You are planning a romantic night between you and your partner. There are so many things you can bring, but one of them is unique in making the scene more romantic. It is the same thing that has to be lit and blown off when your child is celebrating their birthday; candles.
Candles have been with us since around 200BC and continue to be used today. They symbolize illumination, are soothing and healing can light up a dark room, are used for celebrations and parties and can provide a romantic ambiance, among many other uses. However, what is the environmental impact of candles? This article dissects candles and answers whether they are good or bad for the environment.
Is Lighting Candles Bad For the Environment?
Well, lighting candles is bad for the environment, but it all depends on the wax. Traditional candles that were used hundreds of years ago, used wax that was made from animal fats from pigs, cows, and even whales.
Over time, this changed and contemporary candles are made from paraffin, beeswax, soy wax, coconut wax, and other vegetable waxes. There is a huge variance in what candle wax is made from and also how each impacts the environment.
The majority are made using paraffin, which is made from fossil fuels that are not only unsustainable but are also bad for your health and your home. They release a plume of carcinogenic materials into the air whenever they are lit and can leave soot damage behind even with a properly trimmed wick.
This is why they are not recommended for health reasons or to those who are environmentally conscious.
Even the wicks of certain candles could cause problems. This is because they may contain lead or other types of metal cores that release toxic emissions when they burn. The lead core wick is no longer used in the States and Australia, but it could be in use elsewhere.
In the USA, voluntary agreements between manufacturers not to use lead cores were in place since the 1970s, although some cheap imports continued to contain these wicks.
Lead is a cumulative poison and can never leave the body. Additionally, it not only affects humans but all animals and can be passed along the food chain.
The only safer alternatives are soy wax or beeswax candles. Beeswax candles, in particular, do not produce soot when they burn, making them natural and clean. They are, at the same time, quite expensive, although they can be made easily and cheaply at home from melted beeswax pellets.
For manufacturers to put beeswax candles on the market, they have to be 100% beeswax, so they are completely natural. They also have a nice honey scent when burning, unsurprisingly, and can burn up 33% longer than paraffin ones.
Beeswax and soy wax candles have a lower melting point and should be stored in a cool place or at least laid in flat storage to prevent them from wilting, especially if you live in an extremely hot area.
Mostly, if you buy scented beeswax or soy candle, the scent will be from natural oils and not synthetic chemicals, although you should check them to be sure. The same goes for the wick, which should be made of recycled cotton, hemp or recycled paper fiber.
Are Soy Candles Bad For the Environment?
On the contrary, soy candles are healthy for the environment. Their fame has continued to grow as paraffin candles’ notoriety for being unhealthy soars. Soy wax candles are preferred because soy wax is renewable, biodegradable and lasts longer than paraffin candles.
Soy wax is also free of petrol-carbon soot, resulting in lower soot levels for purer air quality. However, they produce a negligible amount of soot because of added fragrances and because only a pure blue flame can be soot-free. Indeed, soy candles are a clean alternative, just like beeswax candles, and are better than paraffin candles in all aspects.
However, all the glory might be overshadowed or clouded by underlying issues in the soy industry. First, it is closely linked to deforestation. Soybean production has caused forests to be cleared and tilled, leading to destroyed habitats and soil erosion, with the Amazon rainforest being the industry’s biggest victim. Due to the continued interest in soy candles, deforestation will only continue to plague the world.
Secondly, most soybeans are grown from genetically modified seeds. These seeds have been altered to become resistant to the herbicide, glyphosate, enabling farmers to heavily use herbicides to kill weeds without killing their soy plants.
This is in addition to herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers that are commonly used in commercial soybean farming practices. These chemicals pollute the environment, and traces of them may be found in soy wax.
Also, in the process of making soy wax from soy oil, the oil is typically bleached and deodorized, involving more chemicals. All these issues make one question if soy candles are really good for the environment.
Are Scented Candles Bad For the Environment?
Yes, scented candles could be bad for the environment. This is because most scented candles contain paraffin wax, which we have already determined is derived from petroleum, coal or shale oil. When the candles are burnt, the paraffin wax releases toxic compounds into the air, including acetone, benzene, and toluene, all of which are known carcinogens.
