Stone and Sustainability

Stone and the Environment

As a natural product, it is inherently earth-friendly. Natural stone currently offers many attractive, environmentally friendly attributes, including an enduring life-cycle, durability, ease of care and maintenance, recyclability, and quarry and manufacturing best practices.

Using natural stone shows that you take responsibility to care for the earth by actively striving to preserve, restore or improve the natural environment. Conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste are some ways the stone industry is working to be eco-friendly through green building.

Why Build Green

Constructing buildings in an environmentally-considerate way requires careful thought and planning. However, the payback from a green building far outweighs this price. Conventional building practices consume large quantities of energy and water, while generating excessive air emissions and waste streams; these impacts are also caused by product manufacturing. Moreover, indoor air quality can be impaired when unhealthy building materials are employed.

Implementing green building techniques reduces impacts on the environment and human health during both construction and operation of a structure, as well as during production of building materials. If this harm is not reason enough to build responsibly, consider the financial aspect. Resource consumption and medical care can become expensive for the builder, the material manufacturer, and the employer of those working in the structure.

In order to decrease costs and to be good stewards of the earth, the Natural Stone Council (NSC) has invested much time in determining how to best represent the stone industry in the green building arena.

The Natural Stone Council aims to further position Genuine Stone® as a preferred sustainable building material by:

  • Using the five key LEED® rating system categories as a guide to credibly and transparently substantiate that stone is a natural choice in building green
  • Transparently communicating the environmental benefits of Genuine Stone use as found from extensive research by a third party
  • Working with an advisory council consisting of leading green architects, designers, and specification writers with intimate knowledge of Genuine Stone and its uses in building and landscaping

In its truest form, sustainability is a three-prong strategy involving environmental, social and economic requirements and that is how green building programs have been created.  Construction materials must have an environmentally preferable profile over their life cycle, from raw material extraction through the use phase and finally at the end of its application. The methods used to construct the building must be environmentally considerate. LEED is based on upholding these canons, and the NSC is working to credibly substantiate that using Genuine Stone aids in this objective.

We can especially do our part to contribute to responsible building by providing materials that have been quarried and processed in an environmentally-conscious manner. Further, we are exploring the implications of natural stone application during the use phase and beyond, particularly with regard to durability, solar reflectance, and salvage and reuse. This work addresses the entire life-cycle of Genuine Stone, substantiating on a holistic level the position of natural stone as a green building material.

Research and Results

Significant work was accomplished to gather accurate data characterizing the environmental impacts of the natural stone industry. Information learned from this study is now available.

Life-cycle datasets To accurately assess the environmental profile of Genuine Stone® products, impacts over the entire life cycle of these products must be identified. Information characterizing stone fabrication was amassed through a rigorous survey of the industry, and life-cycle datasets have been established for granite, limestone, sandstone and slate quarrying and processing operations. The datasets can be downloaded from the links below or the University of Tennessee Center for Clean Products’ website:

Best Practices The Natural Stone Council is committed to supporting sustainable initiatives and innovations at all levels of the production of Genuine Stone products. As such, best practices of the industry have been identified and these guidance documents created to provide assistance in implementing environmentally-preferable operations.

Case Studies Genuine Stone products inherently have some environmentally-preferable characteristics. The case studies highlight these positive attributes of stone and its application as a green building product.

Material Fact Sheets Designers are more frequently being asked to identify green building materials but do not always have the needed information. Using the life-cycle data, material fact sheets describing several stone types are being generated to provide useful information in this selection process, among other information. The one-page (double-sided) documents will summarize the current market for stone, regions of deposits worldwide, physical properties, applicable ASTM standards, as well as environmental data and human health considerations.

For questions regarding the datasets, please contact the University of Tennessee Center for Clean Products at 865-974-4583 or To learn more about the efforts of the NSC Committee on Sustainability please contact Kathy Spanier at