|Green Candles, Pt. 3: The Most Ecological Candle Wicks|
|Tuesday, 19 February 2013 00:00 | Written by Tonya Kay | Blog Entry|
In parts one and two of this blog series on candles, we compared the production methods and safety of non-petroleum candle waxes and contrasted their quality and price in real-time burn tests. This week I would like to offer you some vital criteria that you can judge your candles against in order to assure that you are enjoying the healthiest and most eco-friendly burn possible.
Ever notice a soot ring around the lip of your candle container? This is an indication of chemical fragrances, toxic wax, metal core wicks or a combination of all three. In any case, soot is not good. Metal-core wicks were once widely used in candles because cotton wicks can fall over into the wax during the burn. Unfortunately, "burning four metal-wick candles for only two hours can result in airborne lead concentrations that pose a threat to human health," according to Jerome O. Nriagu, Ph.D., environmental chemistry professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Lead poisoning can cause internal organ damage, behavioral changes and, in extreme cases, coma and death. Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.
Many domestic candle manufacturers have transitioned to cotton wicks, but I still recommend asking your candle pourer what type of wick they use. The only acceptable answers are 100% cotton or 100% hemp. If your candle manufacturer is too big to get an answer from, they should no longer be your source for candles.
Purchasing unscented and un-dyed candles will help you avoid soot and toxins caused by additives. Some candle pourers use exclusively organic essential oils to scent their candles. "Fragrance oils" are not the same as essential oils, so make sure to ask. Should you prefer unscented and un-dyed candles, you can still customize your scent experience with every burn at home by adding five drops of your desired essential oil into the melted wax every two hours.
The final vital concern I have when purchasing candles is the environmental impact of how they get to me. Locally poured and sold candles, such as those at my farmers market, are ideal. No shipping, no packaging and a bright smile between two very real people during every candle exchange—it doesn't get much better than that!
There are small businesses out there, however, that behave as if they were at your local farmers market, like Strega Moon. I have found them available to answer questions, share their wealth of information and even listen to packaging requests. Several years ago I contacted Lois of Strega Moon asking if my petroleum-free candles could be shipped in petroleum-free packaging. She not only went out of her way to wrap each candle in paper, but over the years, she has even fulfilled my request for reused newsprint as the wrapping (I reuse the packing newsprint in my kitchen vermicompost bin). A business relationship like this leaves a warm place in both the customer’s hearth and heart.
Candles not only save electricity, but they warm and beautify the home. It seems ironic to me that we've gotten ourselves into a world where we have to weed through so much misinformation to make sure something as simple as the candles we burn are not harming our children or the rain forest. The good news is, the information is out there—and I'm here to summarize and make it easy for you, the reader, to make an educated consumer choice. Heck, someday you might just feel like taking control and pouring some candles with your own two hands. (Next blog entry, I’ll teach you how to do exactly that.) Developing a relationship intellectually as well as physically with anything in your life can only make the emotional impact of its actual experience fuller.
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