a greener candle

If you're like me (or even half like me), you've got candles around your house for decoration, ambience and a comfortable scent.

But, have you stopped to think about the bad parts of burning a candle? Regular candles emit a variety of chemicals when burned. Paraffin (a type of wax) based candles release a number of carcinogens, including acetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, formaldehyde, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and toluene into the atmosphere, along with carbon dioxide. (Source.) These chemicals can affect people with asthma or lung disease. (Source.) Paraffin is also a byproduct of petroleum, adding to the already considerable pressure on non-renewable resources. 

And, some candles are made with wicks that have additives like lead and zinc, which can release harmful gases when they are burned. (Source.)

Packaging is another thing to consider when comparing candles. Some candles are shrink-wrapped in plastic, while some come unwrapped, or in a recycled/recyclable paper container. (Source.)

These Fleur de Light candles, handmade in New Orleans, are a mix of soy, vegetable and paraffin waxes (unfortunately, not completely clean), and come in a little cardboard container. A portion of their sales also go toward the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. 

So, what to look for when buying candles. First, look to make sure the candle is made of vegetable wax, beeswax or soy wax. These waxes burn cleaner and don't release chemicals in your room. 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. (Source.) Soy wax candles are growing in popularity and can be found next to the regular candles at the store. They can be considerably more expensive than a plain, cheap candle, but equivalent to a nice, scented regular candle.

Also, check to see if the wick is lead-free. 

And compare the packaging. Look for a candle packaged in recycled or recyclable materials, instead of something that will need to be thrown away. Or choose something unwrapped.

Deciding whether or not to get a candle in a glass jar? Look to see if the glass is recycled. If you go the glass route, try to recycle the glass when the candle has been burned all the way. If you get a freestanding candle, you can use and reuse your own candle holders. One tip I've learned is to place candle holders with stuck wax in the freezer for awhile. The wax will then pop out. Then you can reuse your candle holder, or rinse the glass and place it in your recycling bin – or use them for another purpose. One thing I like to do with those remaining bits of wax is to collect them in a clear glass vase or bowl and use them as potpourri chips, since they can still give off a scent.

Some places to find eco-friendly candles:
A cleaner candle is a better candle!

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