Conservation involves the preservation, protection, and restoration of natural ecosystems. It is closely related to sustainability, which involves using a resource in such a way that it is not permanently damaged or depleted. Water and energy conservation are two types of conservation that you can practice every day.
For example, if we let a faucet run, we not only waste water but also add to the water that must be treated (it goes down the drain just like the water we actually use). Fortunately, there are lots of actions we can take to conserve water on a daily basis. Similarly, if you walk, bike, or take public transportation, you help conserve energy (and you’re reducing the air pollution emitted by car engines). Conserving water, energy, and other resources is an excellent way to reduce pollution that can adversely affect health.
Conserving energy doesn’t just mean reducing energy use or advocating for renewable fuel sources. It can also be incorporated into building and urban design (see the Health Technology feature for more information). For example, many organizations in the United States and around the world now advocate for complete streets - that is, streets designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
Complete streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations. This initiative is an example of how energy conservation can be integrated even into a modern endeavor such as urban (city) design. The value of complete streets is summarized in figure 5.
Figure 5 Streets are not complete until they are safe and convenient for travel by foot and bicycle, as well as for transit users, people with disabilities, and people in automobiles.
Facts are adapted from The National Complete Streets Coalition Benefits fact sheet, and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, April 2009. www.bikewalklee.org/BWL_PDFs/BWL_facts/051109completeStreets.pdf.