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Environment and Sustainability

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How does energy usage relate to environmental quality?

Energy consumption is a facet of daily life – from heating the house, to driving to work, to cooking dinner.  For many, the concept of energy consumption is simply the dollar amount on the energy or power bill.  However, energy consumption is more than an economic concern because it is directly linked to the consumption of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources, to air emissions, and to water pollutants.  Additionally, drilling for non-renewable resources reduces habitat and biodiversity, and expends a large quantity of energy in the process of retrieval.   


What are the sub-attributes of Energy?

            Total usage (J)



Nuclear energy (%)


Fossil Fuels:

Coal usage (%)

                        Oil/Gas usage (%)



Hydro-electric usage (%)



Solar energy (%)

                        Wind energy (%)



How does energy usage affect sustainability? 

The percent energy consumption by each source of energy is indicative of the community’s reliance on renewable versus non-renewable resources.  While it is necessary to examine each sub-attribute alone, it is also imperative to analyze them in comparison to one another.  Comparing the sub-attribute data enables us to obtain an overall picture of how the community is meeting its energy needs.   

            Ultimately, a sustainable region will be more reliant on renewable resources—solar, wind, hydro, and biomass.  Thus, the percentages associated with these will be higher in more sustainable communities.  Solar, wind, and hydro-electric energy indicate higher air quality because the process of conversion to a useful form of energy does not release as many harmful pollutants. 

On the other side, an unsustainable region will be reliant on nuclear and fossil fuel energy.  The technology and ability to utilize renewable resources is prevalent, thus, a community primarily reliant upon nuclear and fossil fuel energy is unsustainable.             


How does energy interconnect with other indicators?

Total energy usage should parallel population.  If population rises, then energy consumption should correspondingly increase.  An unsustainable and inefficient community is symbolized by an increase in consumption without a correlated increase in population. 

The direct effects of energy consumption on environmental quality indirectly links to effects on human health disease rates related to air and water quality.  Also, the source of energy dictates the amount imported and the cost dictates who can afford it.       


Next step?

            This website will post sub-attribute descriptions and energy databases at a later date.  As there are not any sub-attributes to examine at this time, proceed to the attribute of land-use.   


Author: Elisa Mayes