Why Ethical Palm Wax Candles?


How Are The Candles Fairly Traded?

The Indonesian factory where the tea lights are made is a model for human rights and a safer work environment. Moved at seeing the terrible working conditions and political tension in Jakarta, the CEO of the manufacturer decided to create a new and very different kind of candle factory. Unlike other Indonesian candle factories, this factory does not accept children into the workplace, but rather provides housing, medical benefits, paid vacations and maternity leave for all employees.

In 2001, a sister factory was opened in Java, Indonesia, using the same candle materials and technology. Managed and owned by Indonesians, it is set up as a "fair trade" company, where workers enjoy fair wages, medical benefits, paid vacations and maternity leave. This factory provides steady work for about 200 craftspeople in rural eastern Java. Palm Wax is imported from Malaysia; glass jars, packaging, and bamboo baskets are produced locally.

With the local plant manager, the candle company has created a modest, low-tech factory that makes candles and distills patchouli oil. By providing more productive livelihoods for the Indonesian people, they will be more motivated to plant a variety of soil-enriching field crops to supplement what has become a palm oil tree monoculture. The resulting strong sustainable farming will provide an economic alternative to illegal logging and poaching of endangered species.

Why Palm Wax?

In Europe, most households burn Palm Wax tapers. The flame is bright and they are essentially drip-less. Unscented palm oil tea lights are also very popular because they burn so clean and efficiently. Ounce for ounce, palm oil candles burn longer. The focus of the National Candle Association's two conferences was on non-paraffin and primarily vegetable waxes. Presenters and representatives of the largest fragrance and wax supply companies predict that all major manufacturers will be coming out with lines representing hybrid blends of paraffin and vegetable waxes. 100% Palm Wax attracts consumers that are more environmentally aware and health-conscious.

Why unscented candles?

The average person uses a dozen or more scented products in a day and is exposed to hundreds. There are increased complaints of fragrances causing or triggering health problems. Because of consumers' increasing exposure to so many different synthetic scents, the number of consumers who like the warmth of a candle flame but not the smell will only increase.

Inch-for-inch or ounce-for-ounce, unscented palm wax candles burn longer than other vegetable (soy, rice, cotton seed, coconut, bayberry, carnauba) and paraffin or beeswax candles.

Natural vs. Synthetic

There is a lot of controversy in the candle industry over the word 'natural' waxes. Some paraffin (petroleum derived) candle manufacturers claim their products are as natural as any vegetable-based wax. The manufacturer of these tea lights works only with plantations that are willing to convert to organic methods because they have only been using modest amounts of approved fertilizers or pesticides.

The Palm Wax is certified to be kosher, food grade, and not contain synthetics or petrochemicals in any form. The manufacturer is the first to work with growers in Java to develop organic methods for palm oil production. The candles are as safe to use as the soaps and lotions sold exclusively in health food stores. They are all made from the same palm oil.

Soot Free Candles

Candle soot results from the incomplete combustion of carbon particles, a feature of parrafin (petroleum) candles. It not only discolors walls and furniture but also can contaminate your home's ventilation system. Since soot particles are typically very small, they can potentially enter the deepest areas of the lungs. Elderly and children with asthma or any lung disease are especially vulnerable.

Unfortunately, soy candles also produce soot. In other words, the wax alone does not guarantee a clean burning, soot free, long burning candle. In general you could say the purest (those having less impurities) and best quality waxes make better fuels. Palm Wax produces less soot.

The cleanest burning candle is made with:

* Top grade fuel. The wax should burn up entirely leaving no residue.

* A cotton wick carefully calibrated for each type and size of candle specifically tested with each scent and color. The wick is like a finely tuned carburetor. It wicks the melted wax fuel, by capillary action, up into the flame where it is consumed to create light. If the wick is too small, it will not consume the fuel as fast as it is melted. So in a taper or pillar candle, it drips; and if it is a scented jar candle, it does not 'throw' the scent into the room.

* Wide mouth jar to ensure sufficient airflow around the wick.

* Scents and dyes that are designed for the type of wax. I recommend only mineral dyes that are compatible with essential oils.

Palm Wax Is a Virgin Oil That Contains No Harmful Petrochemicals

The Palm oil does not need to be refined, only filtered and deodorized. Like olive, it is a "virgin" oil, in the sense that it is extracted by simply squeezing the fruit. Soybeans do not produce as large a percentage of oil as palm fruit. All of the major refiners produce product by "cracking", hulling, and flaking and then extracting the oil from the beans using the solvent hexane in the extraction process. The oil is then chilled and the wax settles out of the oil.

Since the product is inhaled, is is good to avoid using products that contain any potentially harmful petrochemicals, like hexane (named in Proposition 65: California's "Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act").

Large soy refiners do not certify that soy oil (and therefore their wax) is not "GMO" (a genetically modified organism). The DNA of the soybeans has been modified with DNA from other organisms, either vegetable or animal. This process makes the plant more resistant to weed killers used around the soybeans without hurting the soybeans. Grains, beans and oils that are GMO either have been or may soon be banned in European Union countries. The palm oil used is not GMO.

Soy wax is more expensive than Palm Wax. Soy odor tends to compete with many of the more delicate fragrances. The colours of soy wax are more muted, versus the bright colors and crystallized look of Palm Wax.

Paraffin is the final byproduct in the petroleum refining chain. The same rationale for not using any petroleum-based product is also why some consumers prefer solar energy for homes. I prefer working with, and inhaling, a vegetable-based product. For more information from people who dislike paraffin, see a web article by Vicki Elmore Healthy & Natural Journal (10/01/2000) <> or search under soot and petroleum-based candles.

Why not use beeswax for aromatherapy and candles?

Beeswax burns too hot for use with diffusers. It is at least five times more expensive than palm, soy, or paraffin wax. It has a strong intrinsic odor that, unless bleached out, competes with most fragrances. It burns well. I like the fragrance of unscented, unbleached beeswax candles. Some vegans don't use bee related products, because these are animal products and factory farming of bees is just as cruel if not crueller than factory farming of mammals. I use beeswax in making lip balms only, and my wax is sourced from a local bee-keeping cooperative.