s the difference between renewable and sustainable energy?
Renewable simply means anything that can replenish itself through natural or organic means. When we talk about energy, the eco friendly power sources used in homes, offices, and industries are all considered renewable, as they can be recycled and reused through natural means.
Any power source that is considered to be inorganic and does not replenish itself is considered a non-renewable resource. For example, fossil fuels can be thought of as a non-renewable source of energy, since they are unable to replenish themselves naturally. In fact, it can take millions of years and thousands of fossils to actually produce a significant amount of fuel.
Examples of renewable energy:
Examples of non-renewable energy:
- Fossil Fuels
- Nuclear fuels (eg. Uranium)
Something is considered sustainable if it can hold its “Renewable” property for longer periods of time. This means that for the foreseeable future, it will keep on renewing itself and would not be in danger of being used too often that it would run out before it could replenish itself.
This can also be the case when it comes to renewable energy sources. Some may require longer periods of time to replenish, and if the rate of usage is greater than the rate of reproduction, it may start to run out. In order to make things easier to understand, we can remember this simple rule:
Take sunlight, for example, you can use as much sunlight as you can and it is not going to run out. Even if the whole world starts consuming an excessive amount of solar energy, it will never be depleted, this is considered sustainable.
Now, when you take another example, such as water. Using hydropower as an energy source is renewable, but imagine if the world starts using a water source excessively enough that the water cycle does not have enough time to replenish itself fast enough; the source would one day dry up! This means that although it is a renewable source, it might not be sustainable in the long run if used in excessive amounts.
Examples of sustainable energy sources:
Examples of unsustainable energy sources:
- All non-renewable energy sources
- Hydropower (if used excessively)
So what should we do?
If some renewable energy sources are unsustainable if used excessively, does this mean we should stop using them? Of course not! Just because a renewable source can be in danger of running out, doesn’t mean we should stop using it altogether.
Now that we know the difference between renewable and sustainable energy, the key to achieve proper balance, and that is exactly why going eco friendly is so important, not just in terms of energy sources, but also the products we use in our daily routines such as bathroom supplies, sanitation items, or even kitchen products. Manufacturing these products consumes some renewable energy sources (such as water), so if we start using eco-friendly alternatives, we would surely be saving some for energy production.
To lessen the load on other renewable energy sources, we should also look to use sources that are already sustainable such as wind or solar energy. This would help the other renewable energy sources reach a sustainable point where they can consistently replenish themselves faster than we use them. We should always look at the comparison of the two to decide which sustainable source is the best for our needs.
Just because a renewable energy source can possibly be unsustainable, doesn’t mean we can’t make it sustainable. It’s all about making the right decisions for a healthier future.