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Set the mood: 6 brands keeping your candles natural and fossil fuel–free

Photography By Heretic Parfum, Chorus, So.Ah
Published 03.02.22

Candles: our go-to object in times of ambient need. Renowned for their mood-boosting properties. With the flicker of a small flame, they can set an entire scene.

But for all their atmospheric benefits, candles are not always great for the environment (or humans). 

The dark side of candles 

Humans have been using candles for over 5,000 years. But back then, we were making them out of natural products like animal fat and beeswax. Then the Industrial Revolution arrived bringing with it new manufacturing processes, and those wholesome ingredients were replaced with petroleum by-products. 

Since then, most of the candles you see in stores and supermarkets have been made from petroleum-based paraffin wax. This material is a by-product of oil refining (or the oil purification process). Aside from the fact it comes from fossil fuels, paraffin wax also releases toxins into the air when burning or melting; two of those toxins are carcinogens. 

The wicks of candles can also be problematic if they’re made from lead or metal as these materials also release toxic emissions while burning (though lead core wicks are now banned in the United States and Australia). Scented candles wave a few additional alarming flags as most use synthetic fragrances that are, you guessed it, also made from petrochemical derivatives.

AULI

Are candles cancelled? 

Not quite. Despite the fact we’ve just dunked on the environmental merits of candles, there are some alternatives worth endorsing. Soy wax and beeswax are more sustainable options than paraffin wax as they’re made from natural, biodegradable ingredients. But we’ll caveat that with the fact that the soy industry doesn’t have the best environmental track record and beeswax sourced from larger-scale, commercial industries can be detrimental to bee colonies.

While researching this piece, we also discovered challenges with making candles from 100 per cent natural ingredients. We kept coming across brands using blends (e.g. soy or beeswax blends). When we reached out to them, they explained that “blend” refers to a portion of paraffin to keep the structural integrity of the candle and to reduce inconsistencies in the way products burn. Even the brands that do use 100 per cent natural wax will sometimes use synthetic fragrances. So escaping fossil fuels entirely is a hard (though not impossible) feat for the candle-making industry. 

OK, before you close this tab, we do have some good news! Hope is not lost for our beloved ambient accessories. While it’s all a bit complicated, we have found a number of environmentally responsible products. Here are six candle-making brands we back and are happy to burn through.

@shop.chorus

AULI 

UK brand AULI is really out to freshen things up around the house – without doing unnecessary harm to the environment. All candles are made from 100 per cent natural wax (in the form of responsibly sourced coconut oil) and scented using natural ingredients free from parabens, phthalates, harsh chemicals and synthetic colours. Candles are hand-poured in its London workshop and sold in containers made of glass – which can be reused and recycled. 

Haeckels

High on our “reasons to love Haeckels” list is one product in particular: the Pluviophile Rain Candle. This candle has a cotton woven wick, is made from soy wax and is housed in a glass surround. That would be enough to win us over, but then you get to the packaging. The candle is sold in a package made from mycelium (the root system of fungi), intertwined with agricultural waste. Once the product has been delivered, the moulds can be reused, composted or planted in gardens to improve soil quality. Oh, and the outer label is made from a recycled paper pulp mixed with wildflower seeds – so it can also be planted after use. We absolutely need this. 

So.Ah 

Candles are, by nature, designed for being burned and illuminating rooms. But that doesn’t mean every candle you buy has to be lit. So.Ah is one of those brands that appreciate the decorative qualities of candles. Its range of aesthetically intriguing sculptural designs is made from natural soy wax and/or beeswax and has 100 per cent cotton wicks. They are scented with therapeutic-grade, plant-based essential oils and poured in small batches. Though the candles aren’t recommended for burning, they can still be used as “room diffusers” to make a space in your house smell enticing. 

Selfridges 

You might be surprised to see Selfridges on a RIISE round-up, but the department store giant has actually been taking some steps in the right direction in recent years. Browsing through Project Earth (an edit of products that are better for people and the planet) we discovered the eye-catching caïa Les Jambes candle. These are handmade from 100 per cent soy wax and frankly, are just the kind of piece our bedside table needs.

Heretic Parfum 

Heretic Parfum works with naturally derived botanical ingredients to create vibrant, non-gendered and functional fragrances. It also makes 100 per cent soy wax, handcrafted candles. These candles are free from phthalates, parabens and synthetic dyes, but certain blends do look like they contain synthetic ingredients. If the brand sounds familiar, it’s because it is behind that infamous candle collaboration with goop. We’re not sure it would be our bedroom candle of choice, but, hey, each to their own olfactory preference. 

Chorus 

If you regularly host dinner parties or entertain guests in your home, then you’ll know all about the importance of having a few staple centrepieces on standby. Pillar or tapered candles (AKA those long cylindrical candles you see stuck in wine bottles) are always a good option for these occasions. Our desire to level up our soirees led us to Chorus, a Melbourne brand that makes both styles from a soy and beeswax blend. While the brand’s scented candles do contain a portion of paraffin, founder Leah Pedroza explained she’s still experimenting with different waxes to find natural options she is “truly happy with”. She’s currently trialling olive wax and is planning to make her next small batch from locally sourced beeswax – which we’ll be keeping our eye out for. 

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