Resource Efficiency

Resource Efficiency

Resource Efficiency Jonathan Poland

Resource efficiency is the process of using resources in a way that maximizes their value and minimizes waste. This can involve using fewer resources to produce the same goods or services, using renewable resources instead of non-renewable ones, or finding new ways to reuse or recycle resources. Resource efficiency is important because it can help to reduce the environmental impact of human activities, conserve resources for future generations, and improve the sustainability and long-term viability of communities and economies. Many organizations and governments around the world are implementing resource efficiency strategies in order to meet these goals.

Conversion Efficiency

The amount of available sunlight that a solar panel converts to electricity is known as conversion efficiency. This can exceed 20% for modern solar panels.

Energy Efficiency

The amount of energy used by a facility, product, service, process or activity relative to its output. For example, the luminous efficiency of a light source is a measure of how well a light source converts energy into visible light. The luminous efficiency of an LED light bulb can exceed 20%.

Energy Intensity

Another term for energy efficiency measured in terms of value produced. For example, energy per passenger mile is a means for comparing the energy consumption of transport. This can be measured in kilojoules per kilometer.

Design Efficiency

Design efficiency is achieving the desired level of quality of a design with the minimum amount of resources. For example, a safe, luxurious car that weights 4000 kilograms versus an equivalent design that weights 6800 kilograms. Generally speaking, design efficiency improves with time in a large scale trend known as dematerialization.

Building Efficiency

The energy efficiency of a building. For example, smart glass that adapts to available sunlight to help achieve lighting, heating and cooling settings of a room such that they reduce electricity consumption.


The efficiency of labor is known as productivity. This can be measured as the amount of value produced in an hour of work. For example, a farmer who improves their efficiency to $50/hour by installing an automated irrigation system.

Crop Yield

Crop yield is the amount of a crop produced relative to land used measured with kilograms per hectare or bushels per acre. This is generally increased with intensive farming techniques that may use land effectively but use a large amount of inputs such as water, chemicals and capital equipment.

Land Footprint

Land footprint is similar to crop yield but can be applied to any industry. For example, the land footprint of a highway could be measured in acres per billion passenger miles and compared to a competing type of infrastructure such as a high speed rail line.

Cost Efficiency

Cost efficiency is the cost per output of something. This is occasionally a reasonable approximation for resource efficiency as costs often map to resource consumption. For example, the dollars per mile may be a reasonable approximation for the total resources consumed by travel if you include all costs such as infrastructure costs and the value of land consumed by infrastructure.

Carbon Footprint

The amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted by a facility, process, product, service, activity or entity. For example, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per square foot of construction.

Water Footprint

The amount of water consumed by an output such as a ton of agricultural product.


Externalities, or economic bads, are negative results of economic activity such as chemicals and gases released into the environment by a farm, ship, factory or vehicle. For example, kilograms of agricultural chemicals used per hectare of farmland.

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