Home improvement projects are always a big hit with homeowners, and not only with a view of increasing their home value. Replacing kitchen countertops with granite, for example, is more of a practical decision because it can make the work that much easier. The fact they look fantastic and popular with homebuyers is simply a bonus. However, another big hit with homeowners is eco-friendliness. Some people hesitate to choose granite countertops for their kitchens because they are not sure just how “green” it is.
The thing is, finding out if a product such as granite countertops are friendly to the environment is not as easy as it appears. Anyone can claim their product is eco-friendly even if it is not without legal consequences with some slick moves. You could be taken in if you do not do your research.
Many people also have an idea that a natural product is always good for the environment, but that is not always. For example, granite and other types of natural stone countertops are generally “green” in and of itself, but some factors may affect this classification. Since granite countertops are very popular with designers and homeowners, you may want to know a bit more about what makes something truly “green.” Below is a detailed explanation answering the question “Are granite countertops green?”
The “green” definition
You may have heard about the term “carbon footprint.” This is how people measure the impact a product or activity has on the environment. If the carbon footprint is large, it typically means the negative impact on the environment is also large. For a product to be “green,” you want as small a carbon footprint as you can manage.
The following factors dictate the size of the carbon footprint of a product or activity:
Granite is the most abundant type of rock on Earth, comprising about 80% of the crust. Nevertheless, it is not renewable in the sense that it does not replenish readily. Granite forms over millions of years from magma, so theoretically, you can run out of granite if you take enough of it from the source.
However, it is unlikely that will ever happen. People have been quarrying granite for centuries for various uses, and yet they have only used up a very small portion of the supply. In that sense, granite countertops have negligible impact on the environment.
You can find granite in many countries, but you have to dig to get it. While granite suppliers do not actually manufacture granite, they do perform a series of processes to get it from the ground to your kitchen countertops. Back in the day, it was mostly manual labor, so the impact on the environment is close to nil.
Today, however, these processes are a major factor contributing to the size of the carbon footprint of granite because they use fossil fuels and electricity as a power source. They also use a lot of water in cutting and polishing the slabs. That said, the carbon footprint produced from these processes is equivalent to that produced from processing sustainable wood.
When you check out the showrooms of granite slab retailers near you, you are likely looking at granite sourced from other countries. The most popular sources of granite outside the US is Italy, Brazil, Spain, and India, so they must be brought into the US. This is a potential source of carbon dioxide emissions from transporting granite from these countries, whether by land, sea, or air. However, the same applies for other popular materials for kitchen countertops, including wood.
That said, you might be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transporting granite by choosing those sourced from nearby countries. If you are in the US, you can choose local granite, although these tend to be quite a bit more expensive and limited in choices. Brazil is also a good choice.
Granite quarry owners pack and ship their products using pallets they reuse, so that makes for zero waste. However, retailers of granite countertops do have to fabricate and polish the raw slabs in preparation for installation, and that does create quite a bit of a mess. Volatile organic compounds or VOCs in the stone dust do pose a health risk to humans when released into the air. However, if you choose a licensed and reputable countertop specialist for your granite countertops, they have safety measures in place to minimize the health risk of fabricating granite stone. In addition, these companies use only non-toxic bonding agents when installing the granite countertops.
One of the great things about granite is that is it low maintenance. Once installed, you will not have to repolish or do anything that will introduce more VOCs into the environment. It also does not need special chemicals to keep it in good condition. All you need is some mild dish soap, warm water, and a soft rag to keep it clean on a daily basis. For disinfecting the surface, you only need the occasional wipe down with a diluted solution of 91% isopropyl alcohol. Using any of these cleaning agents does not have any significant impact on the environment.
Some people point out that granite countertops give off a high amount of radon gas, a toxic chemical thought to cause lung cancer in humans. First, most natural substances on the earth release some amount of radon gas, including the soil around your home. Secondly, the amount of radon gas emitted by granite countertops is infinitesimal, definitely lower than that emitted by the aforementioned soil. You are more likely to develop lung cancer by living in an enclosed area in close proximity to soil such as the basement than you are with daily contract with granite countertops.
Another great thing about granite is it practically has no end of life. It is very durable, and even the most careless homeowner will not do much damage to granite under normal circumstances. Even if you do damage it, it is easy to repair.
The only reason you will have to replace granite countertops. Because you have had it for years, and want to change it. Even then, you can repurpose the granite for other rooms in the home, or even the garden. It is unlikely you will find granite slabs in the landfill. Even if you do, you can be sure it will not stay there for long.
End-of-life issues are not of concern with granite, as most people value it so much. It would be safe to say this does not contribute at all to the carbon footprint in this sense.
Doing your best to patronize only “green” products is admirable, and should be encouraged. You can continue to feel good about choosing granite countertops for your kitchen. Because this article shows that granite is as green as you are going to get with countertop materials.
As part of your “green” campaign, you need to find a countertop specialist that can help you keep the environment safe. KNC Granite has experts in kitchen remodeling servicing the areas of Maryland and Virginia.
We are a local company with a large collection of natural stones and engineered stones from which to choose. We deal directly with stone manufacturers and fabricators, so we can give you the best prices possible. In fact, we have a best price guarantee. Additionally, you only pay for what you use, so it does not matter how big or small your project is; you will not be forced to buy a whole slab.
You can check actual granite and marble slabs at our showroom in Lanham, Maryland, as well as representative samples for engineered stone from the top brands in the industry including Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI, all of which come with manufacturer warranties.
We do not only supply top-quality stones, however. We are experts at fabricating and installing kitchen counters or bathroom vanities. Also we specialize in kitchen remodeling and bathroom upgrade projects, delivering on time and on budget.
Give us a call or email us for your free in-home consultation and quote!