Is Quartz Countertop Environmentally Friendly?

Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular in recent years as a stylish, durable, and low-maintenance option for kitchens and bathrooms. But with growing environmental awareness, many homeowners are asking: is quartz countertop environmentally friendly?

The short answer is that quartz countertops are considered more eco-friendly than other common countertop materials like granite, marble, and solid surface. However, quartz is not without some environmental impacts. In this article, we’ll explore the key factors to consider regarding the sustainability of quartz countertops.

What is Quartz?

First, let’s briefly overview what quartz countertops are made of. Quartz countertops, sometimes called engineered stone, are made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. The exact ratio varies by brand, but quartz countertops typically contain over 90% ground quartz bound together by 7-10% polymer resins.

So while the quartz itself comes from a natural material, the manufacturing process involves mixing it with synthetic binding agents. The resin binders are what allows quartz to be molded into countertop slabs.

How Sustainable is Quartz Countertop Manufacturing?

When evaluating the eco-friendliness of quartz, the first considerations are the manufacturing processes and sourcing of raw materials. Here are some key factors:

Energy Use

The amount of energy required to produce quartz countertops is lower than many other countertop materials. The EU-based Quartzforms reports its quartz manufacturing process consumes 63% less energy than granite and 73% less than ceramic/porcelain.

Lower energy usage translates to reduced dependence on fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions. So from an energy and emissions standpoint, quartz appears more eco-friendly than leading alternatives.

Raw Material Sourcing

The quartz used in engineered stone countertops is an abundant natural material, sourced as a by-product of existing quartz mining. This means quartz production does not require dedicated mining strictly for countertop manufacturing.

Additionally, quartz requires less energy for extraction and processing compared to materials like granite and marble that must be quarried and cut into slabs.

The polymer resins used to bind the quartz particles together are derived from petroleum. These represent a portion of the overall material inputs but are still lower than many competing solid surfaces which can be up to 65% petroleum-derived resins.

Overall, the raw materials used in quartz production are responsibly sourced and require less processing than alternatives.

Recycled Content

Some quartz brands are now incorporating recycled materials into their products. Countertop industry leader Caesarstone offers a line with up to 5% recycled glass chips. This diverts waste glass from landfills to give it extended utility as an attractive feature in the countertop.

While 5% is currently a modest ratio, the inclusion of any recycled content is a step toward improved sustainability. Expect recycled material usage to increase in quartz products as the technology develops further.

Product Lifespan

Compared to natural stone, laminate, and tile countertops, quartz offers a longer useful lifespan. The resins bind the quartz particles into an extremely hard, non-porous surface that resists scratches, stains, and heat damage better than many alternatives. With proper care, quartz countertops can last for decades in the home.

The longer lifespan means fewer resources ultimately wasted by replacement and disposal compared to lower-durability countertop materials. The resilience and longevity of quartz countertops contribute to their eco-friendly profile.

Low Maintenance

Aside from the durability advantage, quartz requires very little maintenance compared to many other countertop materials. Unlike natural stone, quartz does not need periodic sealing to prevent staining. Simple cleaning with mild soap and water is all that is required to keep quartz countertops looking like new for years.

Minimal maintenance requirements translate into less need for chemical cleaners and sealants over the lifespan of the countertop. The low-maintenance nature of quartz is a plus for sustainability.

Ease of Repair

While quartz holds up very well, it is possible to damage the surface by excessive impact or heat. Many brands offer repair kits that allow minor damage spots to be sanded down and re-polished with relative ease.

This repairability means the entire countertop does not need replacement if accidental damage occurs in a small area. Being able to repair rather than replace adds to the eco-profile of quartz.

How Does Quartz Compare to Other Countertop Materials?

To better evaluate the sustainability of quartz, it is useful to compare its overall eco-friendliness to other popular countertop materials:

Quartz vs. Granite

  • Granite requires much more energy intensive extraction and processing.
  • Granite needs periodic sealing to prevent stains.
  • Granite is more prone to damage and typically does not last as long.
  • Granite is limited in color options unless dyes are used.

Overall, quartz compares very favorably to granite in terms of eco-friendliness.

Quartz vs. Marble

  • Marble is mined in quarries similar to granite, so more energy intensive to source than engineered quartz.
  • Marble stains easily and requires frequent sealing.
  • Marble is softer and etches more easily than quartz.
  • Marble has a shorter lifespan – quartz will outlast it by years.

Quartz is clearly the more sustainable choice compared to marble.

Quartz vs. Laminate

  • Laminate countertops are manufactured from wood particles with laminated plastic coating.
  • Not as durable or heat/scratch resistant as quartz.
  • Typically needs replacement in 10-15 years vs. 30+ years for quartz.

Quartz is more durable and longer-lasting than laminate countertops.

Quartz vs. Ceramic Tile

  • Tile is very durable but the grout lines can stain and discolor.
  • Tile needs periodic re-grouting and sealants applied.
  • The surface is not as seamless for cleaning as a full quartz countertop.

Quartz requires less maintenance and offers greater stain resistance compared to ceramic tile.

Quartz vs. Concrete

  • Concrete must be sealed to prevent staining and etching.
  • Can crack under impact and heat damage.
  • Concrete has a high carbon footprint due to cement manufacturing.

