The use of candles can never stop trending to make the event and home more appealing because of its aesthetic sense and ambiance effect. It has been used for centuries in different religious rituals, celebrations, and ornamental purposes as well. Its soothing, relaxing effect is undeniable and a pleasant scent is considered one of the therapies for stress reduction. But it can have some very toxic effects on the health and environment if used excessively, depending upon the ingredients and quality of the candles used.
Bad Impact of Candles on Environment
Everything we do has some positive or negative impact on the environment. The impact of candles is considered bad for the environment as they release pollutants on burning. Not all candles have a negative effect on the environment and mostly candles have a very small impact on the environment unless you choose the right ones. Burning low-quality or paraffin candles can be bad for the environment in several ways in terms of plastic pollution, global warming, etc.
Nowadays one of the major threatening environmental issues is global warming across the world and even small changes can have its impact on climate change. Following is a brief introduction of global warming and how some candles can contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases leading to global warming.
The drastic climate change of the world has become a serious issue in recent years. The temperature of the earth depends on the balance between the energy between the earth and space. Some of the gases in the atmosphere also known as greenhouse gases are responsible for the trapping of heat with the Earth’s atmosphere resulting in hotter temperature with time. Carbon dioxide gas is also included in these greenhouse gases i.e., more carbon dioxide in the air means more trapping of heat energy inside the Earth’s atmosphere thus more heated atmosphere resulting in global warming.
Anything that produces carbon dioxide has its contribution towards this international issue. In the case of candles, some are responsible for the emission of carbon dioxide while others are eco-friendly depending upon their ingredients. It is very important to have a complete understanding of what kind of ingredients of a candle can cause global warming and how to avoid using them. The components of candles that can be the primary source of environmental problems are
- Fragrance oils
Let’s go into detail about the sustainable choices of candles and their ingredients.
Impact of different waxes
The use of candles dates back to the centuries and almost any sort of oil or animal fat was converted into candles thus there were a variety of candles available based on the type of ingredients used. Nowadays, different waxes are available like paraffin, coconut wax, soy wax, and other vegetable waxes, and their impact on the environment varies accordingly.
- Paraffin wax
Candles made from paraffin wax are available worldwide as it does a really good job with the scent. But it is the least environmentally friendly wax as it is made from heavy hydrocarbon derived from fossil fuels i.e., its heavy alkanes fraction distilled straight off crude oil which are themselves considered unsustainable. Thus excessive use of this wax has a detrimental effect not only on your health but also on the environment.
On burning it produces several toxic byproducts including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. It is estimated that one hour of its burning produces about 10g of carbon dioxide. A research-based study proves that light produced by paraffin candles results in the emission of about 10 times more greenhouse gases as compared to all the light produced by a bulb. Other than that it is responsible for the release of carcinogens that are very toxic for humans and produces black soot even with a properly trimmed wick. That’s why it is not recommended and should be banned internationally.
- Soy wax
It is advised to use environmentally friendly candles like soy candles that are considered carbon neutral candles as the amount of carbon dioxide they release is absorbed by plants in the atmosphere. It has biodegradable and non-toxic ingredients made from vegetable oil which’s why it is considered a clean-burning natural wax as it produces no or very little soot. Soy is grown all over the world but it has to be grown ethically if it is destined to be used in the manufacturing of environmentally friendly candles. Soy candles burn slower and at a cooler temperature thus lasts longer as compared to others.
- Palm wax
Although it is also “clean-burning wax’ but because of its unsustainable source it is considered the worst choice
It is the wax prepared by melting honeycombs made by honey bees and because of its sustainability; it is considered a great choice for making candles. It is not suitable for all kinds of candles as it doesn’t scent well but in terms of environment-friendly, it is a good choice.
- Coconut wax
This plant-based wax is also famous worldwide for making eco-friendly candles. It is sustainable and can be grown ethically as it demands a low need for insecticides etc. It is recommended to use a mixture of soy and beeswax to get the best results.
Impact of Candle’s Wick
There is a variety of wicks available that are used in different types of candles. Wicks are dipped in different ingredients to promote a quick light. Thus depending upon the ingredients and their impact, some are considered eco-friendly while others produce soot and CO2 gas that contribute to global warming.
- Cotton wick
It is the most common type of wick used worldwide. It is dipped in paraffin wax and zinc and other chemicals to promote light. If it’s organic it is detrimental to the environment and if it’s older and contains lead core it will release a huge amount of lead in the atmosphere leading to air pollution. Thus it is recommended to use untreated organic cotton to make environmental friendly candles
- Wood wick
Although it is less common than cotton wick but is considered the best option as it is clean-burn and much easier to source.
Impact of fragrance oils
Other than the ambiance effect, many people want their candles to give off a pleasant scent while burning. It is recommended to choose scented oils that are safe to use i.e., free from phthalates as they are carcinogens. It is recommended to limit the burning time of scented candles to avoid toxic chemicals affecting your health and environment.
Other than that a candle flame burns at a very low temperature so thermodynamically it is proved an inefficient source as most of the energy released in the atmosphere in the form of heat. Especially in some countries, it is a major issue where fossil fuels are the source of 80% of electricity like in Australia, burning candles makes carbon dioxide emissions more intensive contributing to global warming.
Use of candles on Earth hour
Earth hour is criticized by many environmentalists as it is a misconception that turning off all the electric bulbs and burning candles can do any good to the environment. It leads to more carbon dioxide emission and does more damage especially if the candles are of low quality or paraffin candles. If you want to show some solidarity towards the environment and climate change it is recommended to leave one electric light on and turn off all the others instead of burning hazardous candles.
Research shows that usage of electricity is far more efficient and environmentally friendly than the usage of primitive technologies, especially ones that involve the burning of fossil fuels. Lightning bulbs don’t produce greenhouse gases and burning fossil fuels in the case of paraffin candles do. It is recommended to avoid all sources of intensive carbon dioxide emissions and focus on non-greenhouse gas-intensive hydroelectricity, wind energy, and nuclear energy. Earth hour should have the purpose of limiting your electricity demand instead of making it more dangerous for climate by burning thousands of candles at a time.
Responsibly burn candles without harming the environment
Although burning candles seems like a small thing compared to other choices to give an ambiance effect but small choices make a big difference in the outcome of our planet. Candles are not on the top of the environmental issue as open fireplaces along with unclean power plants but it is better to be environmentally conscious and to make sound choices.
That’s why the banning of such candles that are not environmentally friendly like paraffin candles is part of the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels. No candle is going to be exempt from causing at least a small amount of environmental damage, but on a global scale, a few used to brighten an evening are not going to make a major difference, especially if you choose more environmentally friendly materials and packaging. Thus try to choose high quality wax candles that are good for you and your environment as well as they burn cleaner and have a renewable resource.