How To Shop For Sustainable Candles

When it comes to setting the mood or unwinding after a long day, nothing beats the soft glow and gentle fragrance of a candle. However, not all candles are created equal, especially when considering their environmental impact.

As awareness grows about the harmful effects of traditional candle ingredients like paraffin and synthetic fragrances, more consumers are turning to eco-friendly alternatives.

This blog will guide you through the essentials of shopping for sustainable candles, helping you choose options that are better for the planet and the air quality in your home. From natural waxes like soy and beeswax to non-toxic scents and eco-conscious packaging, discover how to make your candle habit a force for good.

The demand for these products is in part what's driving global warming. #fossilfuels

When you burn paraffin wax, you emit carbon into your home's air. Sucking in carbon is not a good idea! It's best to avoid paraffin candles.

Carbon is only one issue; the 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." Still, 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, known endocrine disruptors, are most likely present. 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 (a carcinogen), benzene, and toluene (a neurotoxin).

An eco friendly sustainable candle sitting on a table.Pin
Image: The Eco Hub

Not only that, but many 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 kilometers (770 square miles) to more than 30,000 square kilometers."

Deforestation and illegal logging in Indonesia for palm oil are so rapid that a 2007 report 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.

This land is home to the most diverse rainforests in the world and 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 behavior 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 avoid it altogether!

Shopping for Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Candles is tricky: Here's what to look for:

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. For 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 harms the bees' health. These bees also have very poor diets because we replace their honey with cheap sugar water, making 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 ensure it's 100% beeswax; if the label says 50% beeswax, you can be sure there are added synthetics present, so avoid it!

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 hand, they generate minimal carbon emissions.

It's essential to be cautious of deceptive marketing tactics regarding beeswax candles. Many products labeled as "beeswax candles" only contain 51% beeswax, which leaves room for the addition of potentially harmful ingredients such as petroleum or artificial dyes.

So, carefully read the label before purchasing to ensure you're getting a high-quality, all-natural product.

An eco friendly sustainable candle sitting on a table.Pin
Image: The Eco Hub


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 has been linked to South America's deforestation.

It 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.

Another essential aspect regarding 100% organic soy candles is that they do not exist. While the soybean may have been organic at the start, the process of converting it into wax involves the use of hexane. As a result, soy wax cannot be certified as organic.

The oil or wax is subjected to several processes, including bleaching with chlorine and deodorization with boric acid before being hydrogenated to transform it into a solid form. Typically, this involves using a catalyst, such as nickel, palladium, or platinum.

Flameless options

Flameless candles are safer because they can’t burn the house down, but they're not 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

Coconut wax is not as mainstream 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 often blended with other waxes, like soy. Many sustainable candles are made of soy-coconut blends, which are much better than their paraffin counterparts.

Remember that it's very challenging to find a 100% organic candle that meets all sustainability criteria, but some choices are much better than others!

It's advisable to opt for brands that explicitly disclose their blend composition. Choosing brands that use organic coconut wax or coconut wax sourced sustainably is even better.

What's the deal with lead in wicks?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enforced a ban on producing and selling lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks in 2003. This is excellent news since, in the past, many candle manufacturers used cotton wicks with lead cores to keep the wick straight. However, lead is hazardous, especially for babies and young children.

Despite the ban, candles containing lead from overseas may still be available. Therefore, it's vital to carefully inspect the label and purchase from brands that ensure the safety of their products, including wick sourcing. Doing so can safeguard the health of your family and the environment.

It's recommended to seek out candle manufacturers that employ natural wicks made of cotton, wood, or hemp free of lead cores.

Final thoughts

As you explore the world of sustainable candles, remember that every small choice contributes to a larger impact. By opting for eco-friendly candles, you enhance your home's ambiance and support environmentally responsible practices. Whether you're looking for the perfect gift or just a way to treat yourself, choosing sustainable candles is a step towards a greener, cleaner future. Happy candle hunting!

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