Nothing sets the mood quite like a candle.
Whether you’re looking to give your home a more peaceful atmosphere or create a romantic dinner setting, lighting a candle is the easiest way to change up your home environment in seconds.
Not to mention, there’s no gift quite as popular as a fancy candle set!
But how do mainstream candles fare when it comes to environmental impact?
Candle enthusiasts might already know that the vast majority of candles available on the market are made of paraffin wax, a material that doesn’t exactly shine for its environmental sustainability.
On top of being a petroleum product, paraffin wax is known for releasing by-products like carbon dioxide once burned, contributing to our ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
So, are there more sustainable options for those of us who don’t want to give up our candle habit altogether?
If you’re wanting to go greener at home, keep reading to learn all about natural candles, a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional paraffin candles coming in a diverse range of materials, scents, and sizes!
There’s also the question of how are you going to light the candles. Have a read of this post on whether matches or lighters are better for the environment.
What are natural candles made from?
The first thing to keep in mind when looking for eco-friendly candles is that not all natural candles are created equal. While you won’t find natural candles made of paraffin or other petroleum products, the materials used to craft them can vary widely.
Natural candles are often made from materials such as soy wax, beeswax, coconut wax, rapeseed wax, or any other kind of slow-burning vegetable oil. Have a read of the most sustainable cooking oils here.
While a naturally-derived wax makes for a good starting material for all types of natural candles, the essential oils that are commonly used for their scents will have even more variety — and some candles don’t even have any scent at all.
Candles come with all sorts of scents: lavender oil, vanilla, eucalyptus, citrus fruits, sandalwood, and rose essential oil to name just a few. Finally, you’ll find a small cotton wick (usually unbleached) to finish the candle off.
Each of the most popular natural waxes used today come with their own pros and cons, so if you want to make sure you’re choosing a truly sustainable candle, it’s best to get familiar with their unique features first.
Most popular types of eco friendly candles
Let’s take a quick look at 3 of the most popular types of natural eco candles.
Soy wax natural candle
Soy wax candles have experienced a boom in popularity in recent years. While soy can get a bad rep as being an unsustainable crop, you’ll find that soy wax candles make for one of the most eco-friendly candle options on the market.
They are made from a versatile, renewable source (soybeans), burn for as much as 50% longer than paraffin candles, emit minimal soot, and release no harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.
On top of that, soy wax candles allow for stronger scents, so candlemakers will only have to use minimal amounts of essential oils to make great-smelling scented candles, reducing waste in the process.
Beeswax candles have been around for a long time, and they are usually marketed as higher quality compared to those made from vegetable oils. Unsurprisingly, their price point will be a little higher too.
Just like vegetable oil varieties, these eco-friendly candles are made from a renewable and sustainable source. Beeswax is a hard wax produced by worker honeybees, making up the hard structure of the honeycomb.
They burn for much longer than paraffin wax candles and leave minimal soot behind.
Coconut wax candles
Coconut wax is another popular material for crafting eco-friendly candles. These make for the best alternative to soy-based candles.
Their properties are in fact quite similar, with the only difference being that you’re more likely to find candles made with organic, GMO-free coconut oil than you are of coming across true GMO-free soy.
Have a closer read on coconut sustainability here.
Are natural candles better than traditional candles?
So, what makes natural candles different from the large candles and tealights you’re used to seeing at your local supermarket?
Safer to burn
Well, for starters, natural candles are believed to be much safer to burn. Paraffin wax candles are made from petroleum oil, meaning they will release potentially harmful fumes as they burn away.
While there are no studies supporting the claim that paraffin wax can impact your health in the long term, eye irritations and respiratory discomfort are not uncommon, given that known carcinogens like benzene and acetone are being released in the air every time you light the wick.
Natural candles made from beeswax or vegetable oils won’t cause any short-term or long-term trouble to your eyes, skin, or lungs.
Cleaner internal environment
Natural candles will also keep your house environment cleaner through every burn. In fact, the stubborn black soot created by traditional candles can be your home’s worst enemy — it’s known for damaging furniture and walls just as much as it can damage your lungs when inhaled!
Vegetable oil-based natural candles won’t give you any of these issues, as they don’t only burn more cleanly but also release minimal soot, making for a happy home and happy lungs all around!
Better for the wider environment
When it comes to their impact on the environment, conscious consumers will be happy to know that the vast majority of beeswax and soy wax candles are also considered eco-friendly candles.
We’ve already gone through why traditional candles make for a less than ideal option when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint.
Mainstream candles produce hefty levels of carbon dioxide (about 10 grams per one hour of burning) and they’re crafted from non-renewable sources, adding onto the emissions pressure we’re already experiencing.
Eco friendly packaging
On top of that, their packaging and wicks tend to be just as damaging to the environment, as you’ll find plenty of plastic packaging involved and even lead or zinc additives added to their candle wicks to bulk up the strength!
But while paraffin wax candles make for an unsustainable option due to the base material (petroleum) and their excessive soot and greenhouse gas production, natural candles are made of renewable sources like soy wax, coconut wax, or beeswax.
They often come in recyclable and recycled packaging like paper, and their wicks are often made of organic cotton, making for a more eco-friendly product all around.
The best places to buy natural candles
So, if you’re trying to embrace a more conscious lifestyle and reduce your carbon footprint without renouncing the candle habit, what are the best places to buy eco-friendly candles from?
Seeing as candles still make for some of the most gifted items on Christmas and birthdays, you’ll find no shortage of independent brands offering soy wax and coconut wax candles online.
- Etsy – you’ll find plenty of handmade, unique eco-friendly candles here
- Ethical Superstore – lots of ethical candles here. Toxin-free, soy, coconut wax and other plant-based wax.
- Wearth London – a wide range of natural, UK made candles. Includes eco-friendly candles made from soy, rapeseed, coconut and more.
- Planet Organic – if you’re looking for natural organic candles, Planet Organic is your place. Here you can find natural wax candles, vegan friendly candles and more still.
- Scentered.me – make beautifully scented soy wax candles that are refillable and free of plastic packaging, using compostable cups and glass to give each candle an endless life cycle.
You can also find beeswax candles in home improvement shops and markets, but make sure you’re keeping an eye out for any hidden ingredients, as potentially unsustainable animal-derived stearic acid can be added to a pure beeswax formula.
And if all else fails, why not try your hand at making your very own eco-friendly candles for an even more sustainable and rewarding solution? And don’t forget to light your candles in the most environmentally friendliest way, have a read here on the debate between matches and gas lighters.
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Ben is the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about more sustainable, environmentally friendly living in and around the home.
Alongside this website, I love spending time in the natural world, living a simple life and spending time with my young family (Murphy the dog!) I round up my thoughts and recent blogs on the Eco Life Newsletter.