Candles are a centuries-old tradition and the perfect way to make your home a bit cosier. But are all candles sustainable? And what exactly is the difference between soy, beeswax and rapeseed candles? COSH! tells you which ingredients are best avoided in candles and which are the most sustainable options. Want to bring some warmth into your home? Be sure to read on and discover some shops where you can buy ecological candles!

Materials you should avoid

Paraffin

Paraffin is the cheapest and most common material used for candles. Unfortunately it is also the most harmful one. Paraffin is a by-product of crude oil production. When burned, this fossil fuel releases harmful greenhouse gases into the air, which further warms the earth, pollutes the air in your home, and in the long term can also damage your health.

Several popular brands including Rituals and Hema use paraffin in their candles. By using these, you literally burn fossil fuels in your own home or flat. Often it is difficult for customers to know if there is paraffin in the candles, so Rituals confuses customers by only stating scientific names on the packaging.

Paraffin is transported by boat. When the ship is cleaned, the wastewater containing paraffin residue is discharged into the sea. Fish, birds and marine mammals eat the fatty substance and become sick of it. It is expected that stricter rules for discharges will come into force worldwide in 2021.

Stearin

Stearin candles used to be extracted from animal fat from offal, but nowadays the stearine candles contain mainly palm oil. In contrast to paraffin candles, these do consist of natural materials, but they are certainly not sustainable.

For the production of palm oil, valuable rainforest gets cut down every day. Palm oil can also be cultivated in an environmentally friendly way, you can recognize this sustainable palm oil by the RSPO certificate ("Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil") However, the certificate is not 100% reliable because in 2019 some corruption scandals surfaced. (Source: EOS magazine, 2019)

At COSH! we recommend that you do not use paraffin or stearin candles because there are plenty of options that are more sustainable. Want to find out which ones?

Sustainable alternatives

Beeswax

Beeswax candles are not vegan, but bees do not have to be killed for it. Bees make a greasy substance through their glands that they use to build their honeycombs. These are their houses in which the larvae grow. When the combs are no longer used by bees, the wax of the old councils can be used to make candles.

It is important that the beeswax comes from organic beekeeping, in order to minimize the impact on the environment and the animals. Bees are important for biodiversity and for our food production worldwide. Unfortunately, the bee population is declining year after year. Organic beekeeping for candles helps maintain bee populations.

At MINIMAL you can buy beautiful round candles and fun birthday candles made from beeswax. Perfect for your children's next birthday party!

Fun fact: The term 'beeswax candles' may only be used for candles that do not contain any admixture. So you can be sure that your candles are 100% beeswax.

Soy candles

Soy wax candles burn on average 2 times longer than ordinary candles. Soya wax is made from the oil of soya beans which makes it a plant material. Just like beeswax, it is important that the soybeans come from organic farming. In this way, you can be sure that no harmful fertilisers have been used that damage the soil and the surrounding nature.

Most soya comes from North America. This means that the footprint of soya candles is bigger than candles from European beeswax or - rapeseed wax. This is because the raw materials have to travel from further afield, causing more CO2 to end up in the air.

Because the soy wax is originally soft, producers will often add palm oil to make it harder. In order to label the product as 'soya candles', it is not necessary to make the entire candle from soya. The other materials can therefore also contain paraffin or palm oil, which is a lot cheaper. So look at the label and choose 100% soya candles.

At HOST and Duka Moodstore you can buy the brand Brandt. This Dutch brand makes sustainable soy candles made from 100% soy. Founder Giselle Habraken started Brandt candles in 2016 after learning the craft in New York. Brandt makes all their candles by hand in Utrecht and adds delicious natural fragrances. The candles radiate a warm, cozy atmosphere that lasts every cold winter day.

Kudzu in Bruges also sells a wide range of candles made from 100% organic soy wax as well as tasty scented candles. Make sure to also check out Ecocandle, Kalani, KIEZ, Clothilde and De Groene Stadshut.

Rapeseed candles

Rapeseed wax comes from the oil harvested from the rapeseed plant. The properties of the rapeseed wax ensure that colour can easily be added. No harmful colouring agents need to be used to colour the candles. Again, it is important that the rapeseed production is as environmentally friendly and local as possible.

At Moose in the City you can buy rapeseed candles of the brand Skandinavisk. The rapeseed for the beautiful candles is produced on a large scale in the United Kingdom, but also partly in other European countries, without the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

MINIMAL also sells candles made from 100% plant-based rapeseed wax. You can choose between a lavender scent or eucalyptus. If you suffer from mosquitoes in summer, you can buy the citronella candles, also from rapeseed wax. Return the candle jar - following the zero wax principles - to Minimal and receive a 5% discount on your next candle.

Scented candles

Some scented candles - no matter how beautiful they smell - can also be an ecological nightmare. Several lifestyle brands use synthetic fragrances in their candles that contain harmful chemicals. So make sure there are no phthalates or parabens in your candles, and always choose natural fragrances. Luckily, there are enough non-hazardous candles available to decorate your home and make it smell good. Be sure to check out At HOST, Duka Moodstore, Clothilde, Kudzu, Ecocandle, MINIMAL and Moose in the City for beautiful sustainable scented candles.

Circular candles

Just as with clothes, candles are thrown away too quickly. An Dumon from Ecocandle wants to change this and upgrade the love for the product. Through workshops for children and adults, she passes on her experience with great passion. The participants discover how to recycle old candles and which sustainable alternatives (soy, beeswax, rapeseed) you can use.

Customers who bring in candle remnants receive a discount for their next purchase. Ecocandle will also looks for old cans to recycle. Glass and ceramic bowls are bought in thrift shops. This way An makes circular candles that are very affordable and accessible to everyone.

Want to make personalised candles as a gift, for your company or your wedding? An will make candles that fit your needs perfectly. For circular and artisanal candles contact An from Ecocandle.

We hope we were able to inspire you with these cosy and sustainable candle options and we wish you warm and cosy autumn and winter days!