Stone World

“Going Green” can mean more green in your pocket

November 18, 2006


Unless you have been living under a rock the last 10 years (no pun intended), “Going Green” is something you have at least heard of. Over the years, most of us that have been running a stone fabrication shop have rarely thought of going green and protecting the environment. However, this is something that will change in the years to come, and it is something that every stone shop should be thinking about. Before I discuss how to go green and how it can benefit your shop, let's first define what “Going Green” means in terms of stone fabricators.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, the concept is centered around “principles that minimize the use of nonrenewable resources and seek to prevent air, water and ground contamination and other activities that degrade the environment.” The organization's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. Although not a renewable building source, natural stone still fits in as a green building material for several reasons. At the top of the list is the fact that stone is a natural resource, with long-term life cycle benefits. We are selling Mother Earth herself. Let us not forget that we are dealing with a natural, sustainable resource. As fabricators, you can advertise and market the fact that you are working with a product that will last over the long term, and one which will not end up in a landfill someday. Moreover, stone has been salvaged and “reclaimed” for a broad range of applications - including residential interiors.

In terms of gaining a competitive edge, “Going Green” will help you stand out from other fabricators in a marketplace where new faces are appearing on a continual basis. As an environmentally conscious fabricator, you can let your potential customers know that you are not only working with a green product, but your business is concerned with Mother Earth.

In addition to promoting the “green” aspects of natural stone, there are several steps a fabricator can take to “Go Green” in the shop:

Recycle and filter your water - Water recycling and filtering in many towns is now a requirement, and will soon be an obligation all over the U.S. This is especially true in areas where water is scarce. There are several companies that now make recycling and filtration equipment, many of which have been successfully supplying the stone industry for years.

Go wet - It surprises me how many shops today are still cutting, grinding and polishing stone dry. In my book, this is a no-no. Dry cutting and grinding releases silica dust in the air which can cause silicosis, a very serious lung disease.

Use natural floor materials - Make sure that you are not only using stone in your showroom, but in all of your office spaces as well. If you are promoting stone as a premium material to use, then get rid of the carpets in your office space.

Use non-toxic chemicals - It is important to use water-based sealers and cleaners, and regulations in this sector are getting stricter on a continual basis. Try to stay clear of solvent-based materials.

Find a use for your stone waste - Many fabricators have a big issue with their stone waste. I talked with a fabricator recently that was spending over $2,000 per month on disposal of their stone waste. There are several ways to dispose of your waste and even a few where you can generate some revenue. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Have a weekend sale. I know several fabricators who open up their stone yard to the general public and sell their waste for next to nothing. Some even give it away. Take a small ad in the newspaper and advertise it. You can make some extra money by charging the customer to cut the piece or even profile and polish it. I know one fabricator who made over $35,000 on one weekend with this method.
  • Tumble your waste stone. Tumbled stone is still popular, and the customers love it. Why not take you waste, cut it into small tiles and tumble it? These tiles can be sold for as much as $20 each.
  • Give it away to artists and craftspeople. If you are in an area that has a large artisan community, why not give it away? You won't be making any money on it, but on the other hand, you won't be spending to get rid of it.
  • What about using waste stone for sidewalks and patios? Masons get some big dollars for this type of work, and it looks great. Terrazzo companies may also be interested in it for what is knows as “Palandiana Terrazzo.“
  • Grind waste material into “chicken grit.“ Believe it or not, a major quarrier and fabricator of natural stone in the Southeast sells a tremendous amount of waste material in this format. All you need to do is buy a rock crusher and grind the stone into fine grit, which can be sold to chicken farmers as “chicken grit.“
There are many ways to get rid of your stone waste. All it takes is a little “out of the box thinking.“