The Natural Stone Council (NSC), a collaborative organization representing business and trade associations that promote stone under the Genuine Stone brand, recently announced preliminary results of its comprehensive study of the natural stone industry. An in-depth look at quarry and processing operations over the last year has enabled the NSC to identify the industry’s best practices as well as to better define areas of focus to establish natural stone’s environmental profile.

A total of 42 North American companies responded to the survey, yielding data for a sum of 64 quarries and 45 processing facilities. The submitted data represents over 16 million cubic feet of net quarried stone and nearly 6 million cubic feet of net stone produced by fabricators. Responding to the survey in the greatest numbers is the granite and limestone sectors, which is not surprising given that these stone types dominate U.S. stone production, according to the NSC. Sandstone and marble - and to a small extent slate and travertine - comprise the remainder of stone reported.

With regard to quarry operations, adequate information was collected to assemble an initial life-cycle inventory for granite, limestone and sandstone in the near future. Data is still being collected to do the same for marble. The first versions of these data sets are in their final draft stages and will be available on the Genuine Stone Web site,, this fall.

Survey responses revealed that water consumption efficiency will be key for the industry’s sustainability profile because of increasing global water shortages, reports the NSC. This issue - along with site maintenance and quarry closure - have been identified as topics for best practice briefs.

When it comes to processing operations, an important issue for the industry to address is the diversity in the transportation distance of stone. Again, water consumption will be a significant topic in discussions about sustainability. Survey responses indicate that water reclamation is one of the industry’s best practices, and it will be the topic of the NSC’s first best practice brief to be distributed in early September.

With industry data now in-hand, the NSC will continue to work with the Center for Clean Products at The University of Tennessee (UT) to perform a life-cycle analysis of the environmental impacts of certain stone products, identify strategic sustainability goals for the industry, and continue outreach efforts to the environmental and Green Building communities through vehicles such as best practices, case studies and material fact sheets.

“We are encouraged by the initial results of this comprehensive research,” said John Mattke, Co-Chair of the NSC and Chairman of the NSC’s Committee on Sustainability. “With solid data behind us, we may now move forward to highlight our industry’s best practices as well as work together to improve those areas that will solidify natural stone’s position as a sustainable building product.”