Environmental sustainability is more than a buzzword—for many, it’s a way of life. And for good reason, given that the planet’s population is still growing, and resources are dwindling. If you are into candle making and the environment, you have probably wondered what is the most environmentally friendly candle wax?
The most environmentally friendly candle wax is wax made from sustainable soy. Other sustainable waxes include:
- Coconut wax
- Palm Wax
If you want to maximize the environmental sustainability of your candle, stay away from paraffin, a petroleum by-product.
Global warming, dwindling rainforests, and scarce resources are all reasons to live as much of an environmentally sustainable lifestyle as you can. You probably recycle, and maybe you even get your produce from the local farmers’ market to reduce your carbon footprint.
But what about your candle-making? Are you making the most environmentally conscious choices when it comes to your candle wax?
There is a lot of conflicting information about what makes a product environmentally friendly. To help you choose the most environmentally sound candle wax, here is our deep dive on candle waxes—which are environmentally friendly and which aren’t.
Before we get into some of the environmentally friendly candle waxes, check out the next section for one candle wax you should never consider using.
While what constitutes “environmentally friendly” is still up for debate, the consensus on paraffin is that it’s one of the worst choices for sustainability. Why is using paraffin so terrible for the environment?
For one thing, paraffin isn’t biodegradable. It’s also not renewable and possibly toxic. Studies on burning paraffin have reported different results.
How is Paraffin Made?
Paraffin is a by-product of the petroleum distillation process. Much of the distaste for paraffin comes from the fact that petroleum itself is not considered good for the environment because of the pollutants it creates during refining, the fact that it’s nonrenewable and environmental catastrophes that have been caused by related phenomena like oil spills.
Things to Be Aware of
Since it doesn’t come from an animal source, Paraffin is often advertised as “vegan.” This often gives consumers the mistaken impression that this is an environmentally friendly wax since being “vegan” is environmentally friendly.
So, if you are looking for a vegan wax that is also environmentally friendly, make sure you choose one of the plant-based waxes below.
Soy Wax won my top marks for the most sustainable and environmentally friendly candle wax. For those that want to avoid animal-based waxes, It is also a vegan wax.
How is Soy Wax Made?
Soy wax is a natural wax made from plants. Soy wax was the first plant-based wax. Invented by Michael Richards in 1992, soy wax was originally intended as a cheaper replacement for beeswax.
After the soy oil is removed from harvested soy, it is hydrogenated, which changes the molecular makeup of the fatty acids. Changing the fatty acids from unsaturated to saturated changes the oil from a liquid to a wax.
Things to Be Aware of
Even though soy wax is our top choice for environmental friendliness, that doesn’t mean all soy wax is environmentally sustainable. Anything can be produced in a non-sustainable way, so if you care about the environment, you should go the extra mile by sourcing your soy wax from sustainable, American growers.
While improving, the environmental damage caused by overeager soy production in South America is significant. Soy is such a valuable cash crop that it is contributing to deforestation. It can also negatively impact water availability and other food crops and even cause soil erosion.
If you buy soy wax, you want to buy it from eco-friendly producers in the United States. You can buy sustainably sourced soy wax from the excellent wholesaler Candle Science.
Before soy wax was invented, beeswax was the most sustainable and all-natural alternative. People have been making beeswax candles for thousands of years. Beeswax has a naturally sweet smell, making it suitable for scented candles without even using fragrance oils!
How is Beeswax Made?
Bees make beeswax. The process of how the bees make the wax is mysterious—as are some of the compounds in the beeswax itself, which have never been chemically identified. Beeswax is made by female worker bees who are two to three weeks old. After that, they graduate to fulfilling essential duties outside of the hive, gathering pollen and other materials for honey.
The entire process is super interesting. I found out about it from this blog by Carolina Honeybees.
Things to Be Aware of
While it may be environmentally sustainable, beeswax is not vegan since bees produce beeswax, much like cows produce milk. Some animal activists criticize beeswax harvesting as potentially disrupting the hive and even sometimes inadvertently causing the deaths of some of the bees in the process.
So, if you are committed to the principles of veganism, you may want to avoid beeswax altogether, just as you would prevent honey as a vegan.
