Environmental and Humanitarian Concerns
Are all candles biodegradable?
According to the National Candle Association: Yes. But then that might be a little misleading because, given enough time, most chemicals are. They mention (but do not cite) studies that "have shown that beeswax, paraffin and vegetable-based waxes (palm wax) are biodegradable."
However, any wax in any significant amount is not compostable, so maybe a different way to ask the question is how do you get rid of the unused wax? Click on the article Reduce, Recycle, and Re-use to see how we deal with it at our factories. The good thing about palm wax is that you can burn it all up and you can reuse any of our candle jars.
Are your candles organic?
We use a different blend of waxes for each of our candle lines, each blend containing a different percentage of organic ingredients. Our regular palm wax comes from Malaysia and is not organic. The main organic ingredient is a certified organic palm wax from Brazil and Colombia.
This wax insures a long, clean burn and rapidly forms a wide pool around the flame to allow gentle evaporation of essential oils. We also use organic essential oils whenever possible, and we use vegetable-oil base colorants and pure cotton wicks. Last but not least, we started using eco-friendly cardboard made from 100% consumer recycled material.
I saw on TV that palm plantations are destroying native forests and making orangutans extinct?
If you can take the time, I suggest you read some of the articles on our Palm Wax page where I've collected articles from non-biased independently funded conservationists.
Unfortunately, any agriculture in the tropics will impact the rain forests. Agriculture in Europe destroyed 99.9% of all primordial forests. Currently, one of the major causes for deforestation in Brazil are soy plantations. Up until the late nineties, logging companies and palm oil planters caused a lot of deforestation in Indonesia.
Over the last 10 years, Indonesia and Malaysia, the two biggest producers of palm oil, have put in place protective measures that, particularly in Malaysia, seem to have put a stop to random logging of rain forests. This is why we source our regular palm wax from Malaysia.
Are all your products fair trade certified?
Please visit our Fair Trade page. At this time only one of our palm tree farms, Agroplama in Brazil is fair trade and organic certified. Daabon is certified organic. We are working with Rainforest Alliance to encourage the tree farms in Malaysia to become certified. We are working with another certifier to get our factories in Indonesia and Pakistan fair trade certified. I'm applying to get at least some of our candle décor lines approved by the US Fair trade federation. This presents a difficulty, because fair trade certification was created originally to certify agricultural crops like coffee or cotton, not home décor products. We believe it is important to put in place a new fair trade certification for non-food items.
Our sister factory in Indonesia has been approved by a team of inspectors from The Body Shop, one of the most conscientious and critical global corporations when it comes to fair wages and humane working conditions. They are also working closely with a government funded Dutch agency for the promotion of socially responsible products from developing countries.
Is my paraffin candle biodegradable?
Just like crude oil is (very) slowly consumed by bacteria when it is exposed to air, the same holds for paraffin. Research has shown that this is actually the case.
Is soot harmful?
The National Candle Association (NCA) claims: "The minuscule amount of soot produced by a candle is the natural byproduct of incomplete combustion. Candle soot is composed primarily of elemental carbon particles, and is similar to the soot given off by kitchen toasters and cooking oils. These everyday household sources of soot are not considered a health concern, and are chemically different from the soot formed in the burning of coal, diesel fuel, gasoline, etc."
There is a growing number of candle manufacturers that use vegetable waxes that disagree, but there are no third party studies to support their claims. Black soot does coat and stain walls, and drapes and central air vents.
What sort of chemical reaction occurs when a candle burns?
When you light a candle, the flame melts the wax near the wick. This melted or liquid wax is then drawn up into the wick by capillary action. The flame's heat vaporizes the liquid wax into a burnable gas. The gas, when producing the flame, combines with oxygen and releases water vapor and carbon dioxide into the air (the same byproducts that animals produce when exhaling).
In addition, any chemicals present in the wax, or in the fragrances or dyes, are also released into your environment. The heat of the flame may modify those substances or not. Therefore, we prefer to use vegetable palm wax, made without the use of petrochemical solvents.
Soy candles contain traces of the chemicals used in the distillation process. Paraffin candles start off as a petrochemical byproduct: the sludge that remains after diesel fuel is refined. There are no longer any US refineries that produce paraffin, so most of it comes from China. We have noticed an increasing inconsistency in the purity and quality of paraffin on the US market.
Can I reuse the glass jar?
Yes you can. The jar can be used for many things from drinking glasses to vases, or for floating candles.
Can I refill my jar candle when it is empty?
Because candle glass weakens as it accumulates bumps and scratches, or is frequently heated and cooled, we do not recommend refilling our jars for re-use as a candle.
We tried selling refills but not enough consumers were interested. Maybe in the future as folks become more concerned about recycling and such, we will reintroduce refills. A votive glass is an example of an efficient container that can be refilled. So we made sure that our votive glasses can withstand multiple uses. The thick bottom on the glass also prevents it from being damaged when it is put down with too much force on a hardened surface, especially marble counter tops.
Can you recycle the empty candle jars?
We encourage you to reuse the glass in your home, but if you chose not to, most local recycling agencies will accept empty candle jars with other glass recyclables. All our glass is custom made, using a small percentage of recycled post consumer glass. Adding more recycled glass would turn the glass greenish or brownish, making it unattractive for most uses.
I'm the manager of the natural food co-op. I heard you lecture about organic farming practices. Can you summarize the main points for my staff?
