Candles have long been part of a greener lifestyle as a relatively eco-friendly alternative to leaving the electric lights on. But while burning a candle isn’t going to add hugely to your carbon footprint, they certainly aren’t great for your health. Burning candles, as with everything that involves combustion, releases a cocktail of chemicals into the air. If the candle you’re using happens to be of the cheap, paraffin based variety, then you’re releasing a number of carcinogens, including acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, formaldehyde, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and toluene into the atmosphere, along with the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, burning nine candles would release enough toxic matter to result in a higher level of pollution than would be legally allowed outdoors. And that’s not all. Paraffin is a by-product of petroleum, which means your cheap, supermarket candle is adding to the already considerable pressure on non-renewables.
Thankfully for scented candle fans, there are eco-friendly alternatives, most of which are based on clean-burning vegetable waxes or beeswax. According to Jo Ebdon Muir, marketing manager at Pure Beginnings – a company specialising in eco-friendly scented candles – there are three things to look out for and avoid. ‘Paraffin wax produces a lot of smoke so isn’t healthy to burn around the family,’ she comments. ‘It also leaves soot residue on walls. Watch out for candles that are fragranced with chemical-based scents as they are unnatural and can lead to allergies developing.’ Beeswax is a good bet as it’s non-allergenic, non-toxic and smoke-free, while vegetable wax candles are both toxin-free and long-lasting thanks to their cooler burning temperature. Here are five of the best.
An ultra-cool French import, Hype Nose’s soy wax candles, £39, contain a high level of perfume so you only need to burn them for 20 minutes to completely fragrance a room. The candles also have wooden wicks, which rules out lead or zinc contamination (frequently found in the conventional version). Fragrances include Blanc Desir (tomato leaves), the Egyptian Jasmine scented Pyramides de Jasmin, and the eccentric but gorgeous Haricot Magique, which officially smells of sugared peapods but in reality, conjures up the scent of a sunny day in the country.
Made with mothers and young families in mind, Pure Beginnings is a range of natural, organic skincare formulated to be completely free of chemical nasties. The candles, which form part of the collection, are no exception and are made from sustainably sourced soy wax and natural essential oils. All ingredients are certified vegan and everything is made in the UK, including the gorgeous Tranquillity fragranced candle, £25, which contains soothing rose and patchouli oils.
Home Scents’ aromatherapy candles, £8.95 each, are made from sustainably sourced organic soy wax and pure essential oils. Not only are the glass jars recyclable, the candles are also presented in reusable Fairtrade voile bags instead of cardboard boxes. Available in a wide range of fragrances, our favourites are Lavender Flowers, A Walk in the Woods (bergamot, cedar and patchouli) and Up, Up and Away (geranium, spearmint and rosemary).
Combining luxury with eco-friendliness, Pure Light’s aromatherapy candles are clean-burning and long-lasting, thanks to their high quality sustainably sourced soy wax and aromatherapy standard essential oils. Handmade in the UK, the candles come in recyclable glass jars with minimal packaging. At £20 each, they aren’t cheap but with a 50 hour burn time, worth checking out. Try the subtle citrus blend of bergamot, English rosemary and grapefruit or the utterly gorgeous pine needle and eucalyptus.
Green Tulip’s scented candles, £8, tick nearly all the eco boxes with their British heritage (handmade in Wiltshire) and natural ingredients. The only blot is the use of palm oil for the wax, although the company says it only uses oil supplied by members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is helping to reduce the environmental impact of palm oil production including ensuring that orangutans are adequately protected. Fragrances include rose geranium, lavender, orange and clove, and Inspiring – a fragrant blend of neroli, mandarin, lavender and rosemary essential oils.
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