I am not vegan, however, and I use beeswax frequently. My favorite place to buy beeswax for my candles is Betterbee. They also have some candle-making supplies specially made for beeswax candles.
Returning to plant-based candle waxes, coconut wax is another environmentally friendly option. Coconut wax is considered sustainable because coconuts have a high crop yield.
How is Coconut Wax Made?
Like soy wax, coconut wax is made from coconut oil which is harvested and then hydrogenated. Coconut wax gets further sustainability points because coconut palm trees don’t require pesticides to thrive, which reduces environmental damage from the toxic chemicals used in pesticides.
Hot pressing and cold pressing are used to remove the oil from the coconut flesh, similar to the process used to extract olive oil from olives.
Things to Be Aware of
Like soy wax, coconut wax is generally considered one of the most sustainable candle waxes. But it also depends on the types of farming practices used. Some farming practices can result in deforestation and other environmental hazards.
You should commit to using sustainable, ethically sourced coconut wax whenever possible. At least one prominent blog believes coconut oil is even more sustainable than soy wax, but all coconut wax comes from overseas, so it has a higher carbon footprint than soy wax grown in the United States.
One thing to be aware of with coconut wax is that it can be expensive, costing even more than the other high-priced candle wax on our list, beeswax.
Another plant-based wax derived from a type of palm tree is palm wax. While coconut wax is derived from coconut palm trees, palm tree wax is derived from the oil palm tree.
How is Palm Wax Made?
Palm wax is made from the outer flesh of the red fruit that grows on oil palm trees. As in the other plant-based waxes, the palm fruit is pressed to retrieve oil, which is then solidified into wax through the process of hydrogenation.
Since palm wax is plant-based, it is generally considered sustainable and eco-friendly. When ethical farming practices are used, palm trees and their fruit are a renewable resource.
Things to Be Aware of
Again, you should be aware of unethical farming practices that might contribute to “slash and burn” deforestation, as forests can be destroyed to make room for oil palm trees due to increasing demand. This is a slightly more significant problem with oil palm trees than coconut palm trees.
Palm wax can also be grown overseas, so you should be aware this can entail a higher carbon footprint than you would have with beeswax and U.S.-grown soy. For the most sustainability, purchase ethically sourced palm oil from palms grown in North and South America than those produced in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Palm wax is perfect to use in pillar candles (candles without an outer container) because the wax creates unique crystallized patterns as it solidifies. I love these candles, and as a business owner, I like selling them too, since I don’t have to spend extra money on expensive glass jars.
I buy my palm wax from Lone Star Candle Supply. Lone Star Candle Supply sources its palm wax from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) member sources. The RSPO sponsors multiple programs to stop deforestation and increase the sustainability of palm wax.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there such a thing as a completely synthetic candle wax?
Alpha Olefin wax is a hydrocarbon wax like paraffin, except it’s made synthetically. This synthetic candle wax is sustainable but is not considered environmentally friendly because it releases hydrocarbons into the air as it burns, which may be toxic.
What is the weirdest candle out there?
I like weird candles, and my top pick for the weirdest candle is this Theodore Roosevelt Scented Candle. How does anyone know what Theodore Roosevelt smelled like? And why would you like your house to smell like that? I was so enamored, I had to order one.
Looking to start your own candle making business, check out my startup documents here
Please note that the contents of this blog are for informational and entertainment purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Any action taken based on the information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Additionally, all images used in this blog are generated under the CC0 license of Creative Commons, which means they are free to use for any purpose without attribution.
Meet Shawn Chun: Entrepreneur and Candle Business Fan.
I’m a happy individual who happens to be an entrepreneur. I have owned several types of businesses in my life from a coffee shop to an import and export business to an online review business plus a few more and now I create online candle business resources for those interested in starting new ventures. It’s demanding work but I love it. I do it for those passionate about their business and their goals. That’s why when I meet a candle business owner at a craft fair, farmers market, retail location or anywhere else I see myself. I know how hard the struggle is to obtain and retain clients, finding good employees all while trying to stay competitive. That’s why I created Candle Business Boss: I want to help candle business owners like you build a thriving business that brings you endless joy and supports your ideal lifestyle.