SINCE STONE COMES FROM THE EARTH, it has to be as green as a product can get, right? “Of course it's natural, but sustainability analysis is more sophisticated,” says John Mattke, president of Cold Spring Granite and chairman of the Natural Stone Council (NSC) Committee on Sustainability. The committee's charge is to identify and implement best practices for sustainable manufacturing and quarrying of products branded with the council's “Genuine Stone” mark. NSC recently turned to the University of Tennessee's Center for Clean Products to ensure objectivity and confidentiality of trade secrets and competitive data among the industry's members as it works to achieve better sustainability in the industry.

At the behest of the NSC, the Center for Clean Products is doing a study of best practices and the stone industry's environmental impact, using the LEED rating system as a guide. In 2007, the center sent out about 1,500 surveys to quarries and manufacturers across the United States and Canada asking about the amount of energy used to quarry, manufacture, and distribute stone as well as about what happens to such things as wastewater and stone remnants. The center will use the answers, due back in the coming months, to quantify the baseline environmental footprint of the industry.

The next step, says Mattke, will be to identify best practices and goals, to implement those practices and encourage eco-consciousness among members, and then to keep tabs to see what improvements have been made over time. A major goal is to assess the life cycle of stone as well as to show designers that stone is green and a good investment.

Part of this effort is also to strengthen stone's voice in the industry, adds Mattke: “Everybody is purporting themselves to be green, and we look at the USGBC as a way to demystify building green, and we need to make sure stone is a part of this.”