Is A Sustainable Candle The Same As A Conventional Candle?

The ambiance, the relaxation, and the moment of intimacy are all we experience when we light a candle. Undoubtedly, we use unique candles such as non-toxic pumpkin candles for different occasions like Halloween or Christmas and more and combine them with the décor.

Lighting a sustainable candle on a cold and gloomy night can really work miracles!

However, while candles are cozy, traditional candles can, unfortunately, release chemicals into the air, potentially causing harm to you and the planet.

What candles do you have at home?

Non-toxic holiday candles or conventional candles? If you think all candles are basically the same, then you may be a little mistaken. 

Let’s start with some fun historical facts:  

During the Roman Empire, in 500 BC., the tallow (fat animal of ewes or cows) was used for candles. There was certainly a waste economy, but these candles didn’t smell particularly good. 

They were definitely not like the scented sustainable candles that we love so much! 

Later, the Chinese Empire discovered the functionality of sperm whale oil and beeswax, still animal products, but much better than tallow. 

The candles were packed in paper tubes and had rice paper wicks. Truly ecological!

In temples in India, cinnamon was used and, in Tibet, yak butter was used to make candles.

These days, many of the candles we have at home (if not most) are made from paraffin wax, which is a derivative of petroleum, and totally not sustainable. 

How is paraffin produced? Is it used in sustainable candles? 

Paraffin is the last by-product of petroleum: what is left at the bottom of a barrel of oil, which is rejected by the oil and gas industry. 

Here is a step-by-step guide on how these non-sustainable candles were made back in the day so you get a little background and know what not to do when making a candle:

  • Before the chemical industry knew how to refine this thick, black, toxic substance, it was already being used as a wax in the 1830s (called petroleum wax).
  • Paraffin wax was introduced in the 1850s when a way to separate and refine wax from petroleum was discovered. 
  • During the refining process, the petroleum wax is bleached to make it more aesthetically appealing, and chemicals are added to increase the melting point and lifespan of the candles.
  • The paraffin wax is then sold to candle makers, who add other chemicals such as flavorings and dyes.
  • When the wax starts to burn, toxic components are released, such as acetone, benzene, and toluene, all known to be carcinogens, affecting not only human health but the environment.
  • The soot and gases released by paraffin are very similar to those released by a diesel engine. It is very unhealthy, especially for those who suffer from allergies or respiratory problems such as asthma.

Interesting information though! no? Well, below, we will discuss bout sustainable candles that come with fragrance.

And the candles that smell good? Are they sustainable scented candles? 

Scented candles are very popular right now, but they are not the best for your health. It is now known that scented candles are particularly toxic. Below is a list of all the things to consider before you buy your non-toxic fall candles:

  1. Artificial fragrances:

Many candle makers add artificial fragrances and dyes to paraffin wax to make it look more attractive. 

Chemicals are used to texturize the wax, artificial dyes to add color, and synthetic fragrances to create “pleasant” smells.

These additives are toxic and very unhealthy, especially when burned, as they release toxic gases.

  1. Beeswax or Soy: 

If you like scented candles, it’s better to use non-toxic holiday candles, as not all of them present a health risk. If you choose sustainable scented candles, your safety is guaranteed. 

Scented candles with bioactive substances from soy or beeswax are not harmful, as they do not release toxic substances during burning.

  1. Essential oils:

It is advisable that they are also flavored with essential oils, extracted from plants. To ensure everything goes smoothly, look at the ingredients list and avoid the word “paraffin”. 

Don’t forget: candle makers use this type of wax because it’s the cheapest and because it retains the scent of aromatic candles better.

  1. Sustainable wicks: 

Even wicks can be harmful: many sustainable candles still have lead or other types of metal in their core, so the wick stays upright. And when hot metal is added to a container already filled with chemicals, more toxic substances are released. Knowing this, it’s best to look for 100% cotton or wooden wicks.

A quick tip: In addition to candles, special care must be taken with the use of incense. This product is dangerous for health, because it releases harmful substances, even comparing it to tobacco: an incense stick can release as much benzene as five cigarettes.

While it’s hard to find the best sustainable candles, don’t give up.

First, look for vegetable wax made from substances like soy, beeswax, or coconut, and make sure the candle is 100% the wax you’re looking for. 

There are brands that market their candles as being made with a certain wax, but they use a mixture of paraffin. It’s best to look for non-toxic pumpkin candles or non-toxic tea light candles if you want to add them to your house. 

With so many tricky ways to add unsustainable ingredients, it’s wise to look for candles that say 100% beeswax, 100% soy wax, or 100% coconut wax on the label. 

Let’s talk about healthy and eco-friendly candles! 

Beeswax: 

Beeswax is a substance secreted by bees from the honeycombs of the hive. While beeswax candles are not vegan candles because they are animal-based, they are renewable and sustainable.

Most candle makers work with certified beeswax producers and adhere to cruelty-free practices.

Advantages of beeswax: 

  • 100% Natural
  • Free of paraffin 
  • Releases ions that purify the air
  • Burns without releasing smoke
  • Brighter flame
  • Long-lasting 
  • Spreads an excellent honey aroma
  • 100% biodegradable 
  • The least industrially processed type of candle 

Soy wax: 

Soy wax is made from soybean oil that has hardened at room temperature. It’s renewable (because it doesn’t depend on crude oil, as it’s a crop), it’s non-toxic, and it’s a vegan product. 

Soy wax is a vegetable wax that comes from soybeans. The oil is extracted and hydrogenated so that it solidifies at room temperature. Hence, it is one of the best sustainable candle options. 

Unlike oil, soy is a renewable and ecologically sustainable resource. In addition, after the extraction of soybean oil, the remaining part of the grains can be used for animal feed. Another characteristic of this wax is that its burning produces oil that can be used for massages, as its temperature is only a few degrees above body temperature.

Also, soy wax burns slowly (no soot) and because it is made from vegetable oils it has a natural sweet smell when burning (no aroma added). 

It is also an excellent aroma diffuser and can be combined with fragrances or essential oils.

However, despite the numerous advantages, we cannot forget that the soy industry can contribute to deforestation, as world soy production has increased significantly in the last 20 years. 

Coconut wax: 

Coconut wax is extremely clear, odorless and with a smokeless burn, being a good option, vegetable, and non-polluting. It has a 100% vegetable composition, without emission of toxic gases, in addition to a soft coconut scent. 

It has the disadvantage of being much more expensive than soy wax and, as it is a very soft wax, it needs to be mixed with other waxes such as paraffin, beeswax, or palm wax.

As we are talking about sustainable options to make candles such as non-toxic tea light candles, we have to leave palm oil candles aside.

Although they do not emit toxic gases during burning and are compatible with other waxes and vegetable oils, palm oil comes from the palm (oil palm), and this raises numerous ethical questions, as it is responsible for the deforestation of large areas that unbalance the flora and fauna of various ecosystems. 

The use of large amounts of palm oil has contributed to the deforestation that takes place in Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Fortunately, there is an awareness that excessive palm oil production is decimating the rainforest.

Are you a sustainable candle fan? 

Do you want to save your own health and that of the planet? 

Make sure the candles you have at home are not paraffin, they have natural fragrances and cotton or wooden wick, making them the best sustainable candles. 

With the variety of options on the market, it has become easier to find a sustainable scented candle. If you do, you are protecting yourself and the planet and creating a warm and healthy atmosphere in your home.

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