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Green Christmas Candles For an Ecofriendly Christmas

Updated on August 24, 2015

Christmas has always been the festival of light, as far back as humans can remember. It is no wonder, given that Christmas coincides with the longest night of the year. In some very northerly areas, there's scarcely any daylight at all this time of year. A long-burning Christmas candle is a cultural memory of a the tens-of-thousands of years that people huddled around the fire through these dark nights.

History of Candles

While candles themselves have been used since Egyptian times to mark special occasions and to light the way, the use of petroleum as the main ingredient of these candles is a very recent development. In fact, it's only since the 1850s that petroleum paraffin has been routinely used for candles. Up until that time, candles were made from beeswax, beef tallow, bayberry or crystallized sperm whale oil, sometimes with a great deal of soot.

The Size and Ecological Impact of the Candle Industry

By the 'aughts, over well over $2 billion dollars worth of candles were sold in the US alone – the budget in Europe was even larger. This represents a tremendous amount of wax, not to mention aluminium or plastic votive cups that are not recyclable. Of all those candles, over 35% of them are purchased for the Christmas holiday.

As such, the amount of carbon-generating petroleum, transport costs and landfill clogging-waste is tremendous. It is very rare for someone to save or recycle a candle once the wick is no longer able to be lit – this means a massive amount of petroleum wax makes its way to the landfill each year. Add to this the concerns about indoor air quality and health from chemical scents, dyes and wick treatments, and people are ready for a “greener” Christmas candle.

Green Christmas Candles

Thankfully, there are several ecologically-friendly alternatives that will keep your home healthy and glowing through the Holiday. In fact, some of the most efficient candles don't even have real flames. Though the marketplace continues to be dominated by candles that are imported over long distances and contain toxin-laden, petroleum-based paraffin, there is a burgeoning market for less toxic and regionally made products that save money, fuel and naturally smell great.

Alternative Waxes

Perhaps the fastest growing segment of this market are soy candies. This is a soy bean oil that goes through a long process of treatments to make it suitable as a wax. It is notable for being made from a regionally derived crop (as opposed to non-renewable fossil fuels) and containing at least 11 fewer cancer-causing chemicals. They even burn up to 30% longer than their more common petroleum-derived cousins.

Other alternative waxes include a relative newcomer in the form of palm candles. Older types of wax are also increasingly popular, including beeswax and bayberries, the latter being traditional during New Year celebrations. These all have slightly different properties and tend to cost more than paraffin. However, they are almost universally considered to be of higher quality and tend to burn much longer. This is why special altar candles are usually made from bleached beeswax.

Natural Scents

Also of concern to many people is the use of potentially harmful fragrances with many of the very popular scented candles they've come to associate with Christmas. However, there are natural and safe types of fragrance that can be added with just as much effect. Very often, these are cold-pressed or steam distilled essential oils.

Most of these oils are actually rather inexpensive on the wholesale market and should not add much in the way of cost to the price of your favourite Christmas candles. Evergreen, citrus and wood scents are the most popular. Other scents, such as berries and some flowers, are very difficult to extract.

Buying Locally-made Christmas Candles

In late 2008, the EU ruled that China had been “dumping” candle products on the market at a price that didn't even cover the cost of materials, putting EU candle-makers at a disadvantage. Coming right before Christmas, this decision impacts both the “big box retailers” and local makers of high quality candles in different ways. It will certainly impact the 2008 Christmas candle sales.

Moreover, it raises the question of how far your candle had to travel to make it to your celebration. It can be a truly globe-trotting journey in the case of paraffin, pumped out of Middle Eastern oil wells, shipped to China and sent back to Europe, the Americas or Oceania at great “carbon expense.” Small Holiday markets and Farmers' markets very often have local candle vendors. Online resources are also a good way to find candle-makers who use greener ingredients.

LED Candles

Not even true candles, some manufacturers have created Christmas Candles that can “burn” for thousands of hours. Most are operated by small button-type batteries that are installed in the base and flicker to mimic real candles. Though they are often made of wax or plastic, these LED candles are very long lasting and liable to stay out of the landfill for a very long time, indeed.

Perhaps the largest incentive for many people with children and dogs is the relative safety of LED candles. They don't even get hot right at the source of the “flame.” This is especially nice in the case of LED Christmas candles that you'd like to leave on all night without burning down the house or using a ton of power. Compared to an old-style candle lamp, LED candles use a tiny percentage of the electricity for a very “green” type of Holiday light.

THIS HUB IS PART OF A SERIES OFFERING A COMPLETE GUIDE TO A GREEN CHRISTMAS (ECOFRIENDLY CHRISTMAS)

For other hubs in this series, please visit the index hub where you will be able to see all topics in this series and navigate between them.

This hub brought to you...

by Julie-Ann Amos, professional writer, and owner of international writing agency www.ExquisiteWriting.com

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This work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ or send a letter to CreativeCommons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California94105, USA.

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    • profile image

      flameless candles 

      9 years ago

      flameless candle cand be eco friendly because they are reuseable

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