Stone Industry Perspective: What makes natural stone sustainable?
Natural stone is nearly complete as a building material in its natural state. It is recyclable, low maintenance, emits no VOCs and is one of the most durable materials on the planet.
Natural stone is created by Mother Nature, resulting in one of the lowest embodied carbon levels among building materials. Ingredient transparency is simple with a single ingredient. There are absolutely no “Red List” materials hiding within the fabric of our material.
Energy is only consumed during extraction and processing, which is minimal when compared to manufactured materials such as concrete, glass and engineered quartz. Industry-leading quarriers and fabricators have had environmentally responsible practices in place for years. They recycle water, safely manage chemicals used in production, contribute very little waste to the landfill, and ensure safe working environments for their employees.
It is also important to understand the difference between mining and quarrying. Modern quarry operations have a small footprint when compared to the mineral extraction process. In most cases, quarries have operated in one location for many decades, creating material for thousands of residential and non-residential construction projects from within that small footprint.
Our challenge to natural stone quarriers and fabricators
As an industry, it is important that we all understand, and can speak to, the traits that make natural stone sustainable. We need to be able to defend natural stone by dispelling myths about it destroying the land. And finally, we need to make a huge push to certify as many quarries and fabrication facilities as possible to ensure a large selection of different stone types and geographic options.
Here is how you can help:
- Educate yourself. Learn about the metrics used to define environmental, ecological, socially responsible and human-health metrics for extracting and manufacturing natural dimension stone by visiting the Natural Stone Council’s website. We recommend downloading the Guidance for Conformance to ANSI/NSC 373 document.
- Support the Natural Stone Council. The development of the Natural Stone Sustainability Standard would not have been possible without donations from individual companies. If you support the concept of increasing awareness of both natural stone’s sustainability and the standard, please consider supporting the cause. Donations can be made easily through our website on the About page.
- Use the Genuine Stone® term and logo. If you are a member of one of NSC’s affiliate organizations, you are welcome and encouraged to identify your granite, marble, limestone, travertine, slate, quartzite, sandstone, onyx and other natural stones with Genuine Stone® branding.
- Certify to the standard. Gone are the days when self-reporting your metrics was enough to position your products in the green building marketplace. Prove your commitment to sustainable production of natural stone by third party verification of your quarry or fabrication facility.
The Natural Stone Council was formed to unite a diverse industry of natural stone producers and proactively position natural stone as a sustainable building material. By establishing and maintaining the Natural Stone Sustainability Standard, it has laid the groundwork necessary to ensure a place for natural stone within the green building products market. Notably, the NSC/ANSI 373 is recognized by USGBC and ILFI in their widely accepted green building programs, LEED and LBC.
We have re-energized our marketing efforts both within and outside of the industry. You can look forward to more resources aimed at building awareness and preference for sustainable natural stone. To learn more, visit: naturalstonecouncil.org/sustainability.