Sustainable lifestyle

The ultimate guide to eco-friendly candles

Flickering, amber lights… relaxing, beautiful smell and a sense of calm… Whether it’s a romantic dinner or a mindful yoga session, candles are nearly everywhere we go. With an industry worth £1.9 billion in the UK and $3.4 billion in the US, the ultimate question of sustainability becomes inevitable. So, with this post, we discover eco-friendly candles and look at some eco-candle brands. Get ready, this is your ultimate guide to environmentally friendly candles!

Woman's hands holding eco-friendly candles with wooden and cotton wicks.

Toxic candles: myth or truth?

Probably we all heard the claim of toxic candles. But is that really the case? Are we really slowly poisoning ourselves by burning candles? Let’s clean the air around toxic candles before we move on to eco-friendly candle options.

The majority of modern candles contain paraffin wax, which is a by-product of petroleum. There have been claims that burning paraffin wax candles release highly toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment. However, there was no data to support these claims. A later study funded by the European Candle Association concluded that the amount of chemicals released were below the harmful limit. Currently, there is no conclusive evidence that burning paraffin wax is toxic. But even if that’s the case, petroleum is a fossil fuel, which is harmful to the environment. Sometimes labelled as mineral wax, paraffin wax doesn’t pass our sustainability criteria.

The main issue with candles is that they release particulate matter and emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which cause indoor air pollution. As part of the UK’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy, the government is planning to take actions to better inform consumers about the VOC content in everyday products, including candles.

So, in short, there’s no definite answer to whether candles are toxic or not. However, we know that they are not very sustainable and environmentally friendly. But we don’t need to stop burning candles or make candles our guilty pleasure. As long as we opt for eco-friendly candles that are sustainable and ethical, we can continue to enjoy that magical, flickering light. So, let’s look at eco-candles and what makes them environmentally friendly in more detail.

Eco-friendly candles

Here at Bagmaya, we always support sustainable, eco-friendly products whether that’s recycled swimwear, natural yoga mats or eco-backpacks. And candles are no exception to this. But what do we mean by eco-friendly candles?

Eco-friendly candles contain organic, natural ingredients and pure essential oils as opposed to synthetic options. Often hand-poured in local workshops in small batches, eco-candles tend to be cruelty-free and ethical. They come beautifully packaged in environmentally friendly, recyclable materials. And more importantly, they are non-toxic. Sometimes they can even be considered healthy due to the health benefits of organic essential oils.

It can be tricky to assess the sustainability of a candle, as there are quite a few different elements to consider. To help you with your choices, let’s dive a bit deeper into what makes candles sustainable and eco-friendly.

Eco-wax, organic cotton wick and essential oil prepared for making eco-friendly candles

What makes a candle environmentally friendly?

When buying a candle, make sure to read the small print on their label. Always look out for plant-based natural wax, phthalate-free fragrances and recyclable packaging. If locally produced with a traceable supply chain, that’s even better!

1 – Natural & organic wax

All eco-friendly candles have natural and organic wax bases, such as soy wax and beeswax. These eco-wax candles are increasing in popularity and gaining more market share thanks to their clean-burning and sustainability. Plus, some of them have very sexy branding!

Soy wax is the most popular option amongst eco-conscious candle makers, whereas beeswax is usually the most sustainable alternative.

Soy wax candles

Natural soy wax candles are purely plant-based and free of any toxic chemicals. The wax in these eco-friendly vegan candles comes from soybean oil, giving you a nice, clean burn. Plus, soy wax candles have a high melting point and burn much slower than paraffin candles, resulting in an additional 30-50% longer burn time. Thanks to this slow-burning quality, soy wax candles are much better at holding fragrance and colour.

Soy candles may sound like a perfect option, but we know that nothing is perfect. Soy production is one of the leading causes of deforestation, therefore it’s important to buy from ethical brands that use responsibly sourced soy wax. Always make sure to read the labels and consider buying a soy wax candle only if the soy is organic, GMO-free and locally farmed.

For example, Earl Of East, a London-based candle-making studio, is dedicated to using ingredients that are fully traceable to their origins. They use non-GMO eco-soy wax and hand-pour all their candles at their London workshops. Their eco-candles come in glass jars or ceramic vessels, and they offer a discount when their customers drop off their empty candle jars for a refill.

Beeswax candles

We love the idea of beeswax candles. It’s the most natural wax you can find, as it’s a natural by-product of the beekeeping industry. Produced by honeybee’s bodies to construct the combs in their beehives, beeswax provides an additional income to beekeepers. This encourages them to maintain more hives, meaning an increased bee population. Imagine that every time you light a beeswax candle, you’re helping the local bee population – how amazing is that?! Just make sure that the beeswax in your eco-candle is locally sourced from beekeepers who employ sustainable and ethical practices.

