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Are Candles Bad for the Environment?

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Most of the things we do in our daily lives and the items we love in our homes contribute to air pollution. Candles are extremely popular due to their ambient lighting and lovely aromas, but there is the question of whether or not candles bad for the environment.

If you’re worried about the environment, but you love candles, you may be concerned about their effects on global warming and pollution.

Some candles contribute to pollution more than others, but generally candles have a small carbon footprint compared to something like a car.

Whether or not candles are bad for the environment depends on the type of wax they are made from. Years ago, candles were made from animal fats. In the modern day, they are made from paraffin, soy wax, or beeswax.

candles and the environment

Most cheaper candles are made from paraffin, which is created during extraction of petroleum, also known as crude oil. So, most candles you burn are technically made from fossil fuels. Paraffin wax candles are the least environmentally friendly and are unsustainable.

Soy wax candles burn with a cleaner flame. They are made from vegetable oil and are a less polluting alternative to paraffin wax candles. Of course, there is still the issue of growing the soy, manufacturing it, and making it into a candle. Soy wax is often mixed with coconut wax to form candles. Coconut wax has a lower melting point and is fully plant based, making it a sustainable wax to use.

Beeswax is another sustainable choice of wax, and can help to support independent bee farmers. Although they are more expensive, beeswax candles burn with a clean flame and produce no soot. However, beeswax is not the most popular choice of candle for most people, as they are harder to add pigment and scents to.

When you take into account the manufacturing of candles, there is a lot more to worry about. There is the pollution caused by extraction of paraffin oil and processing it into a candle, followed by the fuel used to package and ship the products to customers. All of this contributes to air pollution, and considering the candle industry is growing year by year, this pollution will likely increase.

Scented paraffin candles require more chemicals to produce different aromas, which enter the air when the candles are burnt. This can cause issues for people with lung-related conditions or cause eye and skin irritation.

Candle wicks can also have an impact on the environment. Cotton wicks are the most common form of wick used in candles. They are usually dipped in paraffin wax and other chemicals to make them light more easily. These chemicals can contribute to pollution by releasing toxic fumes into the air. A wood wick burns with a cleaner flame and produces less pollutants, so are much better for the environment than cotton wicks.

The wicks of some candles can contain small parts of metal or lead that can release toxic matter called carcinogens into the air when the candles are burnt. However, there are lots of candles on the market that have wicks made from recycled cotton or paper fibres. Remember to trim the candle wicks to minimise soot and keep a clean flame.

For scented candles, paraffin wax is best but as we’ve discussed, this type of wax is not the best for the environment! Some scented candles can be bad for the environment, but others can be okay. Scented soy wax and beeswax candles usually contain natural oils rather than man-made chemicals, so are not as bad for the environment.

A lot of scented candles contain phthalates, such as BPA. These are chemicals that can be dangerous or toxic and have been associated with many health conditions. Check the labels and do your research before buying scented candles to avoid those that contain these nasty substances.

The final parts of the candle to consider are the containers and packaging. Candles in glass or metal containers are not always recyclable, but more and more candle companies are moving towards using recycled materials.

You can do your part for the environment by recycling your candle containers once you have finished with them. When it comes to packaging, candles that are individually wrapped may not always be sustainable, but using recyclable or biodegradable outer packaging can reduce the impact of the candles on the environment.

There is also the consideration of what the candles are being used for. A lot of people use candles as a light source instead of a standard light bulb and candles are an eco-friendly alternative to electric lights. This could mean they are using less electricity, which indirectly reduces pollution.

When purchasing your candles, try and choose local businesses whenever you can. This will reduce the carbon footprint associated with the transport of candles from large warehouses and can help to decrease air pollution.

Generally, candles do not cause large-scale pollution and depending on the type of wax used, they can be created in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. If you are concerned about the environment, you do not have to stop buying your usual beautiful, scented candles. You can help the impact that candles have on the environment by buying sustainable candles made from plant-based wax and recycling your containers.