Talking of candles…

Homemade soya candles in tuna tins with homemade paper and raffia string

Talking of candles, aren’t they romantic and cosy? I mentioned them in point 4 of the last post on electricity – why not try blackout night once or twice a week? Detach from electronics, experience how our forefathers lived AND cut the usage of gas, oil and coal used to make electricity.

But did you know that some candles can also be toxic? I mentioned that in the previous post in a very short sentence so I would like to add more info here on this issue.

Fun Facts: Asia Pacific dominated the wax market in terms of volume and revenue in 2013 and is considered a manufacturing hub for major manufacturing industries across the globe; China is the center of the hub – this is actually NOT a fun fact as you will see later on. As of 2015, Europe and America are the biggest consumers, followed by China.

Now let’s go back to toxicity in candles for which you will have to understand the constituent parts: The wax, the wick and the scent.

The Wax: Candles can be made from many types of waxes which all have pros and cons:

  • Paraffin wax: Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product that is created from the sludge waste when crude oil is refined into gasoline. Most candles are made from this. It emits black soot loaded with highly toxic benzene and toluene when burned (both are known carcinogens). In fact, the toxins released from paraffin candles are the same as those found in diesel fuel fumes. Sheeeeeesh! Problem is that it is cheap and you get it everywhere- Argh!
  • Palm wax: This may be the longest burning natural, vegetable-derived wax. The candles are virtually smoke-free; almost sootless with a cotton wick but since it is a challenging material to work on, these are costly to buy.
  • Soy wax: Soy is a renewable resource and pure soy wax is toxin-free. The candles, which produce little soot, last a long time.
  • Pure beeswax: Burns clean and long and is the all-natural wax from honeybees The candles are virtually drip-free and no artificial scents are needed. However, the candles are expensive 😦 Draaaaat
  • Bayberry wax: This is an aromatic green vegetable wax. It is removed from the surface of the fruit of the bayberry shrub by boiling the fruits in water and skimming the wax from the surface of the water. Its traditional use in candles dates back to the colonial period. However, tis expensive, as you might have guessed. Parp!
  • Mineral oil and resin compounds: This is the better option for people allergic to paraffin. The candles are clean and the higher melting point means less soot and allergic reactions.
  • Mineral-oil based gel: This is an easier material to handle for candle makers as clear gel makes possible various designs, such as floating beads, glitters, underwater scenes etc. However, these candles must be in heat-resistant glass containers as when the candle comes in a fragile glass container, glass shards and melted wax may explode and cause injury – jeez!

The Wick: Another of the main concerns over candles is the wick. Different wicks are used for different purposes and they can be divided into two main categories: cored and non-cored wicks.

Non-cored wicks are usually made of a braided or twisted cotton and considered the safest to burn. Cored wicks are usually made of cotton around a paper or metal core. Zinc, tin, and lead are standard compounds used in its composition. Burning candles with lead-cored wicks is now known to cause lead poisoning, and there are similar concerns about zinc-cored wicks. Australia and the US have banned lead wicks but alas, most candles are curently coming from countries like China where no such regulations exist 😦

The Scent: Top-of-the-range candles are scented with natural perfumes or essential oils. But since they are costly and difficult to add in large quantities, many of the mass-market products contain synthetic fragrances and sometimes dyes that can give off harmful particles when they are heated.

Bearing in mind that candles are often lit in poorly ventilated rooms, such as bathrooms, or during the evening when windows are likely to be closed, the release of chemicals can cause indoor pollution that is potent enough to raise the  risk of asthma, eczema and  skin complaints.

So, you wail forlornly, “what about blackout night? ” Here is my advice: stick to soya or beeswax – you don’t need to bust the bank buying tons of candles – as these two burn long and well, just a few will get you through many weeks of blackout fun 🙂 Ooooh and, why not MAKE your own candles? They can be so much fun plus you can reutilise containers! Next post!

Glass jars, old tuna tins and any old tin have been used 

Step 4: Bulk Goods


You now have a fair idea now of all the items you have been buying which come in or are wrapped in plastic – pretty huge, huh? (Quick, remember your mantra and chant it a few times round about now). Wanna lower that number?

A good way to lower that number is by starting with your kitchen and the answer, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Bulk Goods!

Gulp! BULK goods? But I am just one/two! Why would I/ we need food items in BULK! (Minor heart attack/ FullSizeRender-3 19.02.49hysteria etc). Relax! The goods come in bulk which doesn’t mean that you have to buy in bulk. You can buy as much or as little as you like. The important thing is that no packaging is involved! (Gasp ) These goods include lentils, dried beans, peas, rice, flours, sugar, nuts, seeds, even cereals for your breakfast etc. The best bit is that you can either take your own bags ( buy some muslin ones) or use the bags these sort of places supply. Some places give you plastic bags- ARGH, avoid these like the plague! You also don’t want to end up throwing the paper bags  other places do supply so TAKE YOUR OWN BAGS. Most shops will weigh your bags and discount it from the total. Isn’t that cool?

IMG_6378.JPGI am very lucky in that there is a shop selling bulk oils including carrier oils plus vinegars and liquors, near my home. I love the amphorae the oils are displayed in, don’t you? I walk over every 2 months or so with my old glass bottles of oil/ vinegar and they get refilled with whichever variety of oil I choose to buy – usually a Spanish, local, virgin olive oil.



If you aren’t the type or simply don’t have the time or energy to make your own, you won’t believe what I am going to say next but, shops selling detergents, soaps, shampoo, conditioners and other cleaning products in bulk exist too! Yep! A 10 minute walk away from the bulk oil place, I have this little gem, run by the nicest and chattiest woman you can find. A real gem! I usually buy shampooo, floor cleaner and limescale cleaner here – I make the rest ( and will tell you how!).

There, that is a huge number of your total plastic weight out of the way! BRAVO! Go and reward yourself with a lovely glass of wine or whatever cooling and or alcoholic beverage you  fancy, for you deserve it!