While there is no material with zero impact on our planet, there are environmentally friendly countertop materials with Soapstone being one of them. All products have some green and some not-so-green characteristics, with the understanding that “being green is not a black and white issue”.
Soapstone has often been referred to as “Nature’s best gift to your home”. It is a natural quarried stone that is completely recyclable from blocks to slabs to tiles to ice cubes and anything along the way…even the dust can be used for grout. This avoids having to mine and thus reduce other grout materials. NOTHING NEEDS TO BE SENT TO A LANDFILL. Diversion from a landfill is a definite plus.
In addition, pieces of soapstone that are being removed or replaced from old buildings can be reused with minimal effort and restoration.
There is nothing that needs to be done to the stone to make it functional or beautiful. Once quarried, soapstone is minimally processed; no water is needed during the mining. Soapstone is delivered in its natural state. It doesn’t have to be shipped to Italy or China for finishing, saving on gas and other transportation pollutants. Materials that require less processing use less energy, and so have less impact.
Due to the increased demand, the mining of soapstone has stimulated the economy by creating jobs in the countries of Brazil and India where most of the soapstone is quarried.
Soapstone is not buried deep so the mining is closer to the surface. The earth is not as disrupted leaving less impact on the area and less embodied energy. The areas are usually savannahs and the ground is simply re-planted.
The availability of soapstone in the earth makes it virtually inexhaustible in a human time scale. This criterion meets the UN Commission on Environment and Development Report which states “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
Soapstone rates very well in terms of the criteria for sustainability of building products. The longevity of natural stone prevents frequent replacement; adding to the long lifespan of soapstone and its durability. Soapstone will NOT wear out. Your investment will last for generations.
Soapstone is considered a dimension stone. Dimension stone in use can last many generations, even centuries. When building green, dimension stone has big advantages over aluminum, concrete, and steel, whose productions are highly energy intensive and create air and water pollution. As an entirely natural product, soapstone has a major plus over quartz surface and other artificial stone (resin-agglomerated stone) which are made from mixed quart sand or ground stone and a resin and acrylic.