Which Candle Waxes Are Actually Sustainable?

August 30, 2022  •   6 min read

This post has been written by our guest contributor: Carly Bush 


Candles aren’t just a niche market anymore. According to an illuminating report by Glassnow in spring 2021, the global scented candle industry, already worth billions, is forecasted to grow at a rate of 11.8% over the remainder of the decade.

Once viewed as items for special occasions only, candles are becoming more of an everyday home décor item, a millennial mainstay on par with succulents and macrame wall hangings.

Research suggests that some 80% of American consumers are now regularly bringing candles into their homes. The careful placement of candles in lifestyle shoots, wedding photography, and curated brand photography have placed them in the very centre of our daily lives.

Consider, too, the radical shift in work-life balance that we have experienced as a collective since the pandemic began in 2020. We have become a culture bent on slowing down, unwinding, and living in tune to our natural rhythms, rather than forcing ourselves to work until we burn out.

Candles, as such, have become less of a luxury and more of a priority.


You might also like: 12 Sustainable, Non-Toxic Candle Brands



Investing in Your Mental and Physical Health

At first glance it doesn’t seem difficult to imagine why people love candles so much. They’re pretty. They add a certain je ne sais quoi to any room. Fenwick Candles actually began while founder Trish Fenwick was managing a dive bar in downtown Toronto, trying to find the best mood lighting for the late night crowd.


But the specific ambience candles help to provide is far from the only reason why this particular industry is booming. Research is increasingly showing that candles provide psychological, physiological, and mental health benefits. Different blends can reduce anxiety, fight insomnia, and boost energy. From a health and wellness standpoint, candles are worth investing in.


We would like to acknowledge the barriers that exist in the sustainability realm, with the candle industry being no exception. Often, sustainable candles are much more expensive than mainstream options, and with that said, availability isn’t always easy. At Fenwick, our aim has always been to provide environmentally friendly candles for a reasonable price.


Overwhelming Overconsumption

When it comes to candles, there is an almost overwhelming amount of variety. It seems as though every time you open your Instagram explore page, there is a new company advertising their unique blend.


While it may be tempting to click “add to cart” whenever you find a hyper-specific candle blend that seems tailor-made for you, we recommend taking a step back and using your critical eye.


Your dream candle might turn out to be an ethical nightmare, created for the same reason Shein fashion is. Mass-produced for profit, without consideration for the impact on the environment, your health, or the values of the sustainably driven consumer – if you wouldn’t put it in your body, why would you burn it in your home?


Major Culprits

Candles are raking in billions of dollars annually, but not because the world has developed an acute ability to read the fine print. Candlemakers rely on our ignorance to use compelling advertising copy that make their product sound “green,” when in fact they are anything but.


Once you start waking up to the tactics that many, if not most, of the major players in the industry use to market their candles, it is almost surreal to watch how well they manage to pull the wool over the eyes of otherwise committed and eco-conscious consumers.


One way they have done this is by successfully convincing the masses that soy and coconut wax are entirely environmentally friendly. If a candle is advertised as “soy-based,” it is immediately viewed with higher prestige and credibility. What’s more, it’s regarded as more ethical simply because it is technically vegan.


Long before the dangers of monoculture and deforestation were well known, the candle industry began sourcing certain materials with the intention of marketing their products as ethical alternatives. But the reality is a bit more complicated.


Sourcing and Sustainability

As candlemakers, we have done our research. We’ve found a few recurring issues within the industry that we are attempting to subvert.


The first thing that conscientious consumers need to know is that there is no natural wax in soybean and coconut fruit. Rather, the soy and coconut oil sourced by candle wax manufacturers is used as the base ingredient for their version of manmade wax. Keep in mind that there is no one way to create candle wax. Each brand’s blend is different – for better or for worse.


Oil itself does not make a candle. It requires additives or agents, which are built upon to create a solid, long-lasting wax. The materials within these additives or agents are the first layer in synthetic wax, and it doesn’t stop there: commercial manmade waxes can have upwards of twelve different ingredients. Worse still, those ingredients remain unknown, kept as trade secrets of the companies that they are not required to disclose.


