Disclaimer: Before you start to read this blog I need to just stress I am no expert on soy production, I have made my decision to stop using soy based on what I have read from many sources and the way I feel about it for my business.
I’ve been making candles professionally now for about 10 years. I first made candles when I was aged 8 at a local craft workshop, it was one of those multi-coloured dipped candles with layer upon layer of wax. I’m sure you can just imagine just how much fun that was, all that drippy wax and making a good old mess. My grandparents treasured it (even though it looked like a fat oddly shaped sausage) and it sat on their mantle-piece for years
Fast forward many years and after watching a craft show with Kirsty Allsopp, I watched as she made her own candles. I was intrigued and just fancied having a go myself again, using old teacups as my containers. As I began researching how to’s and different ingredients when I came across natural wax – specifically soy wax which was so gentle you could make candles in old teacups and not damage them. I had already discounted paraffin waxes because of its nasty ingredients, so I ordered myself a kit and got cracking.
The first few attempts were a bit hit and miss of course but I picked it up pretty quickly and was rather pleased with myself at the results I was getting. I started making candles as gifts for friends & family and the ladies in my office. It wasn’t long before I was getting requests for candles to buy. At the time I was setting up a vintage china hire and events business so I had loads of spare teacups and old glassware which I used to make my candles in. It was a great way to promote my business in between events and I also made candles as wedding favours too.
I loved using soy wax, it’s a fantastic easy to use wax. It’s natural, carries a fragrance beautifully and best for me it cleans up really well – essentially it’s a vegetable fat which makes brilliant candles and doesn’t damage the container it’s made in. So teacups and glassware were a perfect gift, once the candle was gone you were left with a beautiful vintage teacup or lovely piece of cut glass to keep using.
As my business developed I continued to use Soy wax for almost 10 years. During this decade I had made sure that my soy came from no GM crop, from sustainable sources and reputable companies. I used the best fragrances oils I could find, high quality oils which gave out a great fragrances, didn’t smell synthetic and lasted.
After attending a course on how to make your business greener, I began to think more about each element of the process and researched more about the wider implications of where my ingredients come from. I also considered how much packaging I used and how I could take steps to consider my impact more. None of this has been an overnight solution, it does take time to implement the changes and some are harder to do than others.
my original candles
I started by removing any plastic wrap from my candles in favour of cardboard boxes. I removed the plastic/metal lids in favour of recyclable timber ones. I was already using natural wax, cotton/linen wicks and top quality fragrances. But I wanted to experiment with essential oils and trying different waxes. I brought several pure essential oil fragrances into my range and they were received really well. But something just kept bugging me about the soy wax, I kept reading articles about the wider implications of soy production on the planet.
I need to stress again I am by no means any kind of expert on Soy. Over time I have read many articles about the pros and cons of soy production and many of the things I have learned just don’t sit comfortably with me.
Whilst I have loved using soy wax for its performance it is a by-product of a wider industry that has been responsible for a huge amount of deforestation, much of which has taken place in the Cerrado Basin in Brazil. This area in Brazil is home to around 5% of all species on Earth. It is also home to over 10,000 species of plants, 50% of which are unique to the area. Deforestation in such biodiverse areas like this hugely impacts natural resources and water security of the animals and plants living there.
Soy is grown on an industrial worldwide scale requiring a huge amount of water and is mainly shipped from the USA -so not gentle on natural resources or air miles. The US, Brazil & Argentina produces 80% of the world’s soy crops with many plantations within the Amazon regions. Around 75% of the worlds soy crops are fed to animals, so between soy production and cattle ranching in South America they have a huge cumulative impact on the planet. Ultimately there is a much bigger issue here about soy production to feed livestock but that’s a whole different conversation about veganism.
I’m not saying that all soy products are evil and this is personal to me, the more I have learned about soy, the less it feels right for me to keep using it when there are such superb alternatives. Whilst soy is a natural product and far better than using paraffin based waxes for candles, I wanted to move to using an ingredient that is grown closer to home with more positive benefits.
I decided from the beginning I wanted to make FERN+FELL 100% natural. My wax is a special blend made from coconut + rapeseed and my fragrances are 100% pure essential oils. I continue to use natural cotton/linen wicks for the cleanest burn. Simple ingredients, no additives, no chemicals, no dyes and made as simply as possible.
Why I decided to use rapeseed & coconut wax
• Produced in Europe, less air miles
• Produced from sustainable crop
• No GM crop
• Not intensively farmed, does not cause deforestation
• Rapeseed is a high nectar crop which supports bee populations
• Vegan, cruelty free and NOT tested on animals
• Excellent hot & cold scent throw
• Burn time exceeds 40 hours + on 275g candles
Essential oil candles do have a more subtle fragrance than a synthetically produced perfumed oil - so if you like a seriously strong candle you might prefer a paraffin candle made with perfumes. For me it’s much more about using a natural product and the aromatherapy benefits that come with a pure fragrance.
I will be exploring the benefits of the individual oils I use in my next blog so stay tuned if you would like to learn more about the combinations I have used.
Thanks for reading