Are candles sustainable? The short answer is: they can be!
Many mass-produced candles, like those found in Bath and Body Works, contain harmful ingredients to both humans and the environment. Take a look at the ingredients listed below that are in Bath and Body Works’ “Welcome Home” scented candle. You’ll see many different chemicals you probably won’t recognize, and neither would most. However, there are only two you should focus on.
Ingredients: Hydrogenated Soybean Oil(8016-70-4,Wax),Paraffin(8002-74-2,Wax),Hydrogenated Palm Oil(68514-74-9,Wax),Fragrance (Parfum)(Fragrance Ingredient),Benzyl Benzoate,Microcrystalline Wax (Cera Microcristallina, Cire microcristalline)(63231-60-7,Wax),Cinnamal,Butyl Stearate(123-95-5,Emulsifying Agent),Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate(6683-19-8,Stabilizer),C7-9 Esters of Benzotriazolyl-Dimethylethyl-p-Hydroxybenzenepropanoic Acid(Stabilizer),Bis(Octyloxy-Tetramethyl-Piperidyl) Sebacate(Stabilizer),Benzyl Salicylate,Coumarin,BHT(128-37-0,Stabilizer)
One is Paraffin. Paraffin helps create most of the wax in the candle, and it is derived from petroleum, otherwise known as oil. Obviously, oil is a fossil fuel directly correlated to global warming, so that is a downside to these mass-produced candles. Another lesser-known issue with burning this type of wax is that it lets off a chemical called benzene, which is known to cause leukemia (albeit only in extremely high amounts).
Another ingredient to take note of is “Fragrance.” This word represents an unspecified and undisclosed amount of chemicals that make up the scent of the product. As one site dedicated to analyzing these unknown ingredients says, “many of these chemicals lack substantial research and safety data, and some have been associated with serious negative health effects.” They go on to explain that there are chemicals used in highly commercialized fragrances that are known carcinogens. The site discussing this is called “Think Dirty.” Despite the humorous name, I would highly recommend checking them out to see what chemicals the products in your own home contain.
In the meantime, when looking for a sustainable candle, make sure to find one with wax made from soy, rather than petroleum. It is a great, easy-to-find substitute that is healthier for everyone in the family. Also try to avoid anything with the term “fragrance,” and stick to purchasing from companies that disclose their entire ingredient list. Take for example, the candles we sell in Refillism:
As you can see from the ingredient lists above, not only are our candles made from soy wax, but the items used to create the “fragrance” of the candle are not unknown. The essential oils used to create the scent can be easily researched if you have any qualms, unlike the undisclosed ingredients within the aforementioned “Welcome Home” candle.
It is also significant that our soy wax is 100% locally sourced. Soybean crops from South America are a contributing factor to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, as it is replaced with farmland. When possible, finding candles with soy wax sourced from the United States is preferable to protect the important biodiversity found in the southern hemisphere.
All in all, there are many factors that go into choosing a sustainable candle, and we at Refillism hope that this article sheds some light on a topic that is not as well-known.
B, Lauren. A Beginner’s Guide to Sustainable Candles. Made Trade. https://www.madetrade.com/blogs/made-trade-magazine/sustainable-candle-materials
Home Fragrance. Bath & Body Works. https://www.bathandbodyworks.com/e/product-ingredients?q=667550897438&cm_sp=PDP-_-Ingredients-_-Ingredients
Are Bath & Body Works Candles Toxic? We Analyzed Their Ingredients. Better Goods. https://bettergoods.org/are-bath-and-body-works-candles-toxic/
Ingredient Breakdown: Fragrance. Think Dirty. https://thinkdirtyapp.com/ingredient-breakdown-fragrance-3a8ef28f296a/
Benzene and Cancer Risk. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/chemicals/benzene.html#:~:text=IARC%20classifies%20benzene%20as%20%E2%80%9Ccarcinogenic,%2C%20and%20non%2DHodgkin%20lymphoma.
Sustainable Agriculture: Soy. World Wildlife Fund. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/soy
M, Melinda. Are Scented Candles Harmful to Your Health? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/09/well/scented-candles-health.html