Pearlized Candles – a sustainable alternative to pillar candles

January 2, 2024

For as long as we can remember, we’ve been decorating weddings with candles, typically paraffin wax candles. There’s nothing more romantic than lighting up an event that’s so full of love with a ton of candle light. If you’re a wedding florist, you’ve probably also figured out that there’s money to be made if you add glass cylinders and pillar candles to your inventory. You can reuse the glass, and often the candles too, and the rental becomes pure profit! It should be this easy, shouldn’t it? But there are three problems with this scenario, and our clients are likely unaware of them all! We are going to discuss them all, and then I am going to solve ALL your problems! Pearlized candles are a sustainable alternative to pillar candles!

One problem with paraffin wax is that it is is a byproduct of petroleum purification. When oil is refined, a mixture of oil and wax, called slack wax, is left behind. To make paraffin wax, slack wax is heated and distilled in order to produce a desirable mixture of oil and wax. Recently a study was done at South Carolina State University, in which researchers analyzed the substances emitted into the air from various kinds of candles, including paraffin, beeswax, and soy candles. Researchers found that the paraffin candles emitted substances that were known carcinogens, Toulene and Benzene, which are contained in petroleum, coal, or shale oil, the materials from which paraffin wax is derived! The candles made from naturally derived substances (soy and beeswax) emitted no toxins.

Toulene and Benzene can cause a whole host of health problems such as headaches, cancer, nausea and respiratory issues. This article has tons of links to well known U.S. and international organizations that have researched these issues, if you’re interested in further reading.

These health issues are likely not the end of the world for a typical person who is lighting scented candles in their home and/or attending occasional weddings in well ventilated areas. However, for a seasoned wedding vendor, who is around burning candles every weekend, and who is blowing out candles every weekend, that risk starts to be a little greater!

Here’s another little tidbit for you to also think about. I can find MANY articles about the SC State study on the internet. I can even find several links to it. But none of the links to it work. Additionally, in 2005, the American Lung Association issued a warning to the National Candle Association (NCA) about the dangers of paraffin, and were promptly threatened with legal action. The NCA has also sent letters to others who have tried to warn the public. Interestingly, it seems that the oil industry has taken an interest in the candle industry, with prominent members of the oil industry have been known to sit on the board of the NCA, and ExxonMobile is a leading supplier and distributor of paraffin wax. Interpret that however you like, but I never like hearing about large special-interest groups working to control the way information is disseminated to the public. Do your own research.

The second problem with paraffin candles is the insane amount of labor that comes with them. In order to be able to use them onsite, they either need to be packed separately, clean glass vases in one box and candles in another, which takes up more space, or, they can be packed together, but the tops of the candles need to be wrapped, so that the wax doesn’t make a ring on the glass during transport. This may not be a huge deal, but the major labor comes when the candles come back to the studio. 9 times out of 10, the candles have melted onto the glass, and there is no good way to get it off. Everyone has their favorite, and we know them all. Leave them in the cooler, soak them in hot water, use a heat gun. Likely, you’ll need to employ more than one of these methods to get all the wax out, then you may need to wash some of the vases with soapy water and then you’ll need to windex the glass. AND THIS LABOR HAS TO HAPPEN AFTER EVERY EVENT. This labor is why we charge more for the rental, but it can seem never ending, can’t it?

The third problem with using paraffin candles is the trash they create. While many of us reuse our pillar candles for as long as possible, we can’t do that forever. At some point, we have to throw them away. That’s just more trash headed for the landfill! And let’s be honest, we’ve all done it…… raise your hand out there if you’ve ever just said “F*ck it” and thrown the glass out too, because you didn’t feel like making the effort to get all that stubborn wax out. I totally get it. We’ve all been there. The point is, it’s just more trash.

What if I told you I had a solution to all three of these problems?

What if I told you there’s a solution that solves the health risk problem, the trash problem AND the labor problem? I know, that kind of statement always sounds too good to be true. You may have already heard about Pearlized Candles (also called Sand Candles). While most brands will solve only one of these problems, only a few will solve all three. I was not asked to promote this particular brand, but I’d love to tell you why I’ve chosen to switch all of my pillar candles to LovaCandles. These pearlized candles are a sustainable alternative to pillar candles.

