From sweet and spicy to fresh and clean, there's an endless array of delectably scented candles to choose from. But just how sustainable are they? Let's turn off the lights to turn on the conversation about eco-friendly sustainable candles.
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Why choose non-toxic and sustainable candles
Candles are big business; it's estimated that the industry is worth about 3.5 billion dollars. Candles are not a necessity, but rather a decoration. The problem is that most of the candles you have in your home are made from paraffin wax (or as it sometimes appears on a label, mineral wax), which comes from petroleum. The demand for these types of products is in part what's driving global warming. #fossilfuels
When you burn paraffin wax, you are actually emitting carbon into the air inside your home. Sucking in carbon is obviously not a good idea! It's best to avoid paraffin candles.
Carbon is only one issue; fragrance is the other. We don't fully understand the safety or potential toxicity of gases released from the group of ingredients known as "fragrance," but we do know they can contribute to decreased indoor air quality and leave VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the air. We also know that when "fragrance" is present, phthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors, are most likely present as well. Fragrance has been linked to headaches and it's why you see so many businesses asking people not to wear perfume at all.
Unscented paraffin wax candles aren't much better. When we burn these types of candles, we expose ourselves to formaldehyde (which is carcinogenic), benzene, and toluene (a neurotoxin).
Not only that, but lots of candles also have lead in their wicks, which further adds to indoor air pollution.
Palm Wax can also be used to make candles and is not much better than paraffin. In Indonesia and Malaysia, local governments have allowed palm producers to ravage local forests to keep up with the demand for palm oil on this side of the world.
“Between 1967 and 2000, the area under cultivation in Indonesia expanded from less than 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles) to more than 30,000 square kilometres."
Deforestation and illegal logging in Indonesia for palm oil are so rapid that a report in 2007 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said most of the country’s forests might be destroyed by 2022. Most of the land has been clear-cut to grow palm oil from which palm wax is derived.
Not only is this land home to the most diverse rainforests in the world, but it's also home to the Orangutan, which is now on the brink of extinction thanks to the growing need for palm oil here in North America.
In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), partnered with oil producers in the region to form the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization committed to finding a way to produce palm in “a sustainable manner based on economic, social, and environmental viability.”
BUT in an article from The Economist published in June 2010, they found “an industry filled with many companies whose production methods infringed on RSPO standards and Indonesian law. They discovered that while the RSPO is a respectable organization, it has virtually no control over the behaviour of its members. Its lack of success in certifying sustainable oil has critics joking that RSPO stands for “Really Slow Progress Overall”.
What’s worse is that the article reveals that even ‘certified’ members of the organization (just 15 of 355 total members) only have to prove that a percentage of their supply is sustainable. So, even if you are buying from a certified grower, there is a good chance you’re getting tainted oil. So best to just avoid it altogether!
What to look for when it comes to Eco-Friendly Sustainable Candles
So now you know what to avoid, but what makes a good candle? Like with everything, when it comes to eco-living you want to choose the most natural path. In the case of eco-friendly sustainable candles, that's coconut wax, beeswax, soy, and flameless options.
Beeswax candles are obviously made from beeswax. If you are buying a candle made from it, the most important question you need to ask is where the beeswax is being sourced. Is it ethical and is it local? The more locally sourced, the better. Honey bees are facing major declines thanks to climate change and pesticides, so supporting local beekeepers can help ensure their livelihood.
Commercial honey hives can be shipped all over the country, which is very harmful to the bees' health. These bees also have very poor diets because we take their honey and replace it with cheap sugar water, which makes them sick and more susceptible to parasites.
This is where brand transparency comes into play. You want to ask them where and how they get their wax. And you want to make sure it's 100% beeswax; if the label says 50% beeswax, you can be sure there are added synthetics present, so avoid!
It takes about 10 pounds of honey to make one pound of beeswax and with the current state of bees dying, it’s something to keep in mind. On the other side of the coin though, they generate minimal carbon emissions.
If you are vegan, soy is the better option (and it's much better than paraffin). But it's not perfect. 94% of soy grown in the USA is genetically modified and is sprayed heavily with pesticides. It also takes a lot of chemicals to process it and it's been linked to deforestation in South America.
It's can also be very challenging to trace soy. If you have a choice between soy and paraffin, go for soy. To make it even better, chose organic and non-GMO soy wax whenever you can. Eco-friendly candles made from soy will also burn longer.
Soy does burn better because it doesn’t emit benzene or other petroleum-based chemicals, but the bigger issue is the impact that growing GMO soy has on the planet.
Flameless candles are safer because they can’t burn the house down, but they're not really the greenest option either! They are typically made from plastic, silicone resin, or for more authentic aesthetics, paraffin wax.
They’re also powered by batteries, which have a nasty impact on the environment at the end of their lives. Some 94 percent of dead batteries end up in landfills, where they can cause damage to soil micro-organisms and affect the breakdown of organic matter.
Coconut wax is not as mainstem as all the others noted. Like beeswax, coconut wax burns longer and does not emit any harmful chemicals into the air.
