Last week, in the days leading up to Earth Hour, I realized that we didn’t have any environmentally friendly candles. We had one small votive candle to use under the gravy and fondue bowls. And I had decorative candles that I had no intention of burning. But we didn’t have a single beeswax, vegetable oil or other eco-friendly candle that I would feel comfortable burning during Earth Hour.
My problem was solved with a quick trip to the market – Whole Foods to the rescue! But unfortunately, the majority of the candles sold are far from eco-friendly or healthy. Here’s a quick and soot-free guide to earth friendly candles.
Guide to Eco-Friendly Candles
Most candles are made from paraffin wax. These sooty, petroleum based candles release carcinogens and neurotoxins into the air we breathe. And since they are made with petroleum, paraffin candles are not renewable.
Here are environmentally friendly alternatives to paraffin wax candles:
- Beeswax – Beeswax candles are made from the natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees. Beeswax is a renewable material and burns soot-free with barely any wax drips. It is nontoxic and has a natural fragrance making it an ideal candle for indoor use. Beeswax candles also last longer than petroleum based candles.
- Soy – Soy candles have some of the same benefits as beeswax – they are renewable and burn soot-free. However soy wax melts with quite a bit of dripping so you’ll want to use soy candles in jars or other enclosed holders. And, as with all soy products, it’s important to look for soy that is free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
- Vegetable and Palm Oil – Another environmentally friendly material used to make candles is vegetable and palm oil. Palm oil is derived from palm trees. Similar to soy, it’s important to look for GMO-free oils when choosing a candle.
Read the labels to ensure that the cancels are made with 100% natural materials – there are some beeswax and other “natural candles” that are actually made with a blend of beeswax and paraffin.
Check to make sure the wick is wire-free and made with 100% cotton or other natural fiber. Avoid wicks made with lead.
It is best to stick with scent-free candles (or naturally scented candles like beeswax). Fragrances used to make scented candles have been shown to emit harmful gases including neuro and reproductive toxins, especially when heated.
And those aromatherapy candles? Look out for the black soot that they generate. It is not only toxic, but also particularly dangerous to inhale because the particles travel deep into the lungs. This can be extremely worrisome for people with asthma or lung disease and lethal to our feathered friends.
In January 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency published “Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution”. The report warns:
Burning candles and incense can be sources of particulate matter. Burning candles with lead core wicks may result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended thresholds.
Other compounds identified in the EPA’s report include Acetaldehyde, Formaldehyde, Acrolein, Polychlorodibenzofurans, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Alkenoic Acids some of which exceeded the EPA’s cancer risk level.
To add insult to injury, synthetic fragrances are made with petroleum-based substances.
Environmentally Friendly Candles In a Nutshell
Look for unscented candles made with 100% natural material, including the wick.
And if you’re looking for a fun, creative project try making your own beeswax candles:
Please let us know of any stores in Los Angeles County that sell natural candles!