Greenwashing in the Candle Industry and Why it Matters
February 03 2023 – Caitlyn Farrow
In the last few years, people have started to realize that not all candles are created equally and some can cause harmful side effects. Research has helped pinpoint some of the dangerous ingredients that are tied to those side effects- ingredients like paraffin wax, harmful chemicals in fragrances, and lead-core wicks.
While lead-core wicks are now illegal in the United States, there are still harmful ingredients in candles all around the United States. You might have been fooled by some of those ingredients thanks to a marketing ploy known as greenwashing.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is "a form of misinformation often used to entice an aspiring green consumer. Companies promising to be sustainable, biodegradable, or environmentally conscious sometimes fail to meet the promises they make to consumers" (Gibbens).
With the push for cleaner and safer candles that are also produced and sourced ethically, candle businesses are using words and claims that make their products appear more eco-friendly and cleaner than they may actually be.
What does it look like in the candle industry?
Soy wax has seen a huge increase in use within the candle industry over the last decade. As many makers and buyers are getting away from paraffin (a wax derived from crude oil byproduct that also contains known carcinogens), they have found a safer alternative in soy wax. AND IT IS SAFER, but it isn't necessarily more eco-friendly. Many soy waxes contain small amounts of paraffin to get a stronger scent throw, as this is a downside of switching to 100% soy wax.
Soy wax is also a leading cause of deforestation across the globe. With the increasing demand for soybeans, important biodiverse land is being destroyed for soybean cultivation, especially in South America. "The United States, Brazil, and Argentina together produce about 80% of the world’s soy" (World Wildlife Fund).
In addition to deforestation, soybean farming causes high soil erosion, the strain on aquifers due to unsustainable water usage, tainted water sources from agrochemicals and fertilizers, and increased greenhouse emissions. In many South American countries, indigenous communities and small farmers are being pushed out of their land and exploited for large soybean farm production (World Wildlife Fund).
While many have moved towards essential oils to avoid harmful chemicals and carcinogens, essential oils are being used because they are naturally derived.
Essential oils are not monitored or regulated by the FDA or any other governing body for purity or quality. They are not always safe for fragrance use, especially when burned. For example, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang-ylang are completely unsafe for pets. Oils such as camphor, parsley seed, tarragon, wintergreen, and wormwood are unsafe while pregnant or breastfeeding. Oils like peppermint and eucalyptus are dangerous irritants for young children. Because of this, knowing exactly what is used and what you need to avoid for your specific situation is essential (no pun intended).
They're also expensive and not always sustainable. It takes a large number of plants to create a single drop of essential oils. For example, it takes 50 lemons to produce 15 ml of lemon oil, 3 lb of lavender to produce 15 ml of lavender oil, and about 242,000 rose petals to produce 5 ml of rose oil. And when it comes to candle use, essential oils don't have the same impactful scent throw as quality fragrances.
Why it matters?
If you're shopping for great-smelling candles AND sustainable and eco-friendly candles, paying attention to greenwashing is important.
Thoughtful Hive uses only sustainable and ethically sourced pure beeswax and a small amount of sustainable and ethically sourced coconut oil to create our candles. Beeswax is sustainable, all-natural in its original form, and safe to use.
We also research the FDA-required IFRA sheets of every fragrance oil we use to eliminate any fragrances containing phthalates, parabens, prop-65 chemicals, and known carcinogens, and we continually review our fragrances against new research.
Our candle jars are just as sustainable and eco-friendly as our candle ingredients. We use only 100% recycled glass or repurposed containers because we hate creating new waste.
We aren't just throwing out terms like sustainable, eco-friendly, and planet-safe. We mean it. We've done the research so that you can just relax and enjoy a great-smelling candle without fear or guilt. You can also find comfort in knowing that we give back a portion of our products to organizations that are fighting for our planet and a more sustainable and truly eco-friendly future.