In candle making, coconut wax is most often blended with other waxes like soy. A lot of sustainable candles are made of soy-coconut blends, which are much better than their paraffin counterparts.
Keep in mind that it's very challenging to find a 100% organic candle that checks all the boxes for sustainability... but some choices are much better than others!
Choosing sustainable non-toxic scented candles is the best way to light up your home.
Eco Friendly Sustainable Candles I Love
The Plant Project 100% soy sustainable candles are hand-poured, GMO-free and 100% natural. They are also certified cruelty-free. Burning these vegan candles will not increase the CO2 in your home—I love that! Plus, every time you purchase one of The Plant Project's scented sustainable candles, they plant a tree.
Each of these eco-friendly candles is scented using pure essential oils and natural aromatic essences like vanilla and coconut. They are completely phthalate-free and free of any artificial compounds. You can choose from Calming Lavender, Energizing Eucalyptus, or Peaceful Jasmine, just to name a few.
One of the things I really admire about this brand is a program they run called "Project Re-Cycle." They take the production and lifecycle of their packaging and materials into account and offer a take-back program to make sure all of their well-loved packaging can be reused or recycled. You can also reuse the glass as a cocktail tumbler or mini flower vase.
Their gorgeous containers can be reused up to 10 times. They also offer a refill program, so if you love a jar and simply can't live without it, just email them and they will be happy to light that flame once again!
Their 12oz candles will burn brightly for at least 50 hours! I've been using and love the Energizing Eucalyptus—it's got a soft scent that fills the room and just makes my home feel so happy. I love each and every detail of this candle. If you are looking for really beautiful sustainable skincare, they've got that too.
Simple Ritual makes some of the best sustainable candles with a fun vintage vibe. They make clean-burning, toxin-free, vegan, soy wax candles repurposed with forgotten vintage glass found locally in Ontario, Canada. I mean does it get any better?
You can buy non-toxic scented candles either in vintage jars or tins that can be repurposed when your candle burns out.
Their non-GMO, eco-friendly candles are made using paraben- and phthalate-free premium fragrance oils and pure essential oils. The owner Kayla is a cancer survivor and takes this stuff really seriously.
The premium fragrance oils are produced using only the purest essential oils derived solely from natural, raw botanical sources. The wick is also made from cotton, so no lead here.
The soy wax is as pure as its gets and is sourced from the USA from a company that offers sustainable processes and supply chain procedures. Plant-based waxes are a completely natural renewable resource and the preferred choice in the journey toward sustainability.
The team at Simple Ritual is not only passionate about making products that prioritize sustainability by re-purposing old materials, but they are also really serious about giving back. A percentage of every candle sold goes to Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), an organization that supports young adults living with, through, and beyond cancer.
These beautifully scented candles are anything but simple. Each candle selection is made in small batches and can be refilled if you like.
The vintage candle I have came in a little red wine glass that will basically be my wine glass of choice once the candle is done. It's a little treasure and I love it so much I almost don't want to light it!
Vellabox is the definition of the word cozy with their artisan candles that are delivered to your door monthly. You know I love a good subscription box and this one is next level. They carry a wide selection of artisan candles that I am sure you will love.
All of the candles featured on their website are made with 100% natural wax and scented with essential oils. You have the option to choose from organic soy candles or eco-friendly wax candles like coconut. All the wicks are cotton braided.
I got to try a few of the artisan brands. Nightshift Wax Co.'s vegan soy candle is made with 100% vegan soy and is simply divine. Let's just say if I could drink the Earl Grey candle, I would! It's infused with bergamot and dried lily is vegan and cruelty-free, and comes in a gorgeous amber jar that you can easily reuse when you are finished with it.
The Nordic Cabin non-toxic candles are hand poured for Vellabox and come in two sizes: 8oz and 4oz. Each of them is beautifully scented and comes in a clear jar that you can keep and upcycle. If roasted chestnuts and cedarwood are your vibes, you will LOVE this brand. They make me want to be in a cabin, right now!
Then there is the Often Wander candle, pictured above, which comes in the most gorgeous glass vessel that will absolutely be a treasure in my home for a long time to come. Often Wander candles are made with 100% natural soy wax, quality essential and fragrance oils, and a cotton wick.
Clean and slow-burning, these 6 ounce smooth and creamy soy candles have a 40 hour burn time. They're hand-poured in San Francisco and San Diego, CA.
To order this sustainable candle subscription box, simply pick the perfect box, choose three candles, get candles to your door monthly, and then just set the mood. The costs start as low as $10 US/month. What an amazing gift idea!
SAM + LANCE is another favourite when it comes to ethical subscription boxes. Not only do they sell a box filled with goodies, but you can also find really divine candles on their website. All of the brands are made with either soy or coconut wax and scented with the most beautiful essential oils.
Whether you like warm and cozy or sweet and savoury, they've got a scent for you. One of the brands they carry is Fenwick (pictured above), which carries sustainable coconut wax candles. The coconut wax is purchased from farmers that have healthy agricultural practices.
Each candle is scented using 100% essential oils extracted through steam distillation of fresh flowering tops and young twigs The wicks are made from 100% cotton. These candles contain zero chemicals, phthalates, or any other nasty stuff.
