How Eco-Friendly are Granite Countertops?
The move for adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle has many people questioning the environmental impact of the stuff brought in for home improvements as well. In most cases, this means opting for more expensive options, but it pays back in the long run. Many homebuyers, for instance, are more likely to have a good impression for “green” home and buy.
There is no shortage of “green” products, but some question if they are as environmentally friendly as manufacturers claim them to be. A good example is granite countertops. Of course, granite suppliers will tell you it is eco-friendly because it is a natural product. However, not all natural products are eco-friendly. Take oil and coal, for example.
Fortunately, for environmentally conscious homeowners with an eye for beauty, natural stones are generally friendly to the environment. However, these natural stones slated for use as countertops go through a whole process that may not be so eco-friendly. As the most popular choice for kitchen countertops, many homeowners would like to know exactly how eco-friendly granite is. Here is the lowdown.
Defining “green” materials
When assessing if something is “green” or eco-friendly, you need to consider all the factors that go into making it consumer ready. You also need to think about what happens after use. These factors include:
• Source – Where it comes from
• Manufacture – How it is made
• Transportation – How it gets to the consumer
• Packaging and Installation – What needs to be done to put it to use
• Maintenance – What needs to be done to keep it in good shape
• End of life – What happens to it after disposal
Granite comes directly from the ground, and in a technical sense, it is not a renewable resource. However, more than 80% of the Earth’s crust is made of granite or granitoids. It is unlikely that there would be a shortage of the material in the future. In fact, centuries of use as a dimension stone has not even scratched the surface of that supply.
Technically, granite is not a manufactured product. It undergoes a series of processes to mine or quarry it from the ground and prepare it for different uses. The first step, quarrying, represents a big part of any carbon footprint granite might leave behind. This is because quarrying is a difficult process requiring the use of heavy equipment that use gasoline or electricity. The next step is to cut granite blocks into slabs, and that uses a lot of water as well as electricity. In this sense, granite is about as eco-friendly as sustainable wood.
Much of the granite supply in the US comes from other countries because locally sourced granite is limited in quantity and options, and tends to be more expensive due to high labor costs. On the other hand, transporting more affordable granite from other countries means significant emissions of greenhouse gases. For the best of both worlds, source it from suppliers that import in bulk from nearby countries such as Brazil.
Packaging and installation
Granite slabs do not need packaging, so that is not a problem. However, they do need fabrication, which can result in significant amounts of dust and volatile organic compounds kicked up into the air. Fortunately, modern methods of fabrication keep that to negligible levels. Installation also uses eco-friendly adhesives, so in that sense, granite countertops are as green as they come.
Maintaining granite countertops are easy and environment friendly. Granite countertops are low maintenance. They do not scratch, stain, or break easily under normal use. Dust and grime slide off a properly polished stone. All you need is water and mild detergent to keep it clean, so harsh cleaning chemicals is out of the picture. Sealers close up the pores, so it if food safe and there is no danger of breeding bacteria.
Contrary to what some people claim, granite does not emit high levels of radon gas. Radon gas is a naturally occurring substance linked to lung cancer with prolonged exposure in high levels. It does emit very small amounts of radon gas, but not nearly enough to be a health hazard. In fact, water, soil around the home, and basements emit much higher levels of radon gas than granite. It also does not emit formaldehyde or VOCs, so it is safe for indoor use.
End of life
Granite is extremely durable and will last for decades without any extraordinary measures taken. Any damage it does sustain is easily reparable. You will not need to replace it unless you want to. Even if you do replace the granite, you can reuse, repurpose, or recondition it for other parts of the home. You may even sell it and benefit another homeowner on a tight budget without loss of any of its great features. This makes granite the ultimate “green” countertop material.
If you are considering granite for your eco-friendly home, you could not have chosen better. Marble and engineered quartz are also good contenders, but those are discussions for another day. Your next step is to find a reliable supplier and installer of granite countertops, and Granite ASAP is your best bet in the state of Virginia, including the cities of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Fairfax, Chantilly, Herndon, Centreville, Tysons, and Washington DC.
We carry a wide range of eco-friendly natural stone slabs as well as top brands of engineered quartz in the country. Over 100 colors of granite and marble slabs are available for inspection at our Chantilly, Virginia showroom. If you prefer engineered quartz, we can offer you products from the Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI brands, each one carrying the manufacturer’s warranty. You can choose what you want and we will deliver it ASAP!
Feel free to ask any questions over the phone, or get in touch using our contact form. We offer free estimates and quotes for any of your kitchen remodeling or bathroom remodeling needs.