When it comes to building and home decor, you can’t get much better than granite, long the material of choice for high-end remodels and building projects, from kitchen and bathroom countertops to tiled flooring and fireplace surrounds.
But Earth-friendly? Not so much. Sure, granite doesn’t contain fossil-fuel synthetics, but mining, manufacturing and distributing the material guzzles petroleum. Then there’s the waste. Some sources claim that as much as 85 percent of excavated granite ends up in the landfill by the time the final product — be it countertop or fireplace mantle — has been installed. It all adds up to one super-sized environmental footprint.
Chuck and Marie Damler aim to downsize that impact through their business, Natural Valley Recycled Granite. The Brownsburg couple collects granite scraps from Indiana fabricators and turns them into uniform bricks and tiles that can be used for kitchen backsplashes, patio and garden pavers, fire pits, walls, columns and more to create striking upscale looks for a shockingly modest cost.
The couple learned of RecyclingGranite.com, another Indiana-born business launched by St. John native Julie Rizzo in 2008. With her efforts and those of some 40 licensees nationwide, Rizzo’s stone-cutting process is reported to have so far saved more than 5 million tons of scrap granite from landfills and earned LEED points for builders incorporating it in their projects.
“Julie started a brand-new industry — that really intrigued us,” says Marie Damler. “We have a lot of land, lots of tractors and a forklift, and thought we had the stuff to make a go of it.”
As a licensee, the couple buys scraps from Indiana fabricators, cuts them into smooth-sided pieces — from 4 to 10 inches — leaving the visible edge rough, and sells them to homeowners, contractors and builders. Not only the designer look of the product, but the price — from $8 to $10 per square foot — appeal.
Doing business since August 2011, the Damlers admit that it’s taken a while to introduce consumers to the concept. But they report a growing traction, particularly through virtual marketing channels such as craigslist.com.
“It’s all new to us,” says Marie. “But a respect for reduce, reuse, and recycle is not. We recycle everything, even horse manure.”
A visit to the Damlers’ Brownsburg ranch will turn up bags of manure for garden compost — and an opportunity to browse through the on-site recycled granite showroom. For more: click here, and for more about the burgeoning industry, visit this site.