Not so long ago in the US, American family farms were sprinkled across the rural landscape amongst wild, open spaces and thriving small towns that served the needs of farm families. Until the 1940s, the form of farming we now call organic was actually the norm. This all changed at the end of World War II and has all but disappeared.
In an alarmingly short period of time, chemical agriculture, and the factory farms it spawned, has almost obliterated the family farms that nourished our culture and has rendered them into nothing more than a sweet memory. During World War II new technologies were developed.
When the war ended, a problem had to be resolved: what to do with all the toxic chemicals leftover from warfare? Thus, around 1950, a market was created to disperse these chemicals, in the form of pesticides, to farmers. After all, they would certainly kill bugs (never mind, for the moment, that we already knew these chemicals would kill humans). Spurred on by promises of greater yields due to less insect damage, farmers eagerly embraced the new technologies. Chemical manufacturers were heartened by the ease with which farmers accepted chemical pesticides. Today, the use of chemicals has become so extensive that as many as 16 different chemicals might be applied to a single crop during one growing season!
Also, technologies as flash freezing and dehydration had been evolved in an attempt to bring nutrition to millions of soldiers fighting in regions where the providing them with fresh food was impossible. When the war was over, companies that had invested substantial monies into the research and development of these technologies were looking for ways to continue utilizing them. The result of this gave us TV dinners and an endless variety of processed foods.
At the same time, another whole industry had evolved during the war for the manufacture of nitrates, used in making bombs. When aggressions ceased, methods were sought to continue this profitable venture, and they were found in, of all places, farming. Basically we had built up this huge wartime capacity to make explosives and all other things we needed for war. That same kind of chemistry used in bombs and explosives was what was needed to make fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
So we had a huge industrial capacity to make these after World War II, and that's exactly how our agriculture sector evolved, to take advantage of this capability. These chemicals made it possible for farmers to initially get greater yields as nitrates promote very fast crop growth. Suddenly food companies were faced with the problem of how to sell all this food. The marketing people then persuaded the public to purchase snack food, junk food, and a whole host of high-carbohydrate, non-nutritious consumables.
We have all lost something very precious as a result - not only a way of life that defined us, but also a safe and healthy food supply, numerous biological species, undisturbed wildlife and aquatic habitats, clean air and safe drinking water. The good news is the organic community is creating an alternative model.
After 40 years of hard work, the organic community has built a $25 billion organic and farming sector, representing 3.5% of all grocery store purchases. Now decades of research confirm that organic agriculture crop yields are comparable or even 50-70% better (during drought or heavy rain) than chemical/GMO farming.
Nutritional studies show that organic crops are qualitatively healthier in terms of vitamin content and trace minerals. Climate experts emphasize that organic farming uses, on average, 50% or less petroleum inputs compared to chemical farming, while generating drastically less green house gases, such as CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide. Moreover, diverse, multi-crop organic farms can sequester or store permanently enormous amounts of co2 in the soil. A return to traditional organic, carbon-sequestering farming practices across the globe could reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 40%.
This is enough to begin to reverse global warming. Reversing our energy-intensive, chemical-intensive, hyper-consumerist society combined with stronger personal and community connections are what will help us get through the changes ahead. As groups of people we can form an effective organic buying club, cooperative or other exchange system to provide ourselves with food or other goods. These kinds of community relationships are the key for transitioning to a post-carbon future.
At Aloha Bay, we are steadily increasing our use of raw materials from organic farms and developing new candle making techniques to incorporate even more organic materials into our products.
Can I use my candle to eliminate smoke and other bothersome odors?
Most scented candles will cover or overpower odors. They will not eliminate them. A few manufactures claim they have a special formula that eliminate odors from cigarettes, cigars, cooking, etc. I've tried them and never found that to be true. Certain spicy and citrus notes seem to do a better job covering up some odors. To effectively cover up odors, I prefer to diffuse lemon or other citrus oils in our aromatherapy diffuser.
What is a Unity Candle? How is it used during wedding ceremonies?
Traditionally, during a wedding ceremony three candles are positioned at the altar. These three candles usually consist of one pillar candle, (the Unity Candle), centered between two taper candles, (the "side candles"). During the ceremony, the bride and groom each light the side candles from burning altar candles. The couple then lights the Unity Candle in the center from their respective side candles and extinguish the side candles.
This act symbolizes the bride and groom "becoming one in marriage". A contemporary variation on this tradition is to have the parents of the bride and groom, or the brides maid and best man, light the side candles from the altar candles and to have the bride and groom take their respective parents' side candle to light the Unity Candle. We still hand pour a molded unity candle called the 'Lovers Candle'. A celebrity once called me who had just gotten a divorce, and she said she burned off the husbands half of the candle.
Will the Chakra energy candles really enhance my chakras?
Not likely. We worked with experts in the chakra healing arts to get a consensus on which pure essential oil blends would be best to support the life energy and vital organs associated with each chakra center. I would not take it as far as to suggest you're going to light any candle and have a life transforming Kundalini experience. Articles on healing or opening of the chakras often recommend massage, fasting and purification, lifestyle changes, meditation and yoga.
How do I use the Feng Shui candles to improve my environment?
So far we have written these Feng Shui articles and over time, we will be adding more information and likely new Feng Shui products.
How can I tell if I'm buying a quality candle?
Unless a candle has an obvious defect, you probably can't tell just by looking. That's why we recommend that you purchase candles from a reputable manufacturer that uses vegetable wax or beeswax, and uses (mostly) real essential oils for fragrance.