What is paraffin?
Paraffin is basically the "bottom of the barrel" petroleum sludge that remains in oil refineries once every other product (jet fuel, gasoline, motor oil, etc.) has been extracted. It's a combustible waste material that is the primary ingredient for more than 90% of the world's candles. Read more about the toxicity of paraffin candle fumes here.
Why is it that I occasionally have trouble lighting my candles? Am I doing something wrong?
To answer the second question first: You're not doing anything wrong, but there is something you can do to solve this issue. If you ever have a wick go out during the initial lighting of the candle, simply hold the match or lighter to wick where it meets the candle for 3 - 10 seconds. This usually does the trick. Now, to answer the first question: During GoodLight's first year, we only used uncoated wicks in our candles because most wicks on the market are coated with paraffin. The paraffin coating helps the flame initially light the candle when it (the flame) first touches the candle. Without that coating, our wicks sometimes didn't have enough "fuel" to stay lit when they first touched the candle. Kind of embarrassing, but luckily this was only happening to a tiny percentage of our candles. Earlier this year we found a supplier with a vegetable oil-coated wick that tested positively for us, and we recently started making GoodLight with these wicks. So far, it looks like this new wick has eliminated the earlier problem.
What is palm wax? Is it related to palm oil?
Palm wax is basically a refined version of palm oil. Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. One of many types of palm trees, the oil palm is the most efficient oil-producing plant in the world, yielding 4 - 10x more oil per acre than rapeseed or soy. This means that you can get a lot more oil out of a lot less land when you're growing palm trees, allowing more land elsewhere to be preserved. Palm is grown in tropical regions where rainfall is abundant, necessitating less irrigation than most crops. And instead of being an annual crop that needs to be mowed down every year (causing topsoil erosion), it’s a non-GMO tree that lives for 25 years on a plantation, producing one ripe bunch of fruit each month to be harvested; this makes it a rapidly renewable resource.
I've heard that palm oil is related to rainforest destruction and wildlife habitat loss. Can you please elaborate, and explain how GoodLight is involved?
Yes, we can definitely elaborate on what is a very complex issue: Over the past few decades there has been some serious environmental degradation in Southeast Asia where more than 80% of the world’s palm oil is grown; much of this destruction has come from timber and palm interests. Peat lands have been drained, forests have been bulldozed, wildlife habitat (especially that of the orangutan) has been lost, and communities have been displaced—all very nasty stuff that is undeniably wrong. As counter-intuitively as it may seem, the more we learned about this dark side of palm, the more compelled we felt to get involved. That’s because we saw an opportunity to make a difference. We don’t feel—as some of our fellow environmentalists do—that boycotting palm was or is a realistic way to effect a change. The global market for this commodity is too huge (it is the most voluminous plant-based oil on the market today), and it will continue to increase as populations grow. We believe that the only way to have any sort of positive impact on the palm industry—the only way to put an end to deforestation, the only way to shift the paradigm of this monoculture towards permaculture—is with market-driven change. This approach has been inspired by such triple-bottom-line companies as Patagonia. They didn’t quit making cotton clothing because it’s the most pesticide-laden crop in the world; instead, they switched to organic cotton. The Organic Trade Association states that global production of organic cotton rose 20% from 2007 to 2008, and global sales of organic cotton grew 35% between 2008 and 2009. That’s obviously not all of Patagonia’s doing, but their influence is significant. This line of reasoning about market-driven change extends to organic foods, recycled paper products, alternative energies, and palm oil. In 2003 the World Wildlife Fund got key industry and government entities together and founded the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The RSPO developed a set of criteria to redress the negative impacts palm was having on our planet and its people. These standards promote sustainable farming practices, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. In 2008, the RSPO certified its first sustainable plantations and mills in accordance with these criteria. Since then, more growers and mills have been certified, and it’s beginning to have an impact: In 2010, 3.5 million tons of palm oil came from RSPO-certified plantations—double the amount from the year before. One of the great things about the RSPO certification process is that once a company gets its first plantation or mill certified, the company has to set a prompt timeline to bring all of its holdings into compliance. Truly living up to the name roundtable, the RSPO hosts a yearly international conference that brings together industry players, government bodies, NGOs, and environmental groups to discuss the issues brought on by palm agriculture and to find solutions to its problems. With so much input and feedback, the organization continues to evolve and increase its efficacy. While some continue to criticize the RSPO for not doing enough, GoodLight is a proud member of the RSPO that enthusiastically supports its efforts. It is no small task mediating so many conflicting interests, and the RSPO has done a commendable job of stepping up to the plate and initiating progress towards sustainability. GoodLight is also a member of GreenPalm, an organization that keeps track of how much crude palm oil (and palm kernel oil) is produced by RSPO-certified plantations, and then brokers its sale on the market. Since there is a limited separate supply chain for RSPO-certified palm oil, and since we are a small company that cannot afford our own plantations and mills, it is difficult for us to guarantee that the wax used to make our candles comes from palm oil that is “identity-preserved.” We therefore pay a premium for sustainable palm oil through GreenPalm to “book and claim” the source of our raw materials. This way we know that our (and your) money is going to RSPO-certified plantations and the farmers who have made the choice to be part of the solution (like Sime Darby, who supplied the certificates for all of our palm oil/wax in 2010). The idea behind this is simple: pay growers more money for crops farmed sustainably and thereby incentivize environmental stewardship. (It’s the same thing we do every time we buy an organic banana or apple at the grocery store.) GreenPalm also donates a percentage of our transactions to the RSPO. To date, GreenPalm has given the RSPO over $2 million so that it may continue to grow and help shape the industry in a positive way. Of course, GoodLight just got started and for now is just a small player in the world of palm. But the more candles we create—the more GoodLight we spread around the world—then the more we can influence positive change. We want to be a part of the solution, specifically by advancing moratoriums on deforestation, creating wildlife migration corridors and waterway buffer zones within existing plantations (large-scale permaculture is possible!), and ensuring corporations are responsible to the communities from which they are profiting—all the time while offering our customers affordable, clean-burning, non-toxic, paraffin-free candles.
What can I do with leftover wax? Can I compost it? What about the packaging? Can it be recycled?
If there is any wax or wick remaining when you are done burning your GoodLight Natural Candles, you can definitely compost it. Please recycle the empty aluminum tea light cups, as well as our packaging. Thanks!
We at Kula love to burn GoodLight candles. We have used their pillars, votives, and tealights in our space, and the palm wax candles always give us exactly what we are looking for: Natural, warm light that comes from a good place and good people.
Kula Yoga Williamsburg,