Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Candles; Romantic VOC Enablers

Planning this 'eco' wedding has definitely come up against some challenges. Mainly the surprising fact that instead of 'the customer is right', once you announce that you are a 'bride to be' vendors automatically treat you like a brainless twit. Trying to explain to a florist that I really don't care about colour, my priority is sustainable and local while she repeats 'come back when you have your colours and are organized' was an exercise in ujiai breathing... to say the least.

One area that I have zero flexibility is candles. Filling a space with run of the mill wax candles is not going to fly... What, you're studio-home-space is constantly graced with pretty candle-topped flames? Perhaps you should reconsider...

Paraffin based candles are an indoor air quality and environmental nightmare. Paraffin is actually a derivative of petroleum, a toxic waste product to be exact. Burning these oil babies can produce 'soot deposition', depositing black oil guck smoke remnants on the walls, outlets or... you may find them from blowing your nose. Yum.

Couple that with the ridiculous amount of synthetic scents filling our homes with chemicals and we have another reason for high levels of indoor chemical exposure.

Although American companies have agreed to remove lead from their wicks, others have not...Say if you bought your tea lights or candles from the dollar store. According to a recent study, burning one candle a week inside emits enough lead to raise your child's lead-blood levels above federally approved amounts! (Ecoholic, 2004). To check- cut the wick, strip the outer layer and rub against a piece of paper. A black mark means lead. 

So- what are our options?

1. Soy based candles. These are easily found at several stores, but be careful! Some cheaper candles are only made with a soy 'blend' meaning there is 'some' soy mixed in with the regular paraffin crap. I saw some at The Whicker Emporium for example.
Although soy candles are easily accessible and look pretty, we also need to consider how soy is harvested. The soy bean is second only to corn when it comes to monoculture. Over 90% of all soy beans are genetically modified to resist scary, agent orange derived pesticides (like RoundUp). The run-off from these chemicals makes a pretty chemical rainbow on our coastline... creating a growing 'dead zone' where fish and sea life cannot survive.

Since I try to avoid supporting the toxic big agriculture whenever possible, I've decided to steer clear of the soy candles.

photo source: Endangered Bee
2. Beeswax candles. These are more difficult to come by in regular stores. In Halifax there are a few local bee farmers who sell beautiful, buttery coloured beeswax candles at the market. You can also find them at Planet Organic (although the price jack-up is crazy).
Beeswax actually cleanses the air by releasing ions that cause dust particles to fall. Plus they generally have a beautiful natural smell (no synthetic scent needed!).
Same caution- make sure it's 100% beeswax and not a blend.

Unlike soy, buying beeswax candles (especially those locally made) actually supports our environment. If you haven't heard, honey bees are actually in danger, their numbers decreasing significantly over the past years. Named Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when workers from a beehive quickly disappear. Northern Ireland reported a disappearance greater than 50%. 

If you think this sounds a bit trivial, you're missing the big picture. Bees are an essential part of flower and plant pollination... um, procreation. Without bees, plant species would decrease, affecting the animals and humans who eat them... and so on. Among other postulated reasons, pesticides, climate change and GMO's have been linked. 

Honey beekeepers help keep hives healthy, with 'domesticated' or 'farmed' hives reporting significantly less losses. This is one case where buying an 'animal' (or insect to be precise) by-product actually supports the creature.

My hope is to collect enough small votives for our wedding to have nice, warm butter-y coloured beeswax supported flames providing a subtle, natural scent and light. Now... just to find some locally made that don't cost a fortune...


(ps- if you're reading this and you remember a honey beekeeper blog who had a beautifully moving video posted on her site a few months back- please post the link- I LOVED it).

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. you need candles at all? What's wrong with electric lights, and just having a pretty floral display on the tables?

    I know I'm throwing a spanner in the works, and it IS absolutely none of my business, but we never had candles - the flowers on our tables looked fine, and I don't think anyone even noticed *them*!

    Just make sure the food is great - and offer heaps of wine :-)

    In the end, don't stress. The marriage is everything, the wedding will be just memories...

  2. great post...i love how i thought, just as i started reading 'i hope she says something about soy candles being made of GMO soybeans' and then you did. yay!

    the portland farmers market has a huge beeswax booth of all kinds of cool candles, honey and other related products :)

  3. It's really wonderful you posted this. Beeswax is amazing stuff, the candles smell awesome and on wooden furniture it's great too. Hopefully more and more people will begin to accept these ecologically supportive steps which help our fellow neighbours and our Mother Earth.

  4. Beeswax - Yes! but so expensive...but they burn so nicely - I never thought of the Soy candles that way - hmm, food for thought...thanks EcoYogini! :)

    (and good for you in your quest for the most sustainable for your wedding!)

  5. I only use beeswax candles in our home. Mainly tapers in an antique holder. I buy my candles at the Moncton Market, the company is Blue Flag, check them out. They have cute designs but as I said I mostly buy tapers.

  6. Great resource-as always. I'm debating whether to post that stat about lead on my FB status. ;-) We use candles around here sometimes---although mainly to use up the ones that I've had. I doubt they are the safer options....fabulous ;-)

    Hope you're doing well!

  7. I love how you always bring up such great topics and it is accompanied with solutions. I learn something every time I visit. Thanks. Now I know what to look for the next time I need some candles. Yeah!

  8. i get beeswax candles from the farmers market. they are $3 each per votive, so it's okay for getting a couple for my home but not cheap if you're thinking of buying in bulk for a wedding or whatnot. maybe you can do some googling to see if you can order beeswax candles online for cheaper than you could buy them in the halifax area.

  9. Yes! I love beeswax candles! They smell good. Bees are cool.

  10. I've had a really hard time with any candle option after I read that bees products are not vegan and that honey bees are actually crowding out our own native bee species. Have you seen this site:

    It makes you think twice. : (

    It's so hard to know what's best to do. There are always so many considerations to weigh. I have heard that small-scale organic bee keepers are a better choice - so getting them at your local farmer's market is a good option.


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