With the winter holidays here, many of us will be burning more candles both as seasonal and festive acts. While a candle doesn’t have nearly as much environmental impact as, say, car pollution or air pollution from factories, burning candles does create indoor air pollution. While we certainly want you to enjoy your holiday festivities, including candles, we think it’s important to keep aware of the ways in which candles can pollute the air and how to make responsible environmental decisions.

Candles and Chemicals

Paraffin candles, in particular, produce a number of harmful byproducts when burned (including greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide). As an added bonus, paraffin candles (which are the majority of candle brands) are petroleum products. That means that they’re made using a nonrenewable source that also adds to pollution via oil spills and other processes for extracting petroleum. Yes, if you have a candle habit, you are using the same non-environmentally friendly chemicals that you use when you drive a car. Additionally, scented candles may also release toxins from the chemicals used to give them their scent – and, of course, during the holidays we all love our scented candles.

The Candle Wick

What the wick of your candle is made from can also make a big difference in how environmentally friendly your holiday (or everyday) candles are. Many candles are made with wicks that have additives like zinc and lead – both of which release harmful gasses when they burn. In many places, lead wicks are illegal, but it’s often difficult to enforce this entirely.

Wasteful Candle Packaging

Unless you’re making your own, almost all candles come in some type of individual packaging. Tea lights can be the worst for this since they are many individual candles often with individual wrappers as well. What can you do to minimize wasteful wrapping? Consider these ideas:

Remember You Can Recycle Aluminum: Many candles use aluminum as a base, including tea lights. Remember that nearly anything aluminum can be recycled. That includes your tea light bases.

Buy Candles in Glass Containers: Glass can be recycled, reused and even upcycled into other home projects. They may cost a bit more on the shelves, but opt for candles that are in glass containers. Then, of course, be sure not to throw those containers away!

Avoid Candles with Extra Plastic: When you’re standing in front of that shelf of candles in the store, avoid anything that has extra plastic packaging overtop of an already serviceable candle holder. You just don’t need it, and neither does the planet!

What are the Most Eco-Friendly Candle Solutions?

So, in addition to packaging decisions, what can you do to reduce the environmental impact of candle burning in your home? Here are a few tips.

Buy Soy or Beeswax Candles: Soy and beeswax candles emit fewer harmful chemicals when burned. If you’re purchasing store-bought candles, try to opt for soy or beeswax selections.

Make Your Own Candles: Candle-making can be a bit messy, but it’s also relaxing and better for the environment than purchasing! You’ll be able to control the ingredients that are used in your candles as well as reduce the amount of packaging used.

Buy from Local Candlemakers: Finally, as with any consumer purchase, if you can buy from a local artisan, then do. You’ll reduce wasteful packaging, support local businesses and reduce pollution from transporting goods across the country (or world!).

Enjoy the seasonal (and year-long) soothing glow of candles. Just keep in mind that there are choices you can make that will make candle burning more eco-friendly.

Have an idea on how to make candle burning more eco-friendly? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.


Photo via Flickr Creative Commons: markhillary