Is Burning Candles Bad for the Environment? How to Find Eco-Friendly Candles

Ever find yourself reading a product’s label wondering what the heck those ingredients are?! Over the past few years, we’ve all become hyperaware of what we’re putting into our bodies through our food, what we’re applying to our skins with our special lotions and ten years younger (!) products… but what about through our lungs?

What are we inhaling in our homes? Are our candles affecting our health? Is burning candles bad for the environment?

It’s easy to spiral down a bit of a rabbit hole!

River in Snowdonia, North Wales

My first encounter with candles and the environment

I first fell in love candles when I wanted to bring a touch of extra warmth and comfort to my days. For me, lighting a luxurious candle was almost an act of meditation. It encouraged me to slow my world down and reflect on what was important.

But that bubble burst when I started to notice the walls behind these candles blackened with soot, a not too subtle hint as to the impact that a love for cosiness was having on the health of our family!

What was I burning?

Most mass-produced products share one thing in common: cheap materials to allow big brands to cut back on costs and increase their profits. And candles are no exception.

The majority of mass-produced candles are made from cheap paraffin wax, which is a by-product of crude oil. Yes, that’s right friends, most store-bought candles are made up of products found in the petroleum industry.


If we combine this with metal-based wicks and manufactured scents, burning candles become far less of a relaxing pastime and more of an environmental health hazard.

So, yes, candles can be bad for the environment. But do they have to be?

Not necessarily.

Wax with wicks

An alternative for candle fans

When you dive deep into the environmental world of candles (yes, it’s a whole new world out there! And not a very Disney-friendly one), another option starts to present itself.

Palm oil.

Unlike paraffin wax, palm oil burns cleanly and is biodegradable. Meaning the environmental impact of your candle in your home is next to nothing.

But draw back the curtain and you’ll find a very different story. The production of palm oil has caused the destruction of beautiful rainforests around the world, native animals such as the regal orangutan forced out of their lush green homes, not to mention the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as a result.

So, palm oil candles? Also bad for the environment.

Wax stamp

What about beeswax?

When it comes to candles, beeswax is the most traditional material out there. It’s been available to us for centuries and is, obviously, completely natural.

Is beeswax sustainable? Well, that depends. It can be, when it’s harvested correctly. But bees can be harmed when farmers don’t handle them correctly. And, as we all know, we need our bees!

Another sticky point is that beeswax is incredibly hard to fragrance. It has a lovely mellow scent naturally but adding anything beyond that is pretty much possible. Which means that beeswax candles have their limitations when it comes to producing the scented candles we all know and love.

Wax pouring from a glass jug

Sustainable soy

Which brings me onto my wax of choice here at Let There Be Light: soy. Soy wax originally derives from soybeans, typically farmed in both South and North America. Like most things, there are sustainable soy farms and not-so-sustainable soy farms.

The wax I use is 100% soy, from South America. My suppliers are working to build a sustainable and transparent supply chain, one that respects the rights of our planet just as much as it respects the rights of the workers and local communities. It’s traceable and as sustainable as can be, whilst still being easy to fragrance with the scents we all know and love, thanks to the mixing of beautiful botanical oils.


So, if we’re to officially answer the question of whether candles are bad for the environment, I’d say this. They don’t have to be. It’s simply a case of questioning what you purchase, looking a little closer at what happens behind the scenes and trusting the producer.

Discover soy candles for yourself

Visit The Boutique to choose your own sustainable soy candle