We have great respect for coconut and palm as ethical alternatives. Palm fruit is a renewable resource which does not depend on extensive deforestation (though corporations have certainly tried), and it’s built for longevity. This makes it an ideal replacement for paraffin in candle wax blends.


In the same way, coconut trees can bear fruit for upwards of 60 years, existing amongst its soil in a beautifully symbiotic way: The tree feeds the soil, the soil is fed from the neighbouring trees, and in turn, that soil feeds the tree. In its natural environment, growing amongst millions of other species of flora and fauna, coconut oil plays a remarkable role in sustainable living.


Unfortunately, though, coconut plantations have been exploited and farmed for the masses in much the same way palm has been. There was no regulation regarding the clear-cutting of either, despite the devastation that was occurring after the soil was deprived of proper nutrition – and even more new land would be cleared to grow more of these miracle fruits. 


For vegan consumers, beeswax is becoming increasingly popular. Contrary to popular belief, bees remain unharmed in the production of beeswax candles. It takes approximately 33 million pollinations to create a single pound of beeswax, and we work directly with local apiaries to source this ingredient. We have great respect for the symbiotic relationship we have with bees.


What’s more, we have found that the use of beeswax as an ingredient is highly beneficial for your health. When burned, they do not release toxic carcinogenic byproducts, and the negative ions released help to neutralize pollutants in the atmosphere, like dust and mold.


Additives and Agents

The most common additives, by far, are by-products of petroleum, one being saturated paraffin wax. Paraffin is essentially the grey sludge at the bottom of the barrel of gas. It is bleached and processed before it’s considered suitable to work with.


You might also see stearic acid listed as an ingredient. This substance can be sourced ethically (as ours is), from either animal or vegetable fats, but to complicate matters further, even if stearic acid is derived ethically, it can later have synthetic constituents added to its chemical makeup to enhance performance. Because of this, it can be difficult to discern whether a company is using ethically sourced stearic or not, but we have made a commitment to disclose our sources so you can be certain where our stearic came from.


When it comes to soy, “eco-friendly” commercial wax companies will often source their soy GMO, as GMO soy production surpasses organic soy by a landslide. If GMO soy is the top-producing crop, then naturally, as the most cost-effective choice, commercial companies will choose economics over ethics.


Over 90% of the world’s soy production is GMO. If a company has put in the hard work of sourcing non-GMO soy, they will offer transparency about this. However, you can be quite certain that if a company is not boasting their ingredient origins, they are likely consuming within that 90%.


The Best Candle Waxes

The Law of Three is powerful. After much trial, error, and educated experimentation, we found that our ideal blend rested on three foundational hosts: coconut oil, stearic acid, and beeswax. Each plays a crucial role in protecting, regulating, and stabilizing our blend. 


Sustainable Coconut Oil: Essential oils are sensitive to heat, which can be a problem when you’re designing a candle with a long burn time. Fortunately, the fatty triglycerides found in coconut oil protect the essential oils in our candles and prevent them from getting burnt out.


Stearic Acid: This chemical compound is a highly popular ingredient in candle making and baking. It can be derived from many sources, however not are all ethical. We source our stearic from vegetable fat. This useful chemical compound is the key reason why our candles have a long burn time. Working in tandem with our other materials as a supportive and flexible host, our stearic allows us to boast our impressive burn times.


Beeswax: Known as cera alba, this harmonious natural wax is made from honey bees themselves. Chemically, beeswax consists mainly of esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols. This is our stabilizing force, giving our candles their solid and durable texture. What’s more, we only work with select Canadian Apiaries that honour sustainable practices to encourage and protect their bees. We opt for their charcoal filtered wax – This non-toxic process strips the famous amber from the beeswax, leaving it with the characteristic dreamy ivory tone of our candles.

Fenwick Candles wax is a proprietary organic wax manufactured in house. We support small growers and farmers who advocate sustainable cultivation techniques. Each candle is hand crafted with intention and love nestled in the Green belt of Ontario, Canada.


Click here to learn more about the ethical and sustainable ways we source each of our ingredients.



About the Author

Carly Bush is a copywriter and content writer with expertise in the sustainability, wellness, and lifestyle space. She has been the copywriter for Fenwick Candles since 2019 and is passionate about supporting small businesses with sustainable and authentic mission statements.


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