November 30, 2011
What is Sustainable Energy?
Have you ever heard people talk about "sustainability" and wondered what they meant? Sustainability has many definitions, but the most basic is "living in balance with the planet." This means not degrading the environment that humans and other living things need to survive and thrive now and into the future. Clean air, clean water and energy are some of things we need to survive.
We use energy to run our cars, heat our homes and power our appliances. There are two types of energy: nonrenewable and renewable. Sources of energy are considered nonrenewable if they cannot be made again in a lifetime. Once they are used up, they are gone. Nonrenewable energy includes fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, which cause climate change. Renewable energy sources can be replenished naturally. These include solar, wind, water, wood and geothermal energy. Using resources that are renewable (like trees-in moderation of course) or captured (like solar power) causes less harm to the environment. Here's some info on renewable energy:
Solar: Solar energy comes from the sun's rays that reach the Earth. Solar energy can be converted into other forms of energy, such as electricity to power our homes, and heat for our homes, water and swimming pools.
Wind: Wind flow can run wind turbines (modern day windmills) that generate electricity. Areas where the winds are strong and constant, such as on high plateaus, are often sites for wind turbines.
Water: Hydropower turbines (modern day water wheels) produce electricity with the energy generated by falling water. Hydropower isn't a new concept. Hundreds of years ago, people used water wheels to power grain mills. You can learn about a hydropower project in Niagara Falls on the New York Power Authority website.
Wood: Many people use wood stoves to heat their homes. Wood is another renewable energy source and an alternative to heating with fossil fuels like oil.
Geothermal: Geothermal energy comes from the heat inside the Earth. Steam produced from hot springs or geysers can be used to heat buildings or homes. DEC's Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar is installing a geothermal heat pump system. The energy won't come from hot springs, but from more than ten feet below the Earth's surface, where the temperature is always between 50 - 60 degrees. Visit the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Kids Page for more information about how geothermal energy works.
Other Easy Ways to Live More Sustainably
-Reduce the amount of natural resources you use by consuming less stuff. Buy quality products that will last and can be repaired. Buy used products.
-Reuse and recycle the things that you do use.
-Compost your food scraps. Composting is really easy and it means less trash to dispose of.
-Instead of drying your clothes in the dryer, hang them indoors on a rack or outside on a line.
-Don't make unnecessary trips in the car. Carpool with friends.
-Pack a zero-waste lunch with reusable containers for drinks, sandwiches and snacks.
-Find out how much energy you use in your home by conducting an energy audit. Visit the NYS Energy and Research Development Authority for ideas.
-Subscribe to DEC's Green Living newsletter.
Read on for some additional ways to create a sustainable future for generations to come.
Send us an e-mail and tell us what you think about Outdoor Discovery.
Subscribe to Conservationist magazine-New York's award-winning publication with astonishingly beautiful photography and captivating articles.
Learn the best places to view wildlife at DEC's Watchable Wildlife pages.
This experiment will show you how steam has the power to move something. Make sure that you do this experiment with adult supervision. You will need a pinwheel and a whistling tea kettle. Boil some water in the tea kettle. When the kettle starts to whistle, the water is hot enough to produce steam. Wearing an oven mitt on your hand to protect it from the steam, hold the pinwheel in the flow of steam. The steam should make the pinwheel spin.
I Want That!
Get together with some friends and make a wish list of items that you want: a new DVD or book, a motorbike or a computer game. Now brainstorm some more-sustainable alternatives for your wants: visit the library to borrow the DVD or book, get a second-hand bicycle or create a new card game. See who can come up with the most creative alternatives for the items on the wish list.
Read Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Teacher Workshop: Growing Up Wild
Saturday, December 3 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Call 518-475-0291 to register by Wednesday, November 30.
Natural History of Christmas Trees
Saturday, December 10 at 10:00 AM
Night Owls and Hot Dogs
Saturday, December 10 at 4:00 PM
Call 518-475-0291 to register by Wednesday, December 7.
Teacher Workshop: Project Learning Tree
Saturday, December 17 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM
Call 518-475-0291 to register by Friday, December 2.
Sunday, December 4 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Call 518-456-0655 or go the Albany Pine Bush website to register. Cost: $3.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free.
Western New York
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Thursdays, December 1 and 8 at 4:30 PM
For children in grades K-5. No registration required.
Track and Scat Walk
Saturday, December 3 at 2:00 PM
Full Moon Walk
Saturday, December 10 at 6:00 PM