LovaCandles are made up of tiny white pearlized granules that you fill your vase with. You can literally fill ANY size or shape vase you want! You add a wick and light your candle as usual. The effect is a super luxe candle that is the full size of the cylinder you filled (which is likely wider than the pillar candles that you have typically used in the past!). When your event is done, simply blow out the candle, and let the melted wax cool around the wick. Then, you simply pull out the wick and the melted wax together and toss it in your compost pile. You can top off the pearls and add a new wick for your next event.

Problem 1: Health Concerns. Well this is the easiest one. Since LovaCandles is an all-natural product, it is completely biodegradeable. It burns cleanly, with no soot, and no emissions of known carcinogens. Problem solved.

Problem 2: Labor. The other place where these candles really shine is in the reduction of labor. With a typical paraffin candle, we know that spilled wax is a major issue. With pearlized candles, it is really rare that the melted wax gets on the side of your vase, and when it does, it’s really easy to clean off. Additionally, because you are not constantly having to clean the glass, there’s no need to constantly windex. The cylinders can stay filled with the pearls and just get topped off for each event. The cleanup after an event consists of removing wicks and topping off vases. Maybe 10% of the glass might need to be cleaned, and a lot of that can be mitigated by making sure that the wicks are placed directly in the center of the vase.

Problem 3: Trash. LovaCandles creates little to no waste for your studio – HUGE change from paraffin pillar candles. You might be wondering how the granules can be put in the compost heap. The LovaCandles are made of ethically sourced RSPO Certified palm wax from Malaysia. The truth is that any type of plant or animal based wax is biodegradeable and compostable (soy, beeswax, coconut etc). So, there will never be a need to throw any of the pearls away, and DEFINITELY no need to throw away a vase!

Rebecca Theresa Photography (left)

A few other benefits are worth noting, I think. On top of creating little to no trash, posing no health risks, generating way less labor for my studio, and not supporting the oil industry, these candles have definitely made my events feel more luxurious. I genuinely think that, on top of all these other benefits, they just look nicer. In the event industry, we obviously have to think of this in addition to all of these other factors!

I also wanted to mention that, there is even a wax calculator on the LovaCandles’ website where you can enter in the vase sizes that you have in your inventory and it will tell you how much pearled wax you need for your event. Or you could even calculate how much you’d need to fill your whole inventory, which is what I did, in the beginning. So helpful!

I know I’ve gone on and on but I’m hoping it’s a really easy choice for you to make the switch. Between the time saved on labor, the amount of waste that isn’t created, and all the environmental and sustainability factors, it seems like a no brainer. The sky is really the limit with the containers that you can fill. I really feel like I’m able to offer a more elevated look. These pearlized candles are a sustainable alternative to the pillar candles that we’ve all been using since we started our businesses.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that there is definitely some controversy over palm oil, even sustainably sourced palm oil. But I feel that in life you are just faced with choices and, in this case, I think that this is the best choice I can make. I continue to be on the lookout for this type of product that is made with an even more sustainable material, like beeswax or soy.

Here are a few resources on Toulene and Benzene if you want to read more. Here is a Hazard Summary on Toulene from the EPA. Here is an Overview on Toulene from OSHA. Lastly, here is an article from The American Cancer Society outlining Benzene exposure and it’s link to cancer.

Since Sweet Blossoms has made this change to pearlized candles as a sustainable alternative to pillar candles, you may be wondering what I did with all the old paraffin candles? Because THAT would definitely make a lot of trash, wouldn’t it?! Since our gift shop has a focus on sustainability, I thought it would be cool to melt down all the old candles and make new, smaller, retail candles. Each candle is hand poured, and may have some small imperfections, but they are 100% made from recycled event candle wax. My hope is that if people enjoy them enough, we can begin a buy-back program, where we take candles from other florists making the switch! Click here to check out our gift shop!