We don’t often think of tile or stone products as being particularly harmful, as far as materials go.
Unlike other wall and floor coverings, they don’t prompt questions about sustainable forestry practices, or volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, or poor indoor air quality. After all, stone is a natural material, so what’s the issue?
The biggest direct impact of tile and stone industries is on the environment: the energy spent in sourcing the raw materials, the adverse effects of quarries, and the air and water pollutants emitted during the finishing operations.
Quarrying and mining, by their very nature, are environmentally destructive practices. That’s why it’s important that those responsible for the site are also responsible for rehabilitating the land and having an environmental remediation plan in place. Thankfully, the quarrying, fabrication and testing processes for stone products are constantly improving, paving the way for a lower environmental footprint for the industry as a whole.
The biggest downside to tile and stone products compared to other flooring materials is that they have a high embodied energy (the sum of all the energy required to produce something). Even bigger impacts occur when you consider imported stone tiles; the energy and processes required to ship them internationally adds significantly to their environmental load.
Efficiency across all aspects of operations is key for water use, for energy use, for extracting usable materials and minimising waste, and even for the fuel used by operating equipment at the site. Minimising waste and resources used is always the first step toward a reduced overall environmental impact. Even product packaging is important to consider from a waste management perspective: the amount used, its capacity to be recycled, and whether or not it contains hazardous materials.
Many of these impacts may not be obvious to the end user. There’s less of a market demand for perceived “eco-friendly” or “green” tiles compared to other surface finishes like carpet or hardwood. Look for evidence of third-party environmental certification, such as the Good Environmental Choice Australia ecolabel, to know that your tile or stone products are genuinely having a lower impact.
Refresh content provided by our Education Partner, Good Environmental Choice Australia.