Quartz compares favorably to concrete in durability and eco-friendliness.

Quartz vs. Solid Surface (Corian)

  • Solid surfaces like Corian are heat and scratch resistant like quartz.
  • However, they contain a higher ratio of petroleum-derived resins, up to 65%.
  • More prone to damage from hot pans compared to quartz.

Quartz uses less petroleum resins so has an environmental edge over solid surfaces.

Are There Any Downsides to Quartz?

Although quartz generally compares well to other countertops in eco-friendliness, there are a few downsides to consider:

  • Not locally sourced – Most quartz is manufactured overseas and must be shipped long distances. Local granite or concrete may have smaller transportation footprints.
  • Limited recyclability – While quartz slabs can theoretically be recycled, current infrastructure makes this difficult. Most quartz ends up in landfills eventually. Improved recycling is an opportunity for manufacturers.
  • VOCs from resins – VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released from the petroleum-based resins during manufacturing. These are pollutants if not properly controlled. Look for brands that monitor and minimize VOC emissions.
  • Energy to transport – The weight of quartz slabs means significant fuel is required for shipping. Local sourcing would reduce these transportation impacts.

So while not perfect, quartz still compares favorably overall in terms of eco-friendliness. And manufacturers continue working to improve the sustainability of their quartz production.

Is Quartz a Green Product?

Given all the above factors, quartz countertops can accurately be described as an eco-friendly, green product – particularly compared to other available countertop materials.

According to the University of Florida Program for Resource Efficient Communities:

“In our opinion quartz surface tops would be considered ‘green’ under any reasonable definition of ‘green building’”.

They cite quartz’s durability, low maintenance, and recycled content incorporation as clear sustainability advantages.

Major quartz brand Cambria also touts its status as a certified green product:

“As the first American-made quartz manufacturer, Cambria is proudly built green from the inside out.”

Their facilities are designed with eco-efficiency in mind, including:

  • Recycling 98% of water used in manufacturing
  • Zero hazardous waste output from their US facilities
  • Energy-efficient production with low carbon footprint

So while quartz production impacts are not zero-waste, leading brands demonstrate real efforts to maximize sustainability and meet the criteria for eco-friendly building products.

How to Choose the Most Eco-Friendly Quartz

If you’ve weighed all the factors and decided quartz is right for your new countertops, here are some tips for selecting the greenest quartz options available:

  • Look for recycled content – Seek out brands that incorporate recycled glass or other materials into their quartz products.
  • Choose lighter colors – Dark quartz colors require more pigment made from unsustainable sources. Lighter neutral tones are most eco-friendly.
  • Select local options – Check for regional brands that don’t have to ship their slabs cross-country. Local sourcing means less transportation impact.
  • Buy from certified manufacturers – Leading brands have their facilities and processes certified for sustainability by regulators like the NSF.
  • Consider thickness – Thinner quartz slabs use less material and are lighter to transport. But ensure durability isn’t compromised.

Following these guidelines will help you choose the most environmentally responsible quartz countertops that align with your design needs and eco-values.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is quartz more sustainable than granite?

Yes, quartz is considered more eco-friendly than granite. Quartz manufacturing has a lower carbon footprint compared to energy-intensive granite quarrying and processing. Quartz also requires less sealing and maintenance over its lifetime.

Is quartz better for the environment than solid surface?

Quartz contains a higher percentage of natural stone versus petroleum-based resins, so it compares favorably to solid surfaces like Corian. Leading quartz brands also actively work to reduce environmental impacts from resin off-gassing and transportation.

Can you recycle quartz countertops?

It is theoretically possible to recycle quartz but not widely available. The material can be crushed and repurposed as construction aggregate. But current infrastructure makes it difficult to cost-effectively collect and process post-consumer quartz. Most quartz today ends up in landfills eventually. Manufacturers are working on improving recycling viability.

How long do eco-friendly quartz countertops last?

When properly installed and maintained, quartz countertops have an expected lifespan of 30 years or longer in the home. This durability and low maintenance requirements are a core component of quartz’s eco-friendly benefits compared to lower longevity materials.

Does quartz off-gas toxic chemicals?

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released when manufacturing the petroleum-based resins used in quartz production. Reputable quartz brands test and monitor VOC emissions to control off-gassing. Looking for greener manufacturing certifications can help identify quartz options with less off-gassing.


There are valid considerations both for and against quartz countertops when judging their environmental impact. But the evidence indicates quartz is ultimately one of the more eco-friendly options available for durable, low-maintenance countertops.

Compared to leading alternatives like granite, marble, laminate, tile and solid surface, quartz generally wins on:

  • Energy efficiency in manufacturing
  • Responsible raw material sourcing
  • Recycled content usage
  • Product longevity and lifecycle
  • Minimal maintenance requirements

Leading quartz brands continue innovating to drive sustainability improvements in areas like:

  • Increasing recycled material inclusion
  • Reducing transportation impacts
  • Controlling VOC off-gassing
  • Working toward recyclability

While no countertop material is 100% eco-friendly, quartz balances performance, beauty, and responsible environmental practices better than many competitors. For homeowners valuing both sustainability and lasting quality, quartz presents a compelling option.