A natural resource is anything people can use which come from nature. People do not make natural resources, but gather them from the earth. Examples of natural resources are air, water, copper, wood, oil, wind energy, hydro-electric energy, iron, and coal. Refined oil is not a natural resource because people make it.
We often say there are two sorts of natural resources: renewable resources and non-renewable resources.
- A renewable resource grows again or comes back again after we use it. For example, soil, sunlight, water and wood are renewable resources.
- A non-renewable resource is a resource that does not grow or come back, or a resource that would take a very long time to come back. For example, coal is a non-renewable resource. When we use coal, there is less coal afterward. One day, there will be no more of it to make goods. The non-renewable resource can be used directly (for example, burning oil to cook), or we can find a renewable resource to use (for example, using wind energy to make electricity to cook). It is important to conserve (save) non-renewable resources, because if we use them too quickly there will not be enough.
Most natural resources are limited. This means they will eventually run out. A perpetual resource has a never-ending supply. Some examples of perpetual resources include solar energy, tidal energy, and wind energy. Other examples are salt, stone, magnesium, and diamonds.
Some of the things influencing supply of resources include whether it is able to be recycled, and the availability of suitable substitutes for the material. Non-renewable resources cannot be recycled. For example, oil, minerals, and other non-renewable resources cannot be recycled.
The demand for resources can change with new technology, new needs, and new economics (e.g. changes in cost of the resources). Some material can go completely out of use, if people do not want it any more. Demand of natural resources is very high, but availability is very less.
All places have their own natural resources. When people do not have a certain resource they need, they can either replace it with another resource, or trade with another country to get the resource. Some resources are difficult to find, so people sometimes fight to have them (for example, oil resources).
When people do not have some natural resources, their quality of life can get lower. For example, when they can not get clean water, people may become ill; if there is not enough wood, trees will be cut and the forest will disappear over time (deforestation); if there are not enough fish in a sea, people can die of starvation. Some examples of renewable resources are wood, solar energy, trees, wind, hydroelectric power, fish, and sunlight.
- ASTM E60 "E2114-08 Standard Terminology for Sustainability", ASTM, 2008, pp. 615-618 ISBN 978-0-8031-572