Natural stone has an appealing color, texture, and mass that make it pleasing to interact with in an interior environment. However, if it is not quarried locally, it does take an enormous amount of energy to transport.
Much of the stone that we find on the market in Southern California comes from as far away as China. Slate is domestic, but it comes from Maine, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Historically, Northern California had a number of granite quarries, but most of them are no longer active. Two that remain active are Cold Spring's Academy Black and Sierra White quarries in Raymond, California. I welcome comments from green professionals who know of other quarries in the region with sustainable environmental practices. Meanwhile, I encourage you to consider a few of the locally available green alternatives to stone:
- Vetrazzo, based in Richmond, California, makes a terrazzo-like surface material that is 85 percent recycled glass. Richmond is comfortably within the 500-mile radius recommended by the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. Vetrazzo is durable and would be appropriate in a bathroom environment.
- You could also install your own terrazzo for the countertop, shower stall, flooring, and so on. Terrazzo consists of small solids, or aggregate, suspended in a matrix. The solids - historically marble chips - can be any number of things, from agricultural byproducts like walnut shells and mother-of-pearl fragments, to recycled glass. L.A.-area contractors Mike Payne and Associates (951-674-8377) are familiar with the installation of custom terrazzo blends and alternative aggregates.
- For a lovely spa-like appearance, you could plaster the walls of your shower with a cement-plaster mix and use a waterproof shower pan covered with a sustainably harvested hardwood deck. Every wall but the shower stall can be finished with a natural clay plaster, which is excellent for bathrooms as the clay absorbs and releases moisture, preventing drips.
- Finally, there are many beautiful tile products on the market that have recycled content. Bedrock Industries in Seattle uses recycled glass only: They've recycled tons of glass that otherwise would have gone to landfills. UltraGlas in Los Angeles uses a minimum of 15 to 30 percent recycled glass and has a progressive environmental policy.
For more information:
Consult GreenHomeGuide's Stone & Tile Know-How articles to learn more about the green pros and cons of natural stone.