NSSGA members are effective stewards of our environment and value innovation in our industry. Our members are always working to develop state-of-the-art technologies that improve our homes, businesses and schools. Aggregates are used for many environmental purposes, such as purifying drinking water and cleaning air emissions from power plants. NSSGA members recognize wise environmental stewardship is necessary today to preserve the potential for a quality of life for future generations.
Climate Change: Aggregates are Part of the Solution
Stone, sand and gravel are essential resources for developing any type of infrastructure and are key to producing renewable energy sources and sustainable public works. From new electric vehicle charging stations, to natural gas and hydrogen production and transportation, our members stand ready to supply the needed construction materials for these projects that will be needed to reduce emissions across the transportation industry.
In producing these needed materials, NSSGA members run their operations effectively to maintain air and water quality and are always working to reduce energy use. Aggregates operations are very low contributors to greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions in the U.S. NSSGA members use the GHG emissions calculator to track and work to reduce their energy use and emissions. Even so, the aggregates industry has undertaken many greenhouse gas mitigation efforts, such as investing heavily in fuel-efficient mobile equipment and improving operational efficiency.
For example, NSSGA member Vulcan has made significant improvements in its carbon footprint over the years, investing heavily in fuel efficient mobile equipment and heightening its focus on operating efficiency. From 2016 to 2018, Vulcan has invested $140 million in Tier 4 mobile equipment or mobile equipment engines, with new fleet particulate, NOx and SO2 emissions reductions of more than 90 percent. Their new state-of-the-art ships for Gulf of Mexico transportation are significantly more fuel efficient than the prior fleet.
Most of the emissions come from the transportation of material. Therefore, NSSGA supports policies that promote local sources of aggregates, which results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Aggregates are an important tool in creating resilient infrastructure to combat climate change, with uses such as flood control and water treatment.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator
NSSGA has provided a greenhouse gas emissions calculator since 2008 to assist aggregate producers and pulverized mineral producers calculate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in an accurate, consistent and verifiable manner. The GHG inventories provide emission baselines and are a useful tool for evaluating options for reducing GHG emissions. The GHG emissions data compiled based on this inventory protocol can help NSSGA member companies inform stockholders and public stakeholders concerning GHG emissions and emission reduction programs. This calculator has been updated several times to provide the most accurate calculation.
NSSGA members identify sustainability as a business approach that integrates environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic prosperity to ensure the long-term supply of aggregate materials to society. NSSGA members sustain the communities in which they operate by providing raw materials as natural building blocks for quality of life. NSSGA members maintain adequate aggregates resources in locations that minimize the life cycle impacts of the resource’s extraction, delivery and use. NSSGA members believe in being good neighbors by creating wildlife habitats and supporting local schools and other community institutions and efforts.
Crushed stone, sand and gravel operations remove material from the ground and process it by conveying, crushing, screening, washing and drying. NSSGA members work diligently to reduce dust emissions throughout these processes, installing dust suppression and collection equipment at their facilities. NSSGA members produce limestone, which is used to reduce harmful emissions from power plants and other industrial sources.
Construction aggregates are used in many environmental applications such as landscaping, erosion control, water filtration systems, wastewater, and sewage control, and drinking water. NSSGA members are responsible stewards of water resources, and regularly undertake land reclamation activities that include wetland restoration, creation, and enhancement, as well as wetland mitigation banking for internal and external use. Land reclamation activities conducted by NSSGA members have long been known for their ability to create much-needed additional flood storage capacity.
Water uses of aggregates include:
- Sewage treatment
- Wastewater control
- Septic tank leaching fields
- Infiltration for aquifier replenishment
- Acid Neutralization
- Concrete and Asphalt Construction for Public Works Infrastructure
- Sewage treatment plants
- Water purification plants
- Dams, reservoirs and water supply
- Utility lines (water, sewerage, electrical)
Mitigating Environmental Impact
Our sustainability efforts benefit roads, create clean waters, enhance job growth, as well as share and promote best practices. Our member’s materials are used for a variety of climate control purposes. These include erosion and flood control, navigation, wetland and stream restoration, filtration for water and wastewater treatment, landfill creation and air purification. Even the act of extracting aggregates can assist with flood control: as streams fill with eroded material, NSSGA members dredge this material to open river traffic, saving governments money and preventing flooding. Aggregate operation pits provide downstream flood relief by retaining water during flooding events.
Since 2008, NSSGA partnered with Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to advance efforts in land and wildlife conservation. Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC Conservation Certification was developed to drive change through strict requirements and rigorous third-party evaluation. Currently, NSSGA has six certified WHC projects, entailing three forest projects; four grassland projects; four avian species projects; three pollinator projects; and three education and awareness projects. With our certified programs, there have been sixty-five acres of wetlands and ponds improved for certification and 300 native wildflowers and grasses planted. We have over 1,000 students involved in our programs and 3,600 acres of land used for certification. These programs operate on a national scale taking place in states across the US.
Improving Our Communities
Stone, sand and gravel materials are needed in large quantities for the construction of many environmental safeguards, such as the foundations of wind turbines, sea walls and other infrastructure projects needed to respond to the effects of climate change in localized areas. The vast prevalence and utilization of aggregates are a testament to the many time-tested benefits they provide including being low-cost, reliable, durable, and environmentally sound. When aggregates operations cease, these pits and quarries become valuable reclaimed lands, which include:
- Residential neighborhoods
- Functional wetlands
- Industrial sites
- Geologic study sites
- School grounds
- Wildlife habitats
- Golf courses
- Office parks
Aggregates facilities are heavily regulated before, during and after operation at the local, state and federal level. NSSGA members support reasonable regulations based upon the law and sound science that allow the timely extraction of materials vital for infrastructure projects, but object to those that are redundant, burdensome and do not provide environmental improvement.