When you buy one of these candles, you are not only supporting a local business but are ensuring the farmers involved are being paid a fair wage.
SAM + LANCE is all about reducing waste, so these candles come in a really cute glass container that you can reuse again and again!
Goodee is a black-owned business that is made up of a community of socially conscious design enthusiasts. Their ethically curated marketplace offers everything from houseware to lifestyle products that are better for you and the planet. And of course, that includes candles.
The delectable candles from KOBO come in scents like thyme and calendula. Each unique sustainable candle is made in the USA with 100% pure GMO-free soy wax and. They use enviro-safe cotton wicks to provide a pure and clean flame that will not pollute your home.
Every candle is free of additives, dyes, phthalates, and oil-based petroleum products. Each and every candle is hand-poured in their family-run facility near Saratoga Springs, New York.
When you buy one of these candles from GOODEE, a portion of the sales are donated to disenfranchised groups that are specific to the brand's cultural and social community.
To reduce waste, GOODEE uses ingredients that come from upcycled materials, including scrap and "repurposed materials from discarded goods."
GOODEE all about poverty reduction by ensuring a fair living wage for all supply chain workers. They also care about gender advocacy by supporting female leadership and promote a circular economy to minimize waste.
If you are looking for truly unique sustainable candles, look no further than The Wax Studio. The maker Robin has been making candles since she was a kid and is so talented in her creations. She actually makes some of her eco-friendly candles using moulds that she has developed herself, and you will not find these anywhere else.
In addition to the ones you see pictured above, she also makes ones moulded from antique bottles, the tall pillar cast from an actual candle from the 1800s, and a jar candle she designs with a succulent plant.
Every candle is made with pure local beeswax she filters herself along with 100% cotton wicks and eco-friendly dyes. Robin's beeswax candles have an amazing natural honey aroma and actually purify the air.
Part of every candle sale is donated to local organizations and initiatives, including the Ontario Beekeepers' Association, Black Women in Motion, the Parkdale Food Centre, and others.
Whitewater Premium Candles makes candles made from renewable, biodegradable resources like soybean wax and oil. They create environmentally friendly candles which produce minimal waste and are an eco alternative to petroleum-based products.
Their reproduction antique enamel containers are stylish, reusable, and easy to clean with soap and water. They even reuse all empty containers which their local customers return to their store.
I mean, look at this container. I simply want them all! All of these non-toxic candles are made with vegetable oil-based fragrances and essential oils to ensure a full-bodied fragrance throughout the life of the candle.
Lohn makes organic soy blend wax candles that are so elegant and beautiful to look at. Engage your senses with their collection of scents that include Grapefruit & Rhubarb, Cardamom & Coconut, or Amber & Vetiver.
Lohn came onto the scene in Toronto back in 2018. They hand-pour all of their candles in-house in Toronto. These candles are infused with clean scents, made with coconut and soy wax, and come in recyclable packaging. The wick is cotton and every candle is vegan, cruelty-free, and non-toxic.
"LOHN scents are inspired by journeys and are designed to transport you to another time and place. In the ancient world, trade routes developed in part around the pursuit of perfume ingredients and materials like amber, tea and spices."
The Forage collection is made with 100% essential oils. Each candle is paraben-free, phthalate-free, and preservative-free. They do use some synthetic fragrances, but all the raw ingredients are sourced locally and sustainably.
Their Totem candles are handmade in Japan by a family in Ishikawa, who has been handcrafting these traditional Japanese candles, also known as 'wa-rousoku', in the same way since 1892.
These vegan and sustainable candles are made from wax that is harvested from the fruit of the Japanese Haze tree, and their unique hollow wicks allow them to produce a bright, tall flame. I mean just look at them—candle art, am I right?
Obakki is one of the most sustainable Canadian brands that works closely with artisans all over the world. All the items are handmade by talented artisans using local materials while protecting traditional methods.
Long-term relationships are what make Obakki so successful. Sustainable local livelihood is of the utmost importance. They co-create products that respect and preserve tradition. They follow the supply chain and ensure fair and prompt payment for all of their artisans.
The fonder Trina also founded a non-profit called The Obakki Foundation. They sum it up perfectly on the website:
"We support potential and our results are measured by the lives that are transformed. By identifying gaps and strategically investing in sustainable solutions, we're able to facilitate real and lasting change. We're proud of our 100% model - when you donate to the Obakki Foundation, 100% of your contribution goes directly to our programs."
How to shop for sustainable candles
Like with all things on The Eco Hub, I look for companies that are sustainable in every facet of their business and we take the following into account when featuring beauty items on The Hub:
Ethical Criteria includes:
Natural or organic ingredients;
Environmentally-conscious packaging (plastic alternatives);
Who can access and use this product?;
Equity and cost;
No animal testing or derivatives!
The big question is: are candles environmentally sustainable? For conventional ones, the answer is NO!
But the good news is, there are a ton of brands offering some of the best eco-friendly candles that are both good for us and the planet. These candles are basically the same as slow fashion!
Do you use candles at home? Did I leave anyone out? Drop a note below.
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