In the past decade there has been a growing trend away from beeswax candles towards soy candles. The growing trend has left a lot of us wondering which candle is actually best, for us and for the environment?
To really dive into this topic, we have looked at the pros and cons of the two different types of candles.
What is Soy Wax?
Soy wax is a vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. According to Wikipedia "to produce soybean oil, the soybeans are cracked, adjusted for moisture content, heated to between 60 and 88 °C (140–190 °F), rolled into flakes, and solvent-extracted with hexanes". This soybean oil is then hydrogenated and turned into wax which can be used for candle making.
What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a by-product of honey production. Bees produce excess honey in wax honeycombs. These honeycombs are then harvested by the bee keepers, the honey is extracted, leaving the beeswax behind. This beeswax can then be refined through heating and passing through a sieve to remove any impurities and can be used in candle making or in food production, beauty products and many other industries.
Which is more Natural? Soy wax or Beeswax?
Because they are both products of the Earth, at first glance they are both natural. After closer inspection however, they both have significantly different production methods.
On one hand, Beeswax has been produced for years simply by removing the honeycomb from the hive and extracting the honey. All that is needed for the wax to be produced is heating to separate the excess honey and strain out the impurities. Soy wax however must go through extraction by machine and solvents, prior to being hydrogenated into wax and then used in candle making.
I'd say it is safe to say that beeswax wins the more natural debate!
Which is more Eco Friendly?
This subject is a touchy one and anyone with a vested interest in selling candles will have an opinion. It also touches on the Vegan debate- one which I will not cover here. Because it is not a simple topic, there will always be debates over which is better. Each individual needs to make up their own mind and do the best they can. Remember- "Progress, not perfection" ;)
Deforestation & Climate Change?
An article published by Engage the Chain, states that "In the Amazon, an area of the world that plays a vital role in regulating the global climate, soybean production has historically been a major driver of deforestation."
Deforestation is one of the main issues facing the Amazon today.
"The cutting down and plowing up of natural vegetation for soybean production generates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. It also leads to the loss of biodiversity, which impacts not only the health of the local ecosystem but also the local populations that depend on these natural resources to survive."
What about the People?
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) "Without proper safeguards, the soybean industry is causing widespread deforestation and displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples around the globe. "
Soy wax seems innocuous at first, however it is really not very environmentally friendly at all.
Which is more renewable?
Don't get me wrong, both waxes are renewable. They are both products of the Earth, however due to the heavy mono cropping of soy beans to produce food and industry products, soy wax has proven to not be the most environmentally friendly renewable resource out there. Also it's processing relies heavily on industry, whereas processing of beeswax does not.
Beeswax, unlike soy wax, has been extracted since ancient times and has a long history of being truly renewable. As long as we look after the environment in which the bees live, they will continue to produce honey and therefore beeswax.
Is it biodegradable? Compostable?
Because they are both natural waxes, soy wax and beeswax are both fully biodegradable and compostable.
I hope that this article has answered some of the common questions that you may have regarding the eco-friendliness of soy and beeswax candles.
If you have anything to add to this, or would like to let us know your opinion, please leave us a comment below!