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How can we make the most environmentally friendly choice of materials?

En liten haus med fin sand som ligger på et bord for å illustrere opprinnelsen til skifer fra Minera Skifer

It’s not easy to find your way round the jungle of materials to which we have access today, and there are many things to consider. A product may be touted as environmentally friendly in production, but what happens to the environmental account if it has to be transported half-way across the globe? Or if it has a short life cycle and needs to be replaced in just a few years? How can we compare different environmental factors with each other? And what is the most important?

Text and photo: Marianne Vigtel Hølland
Slow Design Studio

A close-up of the edge of a Oppdal quartzite where you see the strata in the slate.

The ordinary consumer can’t be expected to have the knowledge or ability to set these parameters up against each other. And unfortunately, we can’t always rely on manufacturers’ information, as money can be made by recklessly ‘greenwashing’ products.


We can become a little wiser by looking into the EPD figures.

EPD stands for ‘Environment Product Declaration’ and is an environmental declaration defined by the International Organization for Standardisation 14025.

An EPD quantifies environmental data using advanced formulas that calculate and weight different types of emissions throughout the life cycle of the product. This makes it possible to compare products that can’t usually be compared by such parameters as ‘impact on the ozone layer, contribution to global warming, energy consumption, fossil fuel emissions, etc.’

The EPD is thus an objective standardisation of the most important parameters of a product’s total amount of emissions throughout its life cycle. Read more about environmental declaration and the EPDs for Minera Skifer.

Close-up of bricks of Oppdal slate
Close-up of Offerdal slate as crushed slate / decorative stone.
Close-up of a piece of Otta Pillarguri slate that is rust-colored on one side.

Environment declarations divide the life cycle into four main phases:

  1. Production phase (raw material, transport and manufacturing)
  2. Installation phase (transport, construction and installation)
  3. Application phase (use, maintenance, repair, replacement, renovation)
  4. Final phase (dismantling, transport, waste treatment and final treatment).

Minera Skifer was the first company in Norway to gain an EPD for natural stone. And with very favourable EPD figures in relation to other comparable materials.

Skiferplater av skifer fra Oppdal, Otta og Offerdal stablet oppå hverandre.
Nærbilde av kanten på skiferen, hvor en ser lagelingene og særpreget.

1. Production

Slate was formed hundreds of millions of years ago in a process whereby sand, gravel and clay were exposed to pressure and heat and, infinitely slowly, pressed together into solid stone.

In other words, slate is already produced by nature and will not be the source of any more emissions.

Minera quarries the slate with great care. Much of the quarrying work is done manually and with extremely low energy consumption.

Minera’s production facilities are situated close to the quarry and energy is mainly required for transport from the quarry to the production facility, and to heat the building.

The production facility is also heated by burning environmentally friendly pellets (bioenergy), as part of Minera’s climate strategy.

2. Installation

Emissions in connection with the installation of slate in various buildings will depend on the nature of the project, but slate often requires manual labour for adjustment and installation, rather than emission-intensive energy.

Compared to marble, granite or limestone, a slate façade can be built more thinly. This reduces the amount of stone and the transport required and makes installation on the building easier.

Transport accounts for the largest share of emissions in slate products’ environmental account. The closer you get to the deposits, the lower the emission figures. Using slate from Asia therefore results in a significantly larger carbon footprint. So choosing locally sourced Scandinavian slate, rather than slate or stone from abroad, is a sensible environmental choice.

3. Use

Slate is strong and withstands most things. Once installed, it does not require maintenance or treatment that produces emissions of any kind. With no maintenance requirements, it endures icy winter nights, hot summer days, and being walked on daily and used year after year, generation after generation. It develops patina and only becomes more beautiful with time.

4. At the end

Slate lasts forever. It may seem impossible to get bored with it, but if it does have to be changed, it can be taken down and recycled again and again. Once again, transport is the only source of potential emissions.

Everything comes to an end, however, even if it’s far into the future. And in millions or billions of years’ time, the slate may have returned to its original form. Without contributing any harmful emissions.

Sand, gravel and clay, and nothing more. Part of nature, part of the infinite cycle.

A countertop in slate from Oppdal with a small mound of sand seen from above.
A Close-up of bricks in Otta Pilarguri slate that has a brown and golden patina.
Details of the edge of a dark gray slate.

Source:

EPD Norge and Minera Skifer
Oddbjørn Dahlstrøm Andvik, Energy and Environmental Adviser at Asplan Viak A/S

En benkeplate i lys skifer fra Oppdal med en liten sandhaug sett ovenfra.

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