Don't Piss Off Greta Thunberg

AI Image of Greta Thunberg angry yelling at a lit candle.
I like to do whatever I can to avoid being roasted on Twitter by Greta Thunberg. Don’t you? No? Well, it’s not like I’m even close to being on her radar, but you can never be too careful. She seems to pop up every now and then and destroy whoever is her latest target. So, to be on the safe side, let’s talk about the environmental impacts of candle making.
According to a report published by Grand View Research in 2020, the global candle market was valued at $3.5 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $6.8 billion by 2027. That’s a fuck-ton of candles! All candles are a combination of wax, fragrance oil, wicks, and occasionally dye. So, how are they impacting the environment?


Dark, generic big box store with rows of colorful candles on black shelves. The most common type of wax used in big box candles is paraffin wax. Why? It’s cheap, plain and simple. Paraffin wax is a byproduct of petroleum and therefore contributes to more unrenewable fossil fuels being extracted from the earth and burned to create greenhouse gasses that increase the rate of climate change. If you’re a climate change denier, you’re probably in the wrong place by reading this anyway.
In other words, paraffin wax candles are as bad as car fuel, Vaseline, and plastics. Want more bad news? When paraffin is cleaned and bleached, the chemicals used are exceptionally harmful to the environment, too! Paraffin wax candles are a lose-lose situation.


Some candles have lead wicks in them. You should be clutching your pearls. Lead! In wicks! In 2023?! It’s true. Lead wicks have been illegal in the US since 2003, though. Which is still a long time after they should have been banned! Imported candles, however, might have lead wicks in them. Always make sure you know from where your candles originate. How? Buy from local vendors who know where their materials come from, not the big box stores with ambiguous labels. An easy fix!

Up until the 1970s, lead wicks were widely used in the US because mass producers (in all their wisdom and care for the health of consumers *eye roll*) thought it made the wicks stronger during the production process. Obviously, the bigger issue is the lead poisoning and toxic particles spewed into the air when these wicks are lit. If you don’t know where your candles are made, you could be a heavy metal head...and not in a good way.


Half plastic bubble wrap, half brown paper honeycomb webbing.

Packaging is an area that could be easily be forgotten or skimmed over in our consideration for a candle’s environmental impact. From plastic bubble wrap to plastic, zip top bags. From polystyrene peanuts to coated-paper printed materials. Packaging for small businesses is full of landmines, and honestly, it’s hard to avoid a lot of environmentally damaging items.

Something I’m doing is switching from plastic bubble wrap to paper honeycomb webbing in my packaging. I already use biodegradable peanuts that dissolve in water, and recyclable brown paper boxes that I stamp, so I’m not using yet another paper label to brand something that will just be thrown away or recycled.

Full disclosure: I use plastic packing tape. At this time, it’s cost prohibitive to buy water-activated paper tape, but as soon as it’s feasible, I’ll change over.

3 plastic clamshells with soy wax and white labels that say in black ink, "Brunch."

One area for wax product makers that seems impossible avoid plastic are wax melt clamshells. At The Big Gay Collective, I still use plastic clamshells. The alternatives are slim to non-existent, but I hope in the future somebody finds something to use so wax melt makers can switch to something more environmentally safe. 




What can you do as a consumer to lessen your environmental footprint when purchasing candles? First – of course – buy candles from a small business. Then you know who is making your candle, and if you support a local vendor, you know where it’s made.

Look for candles made with a natural wax like beeswax, soy, or coconut. Added bonus to one natural wax: beeswax is also known to purify the air as it evaporates. Chandlers are required to label their candles with what kind of wax is in their product. At The Big Gay Collective, I use 100% soy wax. So, look for the kind of wax on the label the next time you’re buying a local candle from a small business.
It should go without saying that lead wicks need to be left in the past. For your health and the air quality of your home, lead wicks are a big no-no. Know where your candles come from, and if they are labeled “indoor safe.”
Finally, once your candles have burned down to ¼”, use boiling water to melt out the rest of the wax from the bottom of the vessel. Pull out the wick and remove any labels. Then give the vessel a second life! Most vessels are the perfect size for storing paper clips or pens, or even keep small jewelry in the reused and cleaned vessel.
Is this good enough for Greta? Probably not, but together as maker and consumer, we can make more sustainable choices that benefit the environment. Let’s make a conscious effort to support brands and makers that prioritize sustainability so we can have many more Big Gay Days!


The text of this blog contains 100% human content. 

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