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Resource conservation is the practice of trying to preserve as much of the natural world and its resources as possible. Natural resources typically fall into two categories: renewable and non-renewable. Renewable resources are generally living things, such as forests, that will grow back after being cut or burned. Non-renewable resources are usually considered to be things that are not alive, and have taken perhaps millions of years to form, such as petroleum. Resource conservation techniques typically cover all the different types of resources we use.
Renewable resources such as water, clean air, forests, fish and animals are usually either replenished through the natural processes of the Earth or they reproduce regularly. Neither of these things mean that there is an unlimited supply of such resources, however. Polluted water could remain polluted under the right set of circumstances, for instance. Likewise, types of fish and animals can become extinct. Resource conservation is designed to help keep these things from happening and ensure that resources can be replenished naturally.
Non-renewable resources are generally those that are believed to be in limited supply. Most experts believe that the petroleum deep beneath the surface of the Earth took millions of years to form. The supplies are expected to run out one day, though exactly how far away that day may be is a source of controversy. Oil cannot be replenished quickly enough to make a difference right now, so oil conservation focuses on using less petroleum to make the supply last longer. The other important focus is to find alternative energy sources that can be used in place of petroleum products.
Resource conservation is unique for each type of resource because each is generally used for a slightly different purpose. They still have many techniques in common, though. Conserving water, for instance, often focuses on encouraging people to avoid wasting water and to use less whenever possible; oil conservation uses a similar tactic by encouraging people to use less gas through carpooling, walking and bicycling when they can. Additionally, most resource conservation stresses how consumers can cut back their use of certain items by choosing alternative or recycled items instead.
Not all resource conservation requires avoiding certain things. There are also positive steps that include actions such as planting trees and using recycled paper goods or reusable materials. Likewise, energy conservation is not just about using less electricity, but stresses using wind or solar power instead of coal, oil or gas. Many special products, such as water-saving washing machines and low-flow shower heads, are designed for saving water by using less while using it more efficiently. Government programs for planting forests, using renewable energy, recycling and reducing waste are also a large part of overall resource conservation.