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Looking for Sustainable Building Products? Stone Certification Ensures Environmental Stewardship

by | Mar 4, 2019 |

Coldspring Charcoal quarry. Photo courtesy of Coldspring.

In today’s eco-conscious marketplace, many buyers take great care to ensure the products they select are environmentally good choices. Consumers are already familiar with many labels that indicate environmental responsibility: Energy Star for appliances, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for wood products, and Green Seal for paints, cleaning and paper products are just a few of the many labels. Now, the natural dimension stone industry has its own certification program to demonstrate environmental stewardship.

Known as American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/Natural Stone Council (NSC) 373, Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone, the stone industry’s voluntary sustainability certification is a third-party-verified standard for natural dimension stone. It identifies which stones are produced in an economically, environmentally and socially responsible manner. Through a set of well-defined requirements for stone quarries and processors, ANSI/NSC 373 measures the extent to which natural stone is extracted and produced and transported sustainably. ANSI/NSC 373 matters in the marketplace, because it gives buyers of stone the verification they need to ensure their stone products are harvested and processed in a sustainable manner.

Sustainability in Stone

Coldspring Mesabi Black quarry. Photo courtesy of Coldspring.

While the standard was established in 2014, sustainability is not a novel concept in the stone industry. Natural stone has always been an environmentally preferable material. With minimal processing, natural stone contains a lower embodied energy than almost any material it replaces. It’s one of nature’s oldest, longest-lasting and most permanent building materials. What’s more, environmentally responsible practices have been in place for years at many quarrying and fabricating operations. Numerous companies in the stone industry have a long history of good stewardship of the land and the material production process.

Despite the stone industry’s long-held commitment to sustainable practices, an unfortunate stigma exists that natural stone quarrying isn’t environmentally friendly. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many people don’t recognize the difference between mining and quarrying, especially when it comes to current quarry operations and best practices. Most natural stone quarries have a small footprint as compared to possibly a large one-block building excavation in a city. In many cases, quarries have operated in one location for many decades, creating material for thousands of residential and non-residential construction projects in a small footprint.

Quarry Park. Photo courtesy of Coldspring.

In most modern quarries, the stone is meticulously extracted, with minimal or no blasting to minimize fracturing the stone. Many quarries utilize most —if not all—of the extracted stone for various uses. Waste is minimized by precise measurements and load optimization. When quarries become dormant, it is standard practice for environmentally responsible owners to reclaim the land. Many quarries find particularly creative new lives after their stone-producing days have ended, such as the Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in central Minnesota.

Now armed with ANSI/NSC 373, all those involved with stone production can verify their practices have the long-term interests of the world around us in mind. Third-party verification establishes the credibility of these practices and is helping the stone industry overcome the misperception about quarrying and stone production.



Recently, ANSI/NSC 373 has become even more relevant in meeting sustainability goals within green building construction. The standard became recognized in 2016 by notable green building programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4 as well as the International Living Future Institutes Living Building Challenge (LBC) version 3.1. This helps design teams ensure the stone they specify supports their project’s sustainability goals.

As buyers become more and more environmentally conscious, green product certification will continue to play an important role in the selection process. For your next project, choose an ANSI/NSC 373-certified stone for assurance that it has been sustainably sourced, both environmentally and socially. For a list of certified quarries and fabricators, visit the Natural Stone Council.