Are stone countertops eco-friendly?

May 17th, 2010 by Cathy Rust Leave a reply »

CaesarStone collection

The “greeness” of  stone counter tops is a conumdrum I have been wrestling with over the years. You can get LEED points for using stone countertops because of their benefits to indoor air quality. But generally speaking, in the true sense of the word, stone countertops are not green. Stone is a massively energy and water intensive product to produce. Producers tout its “natural qualities.” Stone may be natural, but that doesn’t mean that all natural things are safe or responsible to use. If that were the case you could argue that petroleum is a natural product too.

But let’s be realistic: A lot of us love stone countertops. They’re nice to look at, they’re sleek, they’re fairly easy to clean and they can last and last without fading and can, to a certain extent, be revived or refurbished when they get too rough looking. So, whether we like it or not, stone countertops are going to be around for awhile.

Cambria quartz countertop

That being said, if you could choose a more “eco-friendly” stone, assuming there is such a thing, you would look for stone manufacturers that are conscientious about how they produce their stone, and you would look for stone that stands up to the test of time. Some stones are more durable than others and will last for 100s of years if looked after properly. Others, like the prima dona marble counter tops in my kitchen, will be worn out within a few years unless they’re taken extra, really good care of.

If I were to choose a stone countertop I would choose a quartz-based product. Quartz is the fourth hardest natural substance and is one of the most common substances on earth. Quartz countertops have many advantages over granite, marble, soapstone and limestone countertops. Quartz countertops are:

  • low maintenance and never need to be sealed,
  • non-porous so they are stain and bacteria-resistant,
  • available in a wide variety of colours and edging finishes,
  • generally come with a 10 year warranty (check your manufacturer for specific warranty)
  • Greenguard approved — which is given to products with high indoor air quality value. These products don’t off-gas any harmful chemicals.

Quartz manufacturers:

Two quartz manufacturers stand out when it comes to their environmental commitments.

CaesarStone not only offers a line of products which includes up to 42% post-consumer recycled material, its manufacturing and transportation practices are central to its environmental commitment.

Cambria: According to its website, its quartz is mostly mined and manufactured in the USA. The company recycles 100% of water used in the manufacturing process and even recycles storm water captured on the property. Environmental best practices are used throughout the manufacturing and packaging of Cambria products and even within its head office. See here for more details.

To find a CaesarStone dealer near you, click here.

To find a Cambria dealer near you, click here.

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24 comments

  1. Jan Harrris says:

    Excellent recommendations and all sound doable. This is a good “base,” and I’m aware that siting the house for passive solar purposes would be another step toward energy savings in the winter – along with shade trees for cooling in the summer. Things were getting complicated, but you helped simplify them. Thank you very much!

  2. Cathy Rust says:

    You are very welcome!
    Cathy

  3. Cathy Rust says:

    Hi Jan,
    I understand completely – LBC is not for the faint of heart!! As you say, to build as low impact as possible should really be the goal. This group realizes that their certification is difficult so now you can work towards partial certification – a few of their petals. you could choose to build with materials that don’t contain “red list” components (highly toxic and good to stay away from in any case). You could also choose to build a highly energy efficient house by bulking up on insulation and having an energy audit done before the drywall is put on in order to spot leaks. This also reduces the size of HVAC you need. You could use low-flow water fixtures…etc.

  4. Jan Harrris says:

    Wow! I just read your article and see that it may be a struggle to accomplish all that is required to meet the “Living Building” requirements. First-off, one must build on previously-used land (no forested areas.)
    That sits well with me as I HATE taking down healthy trees to build. My area here in WNC (Western North Carolina) does have farmland and several golf courses which are for sale. There are also developments which have been partially cleared but left unfinished. Perhaps they would qualify? In any case, this is going to be a very work-intensive project for me and now having second thoughts. Having said that, I am not really concerned about any “certifications” but doing the best I can to build my little cabin as energy efficient as possible and to tread softly on the earth. j.

  5. Jan Harrris says:

    Thanks, Cathy! Am still trying to gather all the information I can before starting my project, so I appreciate your recommendation. j.

