It's a question we ask ourselves all the time, and our customers regularly ask as well. With ever-growing interest in better choices for the planet and our homes, knowing how products are made and what's in them is as important as anything else.
A lot goes into our thinking on this topic - our notes could fill an entire book! It's essential not only for our fair trade and B-Corp certification, but also for the well-being of our our customers and the women artisans pouring each candle.
Here are our thoughts on candle ingredients and environmental impact, starting with the wax. If you would like to know more, please comment below or email us with questions... we're happy to share!
Soy vs. Paraffin Wax
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 a byproduct of petroleum refinement that is turned into all kinds of waxes including the food-grade one used on apples. But it's part of the ongoing global reliance on fossil fuels which is driving climate change and not sustainable.
The biggest concern with paraffin is that it releases toxic chemicals in your home. Anything that burns - including a gas kitchen stove or wood fireplace - emits some toxins. The key is to minimize them and always have a source of fresh air. It's why super energy efficient homes have air ventilation systems... otherwise the buildup from everything including carpets, furnishings and the carbon dioxide we exhale would be unhealthy for you.
This is where high quality soy is far better for the environment and our collective health. It burns cleaner and is a renewable resource. Our soy wax is made from soy beans grown throughout the U.S., so it supports American farmers. It's biodegradeable and non-toxic, made with vegetable-based ingredients. And soy burns at a cooler temperature which results in a cleaner, longer lasting candle.
We've worked hard to create the most sustainable, eco-friendly candle possible that also carries scent beautifully. And after many years, we're proud to say we've landed on an all-natural blend of soy and organic, odorless coconut wax that makes the best candles. More expensive than pure soy, but throws scent nicely and is clean burning with a lower carbon footprint. Our recipe is entirely vegetable based (and vegan!) without any dyes or enhancers.
Beeswax is incredible. Not only is it renewable, the unbleached yellow kind requires minimal processing and emits negative ions that bind with pollutants, effectively removing them from the air in your home. What's important is how the beeswax is harvested - either sustainably in a way that protects the hive, or not. We only use beeswax from well managed sources.
The mildly sweet honey scent of yellow beeswax is perfect for a relaxing evening by candlelight. Our collection includes two beeswax candles - Riverstone Tealights , made by Haitian artisans with Haitian beeswax, and our Pioneer Valley Apiary Candle made here in our studio by women refugees resettled in the U.S. from refugee camps.
Fragrance & Wicks
What goes into a candle eventually comes out into your home. So we are very thoughtful with all ingredients. It's why we don't use dyes and fragrance enhancers, preferring to make moderately scented candles instead of the colorful over-scented ones you find in the marketplace. All that stuff eventually ends up in the air you breathe.
Choosing fragrances that are free of unhealthy ingredients is essential. There are a lot of scented candles that contain phthalates, a broad category of chemicals that includes BPA - that harmful stuff we don't want in water bottles and baby toys. While many companies are swapping out one bad phthalate for another when people protest, we feel none of it should be in your candle. All our fragrances are phthalate-free, plus meet the strictest rules for indoor air quality: California's Proposition 65.
They also don't contain other things you don't want and can't pronounce (it's a long list, and we don't use any of them). All our fragrances are made with pure essential oils and non-toxic ingredients, the same as used in soaps and lotions. Plus we make unscented candles (100% fragrance-free) - always an option at Prosperity Candle where we pour-to-order.
Most candles today are made with pure cotton wicks, or cotton woven with paper. But there are still some out there that have metal in the core which helps keeps the wick rigid and burns hotter. Seriously? We can't fathom why anyone would want to burn metal in their home.
We use only 100% cotton and all-natural wood wicks in our candles.
A pure blue flame means it is completely soot free, which isn't possible with candles... all have a yellow flame. As with a wood fireplace, it simply indicates there is incomplete combustion and some sooting that can't be avoided. But that doesn't mean we can't minimize it.
First, you have to use the highest quality wax available (which we do). Then you need to select the best all-natural wicks (like ours). And finally you have to do lots of tests. If you were to come to our studio, you'd see we have a table set up where all we do is test, test and re-test.
And then there is trimming the wick. This is where you come in! The best way to minimize soot is to regularly trim your candle wicks to 1/4". We recognize that most people don't do this before each lighting, but it really makes a huge difference. We use a wick trimmer to reach down inside a vessel for a quick, simple snip. They aren't expensive, and are smartly designed to catch the trimmed part so you can easily remove it. We always have them handy in the studio and our homes.
Sustainable Business Values
It's great to make greener, more sustainable candles... but it's also important to look at how it is made. Companies that create an eco-friendly product using an environmentally harmful process, or that donate to help reduce poverty but are themselves paying poverty wages, really aren't living by the values they promote.
We are proud to be B-Corp certified, recognized 2 years in a row for our environmental and social sustainability practices. We make our candles in a clean, healthy environment for our artisans as well as the candles themselves. It's all part of being mindful of our eco-impact.
And while our mission is focused on social good – empowering women refugees resettled in the U.S. from regions of conflict and natural disaster – we know that promoting environmental sustainability is the responsibility of every business. So everything we do in our studio is with that in mind... from sourcing vessels and candle ingredients to recycling and reusing packing materials.
Thanks for reading this post! Hopefully it's been interesting and helpful. Feel free to share ways you're giving back to the environment in the comments below... we'd love to hear!
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