Going Green for Stone Restoration and Maintenance
Everywhere you look, individuals, government agencies, schools, universities, and even private companies are going green. As we hear news about global warming and how we are polluting our own environment, more and more people are concluding it is of utmost importance that we all do our part in saving our planet, not only for our present generation, but also but for generations to follow. For businesses, sustainability has also become an important distinguishing factor for customers.
What does going green mean?
The term “green” or “going green” long ago entered our vocabulary, but few really know what it means. Going green means implementing principles that minimize the use of nonrenewable resources and seek to prevent air, water, and ground contamination and other activities that degrade the environment.
According to the United States Green Building Council, buildings worldwide account for 17% of fresh water withdrawal, 25% of wood harvest, 33% of CO2 emissions, and 40% of material and energy use.
Going green is simply changing the way we build, operate, and maintain buildings to reduce the negative impact they have on our environment. For cleaning professionals, that means evaluating our own processes and products for sustainability and environmental impact.
Many small business owners and individuals feel that they are too small to make an impact on the environment; however, this is simply not true. A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can contaminate up to two million gallons of fresh water. A 1/32-inch leak in a faucet can waste up to 6,000 gallons of water a month, or 72,000 gallons a year. Seemingly small infractions can have huge consequences, which means seemingly small changes can have a huge positive impact.
Green stone restoration
Traditionally the restoration, repair, and maintenance of stone and terrazzo surfaces uses chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to people in general. For example, polishing compounds contain harmful acids,
solvent-based cleaners and sealers emit harmful VOCs, and many cleaning and restoration chemicals contain carcinogens and other toxins. The procedures used to restore stone surfaces also produce a copious amount of waste and use large amounts of fresh water.
I am currently working with a stone restoration company that is taking steps to eliminate all these harmful chemicals and processes. This company has developed methods to restore, repair, and maintain stone surfaces using no harmful chemicals. As a matter of fact, the restoration and polishing of marble, granite, limestone, and terrazzo uses no chemicals at all. Here is how we made stone restoration a green process:
- The floor is ground and resurfaced using a fixed diamond abrasive and water. These abrasives are similar to sandpaper but differ in that there is no grit removed or left behind on the floor. The diamond abrasive is fixed to a pad, and no chemicals are used at all.
- The water used is recycled and reused in a specially designed system.
- Super fine abrasives are used to polish the stone or terrazzo. These abrasives contain no harmful chemicals.
Many stone restoration and janitorial companies use floor finishes to achieve a high luster on the stone or terrazzo surface, but these are both harmful to the environment (due to chemicals) and can actually detract from the floor’s appearance.
Most finishes do the opposite of what they are designed to accomplish. They become a dirt magnet and tend to show wear and scuff marks in a very short time. This increases the amount of maintenance needed and the cost for daily maintenance. Additionally, all floor finishes must be stripped off at some point. The chemical strippers used are caustic and can cause damage to the stone or terrazzo, not to mention the environmental impact. Once the old finish is removed, it must be disposed of. Most of these waste finishes are considered hazardous waste.
A green stone and terrazzo restoration process, on the other hand, has no negative impact on the building environment or the occupants since no chemicals or finishes are used. Additionally, green processes improve the appearance of floors and save on maintenance costs. I have conducted experiments that show a coated surface will attract more dirt than a surface restored using a green system. The maintenance requirement after the stone or terrazzo is restored is reduced by as much as 50% or more, saving on labor costs and keeping harmful chemicals out of the environment.
Frederick M. Hueston is the owner of Stone Forensics, a leading consulting and training firm specializing in stone, tile, and other surface failures. He is the host of the weekly radio/podcast, the Stone and Tile Show. He is an author of over 35 books and hundreds of articles on stone and tile restoration, maintenance, fabrication, installation, and failures. Contact him at [email protected].