  6. Cathy Rust says:

    Hi Jan,
    Many thanks for your kind words! You may want to read the post I wrote about the different certifications available, including the Living Building Challenge. http://becgreen.ca/2012/04/a-guide-to-energy-efficient-and-green-housing-certifications/
    Best,
    Cathy

  7. Jan Harrris says:

    Thank you, Cathy for this information. I am planning on building a small energy-efficient cabin for my golden years and really don’t care about granite counter tops, high ceilings, open floor plans, or stainless steel appliances. Even hardwood floors make me pause. I became aware of LBC (Living Building Challenge Project) which includes 7 areas covered in order to make the structure a “living building” and friendly to humans, wildlife, and the earth. Net zero energy is just one of the requirements. I don’t know how far I’ll get, but will take it as far as it is practical and within my price range. Thanks, again for your expertise and research! j.

  8. Alyr says:

    Hilarious that you’re making a point about “recycling water”.

    Compared to what? Drinking it?

    And what about all the chemicals which go into quartz fabrication?

    Greeks have been using natural stone/marble and the like for centuries and will continue to do so with no detriment to the country. And certainly not to the world. *facepalm.

  9. Morestone Granite & Marble Limited, locating in Xiamen China,
    is an integrated producer and supplier of natural sotne and engineered
    quartz stone countertop & vanitytop, wood base vanity and bathroom accessories for
    hotel revnovation and new construction project.

    Our Products
    —Custom produced to meet the requirement of each franchised brand hotel

    Natural Granite Countertop & Vanitytop
    Natural Marble Countertop & Vanitytop
    Engineered Quartz Countertop & Vanitytop
    Wood Base Vanity and cabinet
    Porcelain Sink
    Faucet
    Stainless Steel Towel Rack and Bar
    Stainless Steel Toilet Paper Holder

    Supplied material for many branded hotels
    Hilton Worldwide: Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Double Tree hotel, Embassy Suites hotel, Hilton Garden Inn hotel, Hampton Inn hotel, Homewood Suites hotel
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    hotel, Holiday Inn Express hotel, Holiday Inn Resort, Staybridge Suites hotel and Candlewood Suites hotel
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    Marriott hotels: Courtyard hotel, Residence Inn hotel, Springhill suites
    hotel, Fairfield Inn and suites hotel, Towneplace Suites hotel

    Welcome to send inquiry for estimate or order purpose.

    For more
    http://www.chinacountertop.com

  10. corey says:

    Agree with Marty on the wood comment. But I agree with Cathy on selecting quartz these days.

  11. Cathy Rust says:

    Ian,
    I would love to get paid for the hours of research and writing I put into this blog, but other than the few dollars a month I receive from Google adwords, these words and opinions are all mine.
    Cathy

  12. ian says:

    article paid by quartz manufacturer(s) i guess 🙂

  13. Marty says:

    I have always wondered if there truly is such thing as a “green” countertop. For something to truly be green it’s source should be renewable. The only real renewable material is wood. Granite, marble and quartz doesn’t renew itself after being removed from the earth. It’s great those materials can be recycled and used again for other applications but their source still doesn’t renew itself. Food for thought I guess.

  14. Jake says:

    I never thought that there are such things as eco-friendly countertops. But now that you have shared about it, i understand already the importance of a functional and durable, yet stylish countertop to any household and to the environment. But isn’t Quartz too expensive?

  15. LR says:

    Unfortunately the granite-greedy people around the world are making our hills and mountains in India disappear. These unique mountain ranges were formed 300+ million years back. It has taken just a few decades to flatten them to ground level 🙁 I am very saddened and shocked by this. Please STOP using granite in your homes and office buildings. Please…..

  16. adolfo says:

    I guess the only arguement is that a stone countertop could be broken and thrown back into the earth. As for quartz it is an affective use of material that would be waste anyways and can be combined with other prodcuts to add to its greeness Cursos Marketing Online

  17. Cathy says:

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for adding Silestone and the link to their environmental commitment. Their quarry restoration efforts and recycled water use are impressive.

  18. Silestone is another leading quartz manufacturer with a firm committment to the environment.

  19. countertops says:

    I think it is important to distinguish between true stone like granites and marble and stone based products like quartz. Granite is not considered an eco friendly because it is taken from the earth in chunks and they are not replaceable. I guess the only arguement is that a stone countertop could be broken and thrown back into the earth. As for quartz it is an affective use of material that would be waste anyways and can be combined with other prodcuts to add to its greeness

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