It, therefore, translates that using scented paraffin candles damages the environment as well as your health. A study from South Carolina State University found that paraffin wax candles give off harmful fumes linked to lung cancer and asthma. However, the researchers said that it would take years of regular use for it to be a significant health risk.
Additionally, according to Douglas Booker of the National Air Quality Testing Services (NAQTS), ‘when scented candles are burned, they give off tiny particles, so small that you could fit a thousand of them across a single human hair.’
He further added that the particles are small enough to get into the bloodstream and they have also been associated with both short- and long-term health problems, including asthma and cardiovascular disease.
Some candle brands also use a wick where the cotton is wrapped around another material such as metal, producing toxic soot, which may also lead to lung problems. Experts, therefore, advise that you should limit your burning time to reduce the number of chemicals sent into the air by the candles.
They also advise one to go for a candle that has a short wick, ideally made of cotton and missing a core, to avoid producing large amounts of soot and pollution. Additionally, read the labels before buying your favorite candles, and where possible, go for natural wax candles that use soy wax or beeswax; they are cleaner and produce about a tenth of the soot normally created by a paraffin candle.
Also, according to a 1999 report compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency on Candles and Incense as Potential Sources of Indoor Air Pollution, scented candles tend to produce more soot than unscented candles. A consumer might therefore conclude that an increased amount of soot will lead to an increased amount of toxins in that soot
Are Yankee Candles Bad for The Environment?
Sadly yes, Yankee candles are bad for you and the environment. Yankee Candles are extremely popular due to their high-quality ingredients, bright colors and strong scents, so they tend to receive the lion’s share of attention.
In fact, if you make a stopover on their website, they tote themselves as ‘America’s favorite candle’ and they pride themselves on curating beautiful fragrances to warm your home with. Unfortunately, with their warmth, comes a level of poisoning, in the same air.
And although they have not been recalled because of the damages they do to our health, they are not necessarily providing us with any benefits, apart from making our living room smell like cinnamon rolls or fresh pine.
The greatest reason as to why they are unhealthy is because they are made using paraffin wax, which we have determined to be unhealthy in more ways than one. The other issues surrounding Yankee candles are the fragrance oils and the leaded wicks.
Yankee Candle Company does not provide the complete ingredient lists for their candles, and they are not legally required to do so at this time. However, they provide that they do not use lead wicks, all their wicks are made from pure cotton, and their fragrances are extracts from real essential oils.
Do Candles Contribute to Global Warming?
To some extent, yes, candles contribute to global warming. This, however, majorly depends on the material making the candles. The majority of candles around the world are made with paraffin because it does a really good job with scent and is readily available. It is, however, a by-product of petroleum refinement and is part of the problem.
There is a never-ending global reliance on fossil fuels which has brought about climate change and is not sustainable. Paraffin, being a by-product of petroleum refinement, is, therefore, part of the problem. Also, it releases toxic chemicals in your home when it burns.
One of the things emitted is carbon dioxide, an accelerant of global warming and therefore climate change. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Burning a paraffin candle for one hour will release about 10 grams of carbon dioxide.”
To help solve these issues, there are environmentally friendly candles made with high-quality soy, bee or coconut wax. These are better for the environment and our collective health and do not contribute to global warming. They burn cleaner, are a renewable source and you can even paint these candles.
The soy is made from soybeans grown by farmers all over the world, meaning using a soy wax candle means a farmer will have something to feed their family. They are also biodegradable and non-toxic, made with vegetable-based ingredients. They also burn at cooler temperatures, resulting in a cleaner and longer lasting candle.
However, some might argue that growing soybeans results in deforestation in search of farming land, which is completely true. As such, soy candles might also be contributing to the destruction of the environment and subsequently global warming.
Beeswax is not only renewable, but the unbleached yellow kind requires minimal processing and emits negative ions that bind with pollutants, effectively removing them from the air in your home. How beeswax is harvested is sustainable and friendly to the environment.
The mildly sweet honey scent of yellow beeswax is also perfect for a relaxing evening by candlelight. Additionally, these environmentally friendly options use 100% cotton and all-natural wood wicks for their candles. They might be doing something good for the environment after all.