How to Choose Sustainable Candles

Choose candles that are made with unscented beeswax. Not all beeswax is created equal, though, so look for USDA-certified organic beeswax. To minimize soot, look for candles with a spherical shape to allow for more complete combustion. Keep an eye out for MADE SAFE®-certified candles, a certification that makes sure that your product doesn’t contain ingredients known or suspected to cause human health harm.

What to Know


Paraffin Wax

Most standard candles are made with paraffin wax, a wax derived from petroleum byproducts. Petroleum itself is made from crude oil, which, when handled improperly, is often associated with devastating ecological and human health impacts. Petroleum waxes, including paraffin, can also be harmful to marine life when they’re disposed of improperly and end up in the natural environment. When paraffin ends up in our oceans, it can be ingested by our sea-dwelling friends and lead to mass beaching events (i.e. when marine animals wash up on shorelines). To add insult to injury, it can pose health risks to communities tasked with the clean-up and disposal of the wax. Not to mention, by purchasing paraffin candles, we’re inadvertently supporting the crude oil industry – talk about unintended consequences.

Soy Wax

On to soy-based candles… Hydrogenated soybean oil is used to make soy wax candles, so don’t let the “natural” idea of a soy plant fool you. Since the 1950s, global soybean production has increased by more than 15 times, and, when unregulated, soybean production has been associated with massive deforestation and the displacement of local and Indigenous communities in Brazil and Argentina. No, thanks. We also need to use a careful eye when looking at “soy” candles because many are made with a combination of soy and paraffin – or paraffin can be used in the production process. All that said, 100% soy candles emit 50 to 60 times less concentration of particulate matter emissions (i.e. soot and dust) than paraffin wax candles, so there is an upside to soy over paraffin.


Ok, so paraffin and soy are putting a damper on our relaxation vibes. How about this beeswax trend? Beeswax is the oldest known raw material for candles and can be USDA-certified organic. While it’s a renewable resource, it is also naturally limited by the size and scale of bee production. Beeswax candles actually burn longer than their paraffin brethren, making more bang for your buck and they don’t require any additional fragrance. All hail the bees! Keep in mind: bees are an all-powerful pollinator that keep our food systems in action, so shoot for beeswax candles that have a Certified Organic seal of approval to help protect our buzzing buddies.

Synthetic Fragrances

We have some unfortunate news for the scented candle fiends out there…the burning of scented candles inside can release a large number of toxic chemicals, including phthalates. Phthalates are a group of chemicals often found in fragrances that have been found to cause adverse health effects. Many candle fragrances are developed from a moshpit of chemicals derived from crude oil (friendly reminder: crude oil = derived from fossil fuels = contributes to climate change) that work together to create that nuanced aroma of Pumpkin Spice Latte we all know and love. While being #basic is not a bad thing, and scented candles are proven to play a role in the physiological effects of mood, stress, and anxiety, we think there’s an important distinction to make when picking out those scented candles.

Our general rule of thumb? If a candle smells like it is crafted from sources that are cooked up in a lab, maybe opt out. If its fragrance is derived from fresh herbs or materials that have not been altered in a lab, the likelihood is higher that it will have fewer downsides for the environment.


USDA Organic

The USDA organic certification indicates that an agricultural product has been produced according to the USDA organic standards. These methods integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used on these products.

Made Safe

The Made Safe program is a nonprofit organization that has created a product certification that identifies products that aren’t “toxic” to human and planetary health. The Made Safe certification ensures that a product is made without any chemicals found to be harmful in its ingredient database. This list of ingredients is assessed for a variety of human health impacts, bioaccumulation, persistence, and general and aquatic toxicity.


Q: How much wax is used to make candles?

A: Let’s check out the numbers. The National Candle Association estimates that one billion pounds of wax are used each year to make candles in the U.S. alone. An average candle uses about eight pounds of wax.

Q: Are soy candles bad for the environment?

A: We don’t live in a black and white world, so binaries like “bad” don’t always encompass the nuances of sustainability and environmental impact. In some ways, yes, as soy production can lead to deforestation and displacement of peoples, but alternatives, like paraffin, are associated with the oil and gas industry.

Q: What kind of candles are non-toxic?

A: We hate to break it to you, but non-toxic is a buzzword. To be honest, ‘non-toxic’ doesn’t actually mean much of anything. In fact, no chemical or material is purely “non-toxic,” so… no candles are non-toxic. If you want to lessen toxicity, however, opt for unscented candles.