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Burning a Renewable Future with Clean Candles

A recent post from the No Impact Man, Collin Beavan, on turning his lights out for the summer as part of his living experiment to lead a no impact life in NYC, got me thinking about candles. Collin and his family have sworn off practices that contribute to global warming, which for them means no electricity all summer. In its absence, the family is using candles…but not regular paraffin wax candles which are made from petroleum oil; the family is using beeswax candles to maintain their no impact footprint.

The candle has long been a symbol of peacefulness, intimacy, and relaxation, but most people aren’t aware of its origins or its toxic emissions while being burned. Paraffin is the final byproduct in the petroleum refining chain, and like most petroleum based products; paraffin candles are hazardous to our health when burned. One air quality researcher has associated soot from the candle as being the same as that given off by burning diesel fuel! Candle soot tested by the EPA found fumes to include toluene, benzene, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), and naphthalene–substances also in paint, lacquer and varnish removers and known carcinogens in humans. Not a pollution-free ambiance your creating when you also learn that the wicks may contain lead.

And what about those pretty aromatherapy candles? Ever wonder why the sides get so sooty after awhile? Well, most of the scents are derived from petroleum as well, causing the wax to soften and leading to even more nasty burning soot from the pretty candle.

I know it’s hard to do, but pass those cheap IKEA candles next time and walk right on by the aromatherapy jars at Bed Bath and Beyond. When it’s time to stock up on candles in your home choose a healthier option. Like Collin and his family, I buy beeswax candles for their beautiful natural smell, their ability to support local farmers, and their negative ions which help to clean dust and allergens from the air. Non-animal based options are soy candles, blends of soy and palm oil, and if you really need that scent try an essential-oil diffuser.

Remember petroleum is not a renewable resource, and in our efforts to have a sustainable future it’s important to look at all the products we purchase and the industries we support in doing so. These healthy and green products are cleaner burning, longer lasting than conventional paraffin candles, and support a renewable future. Give them a try!

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