Hold on tight, as that’s not the only reason why we love beeswax candles. They are well-known for their beautiful, bright flame, non-drip quality, wonderfully natural smell and honey gold colour. Plus, they act as natural air purifiers. They can neutralize the harmful air particles and clean the air by releasing negative ions. Though we should mention that not every beeswax candle is created equally. To make sure that you’re not getting any petroleum or artificial dyes, opt for 100% beeswax candles.

There are many great beeswax candle makers, such as London-based Wax Atelier. They use traditional candle dipping techniques to produce their simple, yet beautiful beeswax candles. They selected their expert makers from the local community and produce all candles locally in East London.

Coconut wax candles

Many people claim that coconut wax is the purest, most eco-friendly and luxurious wax out there. However, it’s generally blended with other waxes, as the pure coconut wax is extremely soft and has a very low melting point. This makes it super important to read the label. Most of the time they are blended with paraffin or genetically modified soy oil, which you would want to avoid. It’s also important to check the brands are using organic coconut wax from sustainably harvested coconut.

When combined with organic soy wax, coconut-based candles can be considered the best natural candles in the market. They have a slower burn than pure soy candles and are excellent at holding and throwing scents.

It’s harder to find coconut wax candles due to their significantly higher manufacturing costs. Cocomoon is one of the rare coconut candle brands in London, claiming to be using completely natural coconut wax.

Rapeseed Wax Candles

Rapeseed wax is another plant-based alternative, obtained from the oil harvested from the rapeseed plant. With its beautiful, yellow flowers and substantial amounts of nectar, the rapeseed plant is perfect for our bee friends.

Lesser known than the other eco-wax options, rapeseed wax is known to be completely sustainable, with no known issues of intensive farming. It’s local produce of the UK, France, and Germany, and completes its manufacturing process sustainably within Europe. Candlemakers usually blend rapeseed wax with organic soy wax to ensure improved candle results with better consistency and scent throw.

If you like the sound of rapeseed candles, check out Evermore London, which uses a luxurious blend of natural rapeseed wax and a small amount of coconut oil for their eco-candles. They recently decided to remove soy from their rapeseed wax blend to make their candles more sustainable. As opposed to other luxury candle brands, Evermore London refuses to use any cellophane packaging and uses recycled black glass jars.

2- Pure organic essential oils

Eco-wax candles with pure organic essential oils are the candle lovers’ dream. Naturally extracted from plants and flowers, organic essential oils not only smell wonderful but also have many health benefits. Depending on the essential oil, they can help reduce anxiety, sleep better and relieve stress.

When blended with pure essential oils, eco-candles deliver a cleaner burn and a long-lasting scent. However, many candle makers choose not to use them as organic essential oils are significantly more expensive than synthetic fragrances. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. When you come across an ethical candle brand that blends its natural wax with pure essential oils, we advise you to see past the price tag. Those are the healthiest and most environmentally friendly candle options you can potentially find.

Eco-friendly candles with a wooden wick

3- Natural, organic wick

When you’re shopping for eco-friendly candles, you need to make sure that the wick is lead-free and made from natural materials such as cotton, wood or hemp. Organic cotton wicks are the most popular natural wick options out there as they give a slow burn without any sooty smokiness. They also tend to last longer when combined with natural plant-based or beeswax candles.

In addition to the above qualities of cotton wicks, wooden wicks also provide a lovely crackling sound, creating a more calming ambience.

4- Eco-friendly packaging

For us to be able to call a candle brand sustainable and eco-friendly, recyclable packaging is a must! Think beautiful reusable glass jars, recyclable metal tins and biodegradable paper packaging. Some candle brands even offer you refilling options when you take back your empty glass jar or metal tin to their stores. Or you can opt for eco-candles with ceramic candle holders to reuse them as small plant pots afterwards!

In addition to the above points, always try to make sure that your eco-friendly candle is ethical, cruelty-free and ideally palm-oil free. If it includes palm oil, then make sure that it’s at least RSPO certified and sustainably sourced. If they don’t have enough information on their packaging or website, it’s best to avoid them.

Conclusion: What are the most environmentally friendly candles?

You can find many options for sustainably sourced, natural candles thanks to the rise in eco-conscious candle makers and customers. Not all eco-candles are equal though, with some being more sustainable than others. Our personal conclusion is to go for beeswax candles blended with pure, organic essential oils with cotton or wooden wicks whenever possible. It’s tricky to find the perfect candle, so best is to prefer the brands that are openly committed to sustainability, transparency and ethical production.

If you have your favourite or preferred eco-friendly candle brands, let us know why in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts!

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