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The growing demand for green products in new construction and remodeling has left people in the stone industry feeling like they’re playing on an uneven field.
The problem: Even though its advocates know stone to be one of Mother Nature’s finest products, they don’t have any objective standards to prove their claims.
While the Natural Stone Council (NSC) is leading the way in developing a set of standards for the industry to better define stone as a green product, those probably won’t be available until sometime next year. Until then, the best option for selling stone involves education – of yourself and your customers.
The idea that natural stone isn’t sustainable seems counterintuitive, given that Egyptian pharaohs used stone to memorialize themselves a few millennia ago, and tourists aren’t flocking from all around the world to visit the Great Wooden Fence of China.
Click this photo of a quarry to see what happened after shutdown.Still, stone gets a bad rap from everyone from the homeowner pondering a green countertop choice of concrete or a recycled materials up to the designer whose developer-client is demanding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design™ (LEED®) certification for the newest project.
The real issue – just about everyone agrees – is not the stone itself, but how it gets to the end user. The biggest concern for many centers around a misperception that equates the quarrying of stone with mining, and all the negatives that conjures up.
“A lot of people view quarrying as ripping up the landscape” says Maurice (Moe) Bohrer, sales manager of Brownsville, Wis.-based Michels Materials. “The equipment we use, many times, also looks like it’s polluting and isn’t fuel-efficient. Between the loaders and the crushers and whatever else we use to process natural stone, it’s not looked on as environmentally friendly.”
Of course, many domestic quarriers are working to combat that perception, frequently aided by local, state and federal requirements about how land needs to be treated once a particular deposit is played out.
Approaches vary by company and location. While some are recycling all the water used in quarrying and fabrication, others are seeing that every bit of waste stone finds some use away from landfills. Others are turning the old oil from their equipment into a heating fuel.
Robert Bellospirito, president of Windsor, N.Y.-based Devonian Stone of New York Inc., says one of his decisions was to establish production in older, existing quarries not yet reclaimed.
“We go in and quarry the material out, and then we reclaim the quarry afterwards,” he says. “It will wind up being some beautiful fields, or we’ll incorporate some rock ledges and put some creative contouring into the land to make it a beautiful site when we’re done.”