Blog: From the Bedrock

8 Reasons Why Natural Stone is Sustainable

Posted by Steven Schrenk

There are many sustainable practices that manufacturers of building materials can adopt, but there is only one building material that is inherently good for the earth and good for your health: natural stone.

Natural stone takes less water to process, doesn’t release VOCs and lasts longer than concrete, glass or quartz. And projects that use natural stone require less maintenance.



Ludgate West in London is faced with French limestone, VALANGES from Polycor.


But quarrying practices are not the same across all natural stone quarriers and that affects your ability to meet LEED v4 Certification, which addresses transparency in environmental life-cycle impacts and selecting products with improved life-cycles.

This certification from the US Green Building Council offers restructured materials and resources credits that push for transparency in manufacturing and offers credits for transparency in raw material sourcing and selecting materials that have been appropriately sourced. It also rewards products from manufacturers that have provided information on land use practices, extraction locations, labor practices, etc. Polycor stones meet all these standards thanks to its ownership of its entire supply chain.



Basilique Saint-Anne Beaupré in Quebec was built with SAINT SEBASTIEN™ granite from Canada.


Today we’ll review the eight reasons that make natural stone sustainable and appropriate for LEED v4.


What’s the proof? Strict industry certifications


The ANSI/NSC 373 standards are the grades of the Natural Stone Council’s ambitious certification program governing a company’s use of natural resources, fair labor practices and social initiatives. NSC created the standards to improve the environmental performance of the natural stone industry.

The voluntary accreditation helps architects and builders who specify stone ensure their selection is produced in an economic, environmentally and socially responsible manner. Certifications include bronze, silver, gold and platinum accreditation levels.


INDIANA-LIMESTONEⓇ-quarries-are-now -NSI/NSC-373-certified

Three of the INDIANA LIMESTONEⓇ quarries are now ANSI/NSC 373 certified.

Polycor has achieved NSC-373 certifications for its CAMBRIAN BLACK®, CALEDONIA, and BETHEL WHITE® granite quarries, three of its INDIANA LIMESTONEⓇ quarries, and its granite curb and landscape facilities.

The company has also received certification for all the marble colors originating from its GEORGIA MARBLE™ quarries and production facilities in Tate, GA (4 marbles in all). Specifically, by meeting these standards, Polycor can now help building designers get credit for green building, such as LEED® v4 and The Living Building Challenge. See all the certified quarries and stones in Polycor's Environmental Report here



The Myseron Symphony Hall in Dallas, TX pairs INDIANA LIMESTONE – STANDARD GRAY with walls of glass for a structure that soars with lightness and strength.


Natural stone is both sustainable and modern.


Timeless, classic and luxurious, natural stone is the most iconic building material. What other material could be used for both restoration of our important heritage projects and the performance needs of modern architecture? For the professionals who restored the historic Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and those who designed and built the ADNOC tower in Abu Dhabi, the answer is the same - natural stone.



The ADNOC headquarters building in Abu Dhabi is made from BETHEL WHITE granite from Polycor's certified Vermont quarry.

Here’s a quick rundown of nine reasons why the natural stone industry, and Polycor in particular, provides sustainable products.


1. Natural stone uses less water

In quarrying, production, installation and maintenance, natural stone lowers water use throughout its life cycle. During production Polycor recycles the water it uses.


2. Natural stone is the original organic building material

Natural stone requires no chemicals for production. In fact, “production” for natural stone means extraction, cutting and polishing. Contrast that with other building materials like quartz surfaces, which use a combination of crushed stone and resins to manufacture products. Polycor specifically focuses on sourcing the highest grades of stone so that, for instance, a black stone, like CAMBRIAN BLACK® granite doesn’t need dyes to achieve its rich color. It’s a true black throughout, even when it’s honed or brushed. A manufacturer of a lesser grade stone might apply a black dye or resin to the surface of a stone. Later if the treated surface of the stone is honed or brushed away, it will appear gray. Read more about this granite’s qualities here.


3. Natural stone quarries are easily reclaimed (unlike mines)

Because the natural stone industry doesn’t use chemicals in its processes, quarries don’t require soil remediation and are easy to reclaim. A great example is the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler adjacent to our ALBERENE SOAPSTONE™ quarry in Virginia.


4. Natural stone produces minimal excess material and is highly recyclable

At Polycor excess stone is processed into gravel for roads, curbs, landscaping products, and even furniture and jewelry. At the Polycor Tate, Georgia marble quarry (a zero waste quarry) even the stone dust is recycled into aggregate for Vetrazzo recycled glass countertops. The natural stone extraction process has high yields and little excess material because the stone is close to surface. Different from mining, where large amounts of earth must be removed to extract, for example, coal.


5. Polycor protects the health and safety of its workers

Polycor provides protective equipment and safe conditions for its employees in quarries and production facilities. Unlike some overseas quarriers, Polycor does not employee underage workers.


6. The stone is old but the practices are innovative

One of Polycor’s tenets is to maintain continuous industry improvement in quarrying, production and distribution, which leads to more efficient working practices and higher yields. As it seeks to become more sustainable, the building industry is moving back to natural materials for their trusted results and minimal environmental impact.


7. Polycor is committed to good corporate governance

As the world’s largest natural stone quarrier, Polycor is leading the industry with a commitment to socially responsible workplace regulations and policies.


8. Polycor owns a clear chain of custody on all its natural stones

From the bedrock to the point of sale, Polycor maintains an unbroken ownership of the supply chain allowing it to maintain standards of quality and practice.



The exterior of The Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City is BETHEL WHITEⓇ granite from Vermont.


Specifying sustainable materials is challenging. Much of the building materials industry (and to an extant, the stone industry too) is not transparent enough about where their materials are sourced, how they are produced or under what conditions their workers make their products. Middle man companies, brokers and chronic relabeling of product at distribution centers makes the job difficult for the professional specifier set on sustainable sourcing.

One way through the misinformation is to work with suppliers who have ownership of their quarry sources and manufacturing facilities. Every one of Polycor’s stones - marble, granite, limestone and soapstone - all come from Polycor owned quarries and are processed in Polycor operated facilities. And each of the stones quarried is handled by a Polycor employee working under fair and safe conditions. Unfortunately, ethical standards are not upheld in some other countries, or too many steps in the supply chain interfere with the process. Read more here about poor labor practices in stone quarries abroad. Dedication to its employees, and its resources is all part of the company’s mission to help the world fall in love with natural stone.

For careers, questions and material quotes >> contact us.


Topics: Cambrian Black, Georgia marble, Bethel white, Sustainable Design, Indiana Limestone, French limestone

Leave your comments below:

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic