The soy-ful light of the party

Nov 25, 2007 at 2:10 p.m. ET

One of my favorite things about the holidays is that it gives everyone an excuse to light candles at parties, gatherings, and for no reason at all save for their a peaceful and calming effect.

Multi-colored candles

With their vibrant colors and intoxicating smells, candles have a unique magical effect, which is why people love to give and receive them. This year, with so many candles on the market, I'd like to urge you to consider buying and giving soy and/or organic candles. Here's why:

For the last 150 years, petroleum paraffin has been the dominant material in candle wax. Paraffin literally comes from the bottom of the barrel in petroleum refining. After gasoline, fuel oils, lubricants and petrochemical feed stocks are removed from crude oil, what's left is paraffin. This is further refined and used to make candle wax with a little stearic acid added in for good measure. Burning paraffin wax candles releases a number of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. These pollutants include a dozen or more toxins, including toluene, benzene, formaldehyde and soot. On the bright side of things, there are a number of fantastic soy candle alternatives that are better for you and the environment and won't hurt your pocketbook.

Inhale a soy-ful delight
According to JK Soul Salts, an organic, all-natural line of bath & body products and candles, soy candles last up to 50% longer than petroleum-based paraffin. Not to mention, soy candles are non-toxic and produce very little soot. Made from American grown soybeans that support the US economy, soy candles are also biodegradable. Best of all, soy wax cleans up with a little soap and water. JK Soul Salts offers a wonderful selection of blissfully fragrant soy candles including Lavender, Neroli, Orange Blossom, Rosemary, Grapefruit, and Vanilla. Natural soy candles available at

Heaven scent
When established manufacturers decide they want to make changes that will help the environment, they have a different set of constraints to deal with than a new manufacturer. For existing corporations, a switch to organic/sustainable/ "green" ingredients doesn't happen overnight, it happens in stages. As consumers it's important to encourage large companies to make these changes even if they can't make a 100% jump immediately. Archipelago Botanicals is one company that I'm supporting in good faith that they will eventually make 100% soy candles. Each of their part soy candles is hand poured. With a 35 hour burn time it's a good choice for a holiday gathering. Archipelago Botanicals part soy candles are available in Fruit Wood-Cassis, Walnut Wood-Espresso, Linden Wood-Fig, Orange Wood-Spice, Ebony Wood-Vanilla. $17 at

Blissful glow
This heavenly scent is one of my favorite soy candles! Perfect for a long soak in the tub, this Citrus Lavender, Honey Sugar Butter, and Green Tea Jasmine soy candle will leave you feeling pampered and relaxed. Glospa part soy candles are $22. Available at and independent spas nationwide.

Bella candela
This sweet and sexy soy candle comes in a pretty glass container and will fill your bedroom with a warm glow and an intoxicatingly yummy scent whenever you need to unwind during the holidays. The all natural wicks and 100% pure VegeSoy wax give it a clean, non-toxic burn. A smaller, travel version is also available. Principessa soy candles come packaged in fabulous pink and black tins, making them the perfect gift for your favorite principessa. Bella Candela $20. Travel version $7; both available at

Magic lantern
The Amat� Bark Lantern Candles are hand-made exclusively for Inara, an organic body care line. Its unique lantern effect is a direct result of the candle being wrapped in handcrafted Amat� Bark paper, which is produced by a local cooperative using a traditional process. Created by hand in secluded Puebla villages, the bark is harvested from indigenous trees and transformed by native artisans using Pre-Columbian techniques. The primitive paper that results embodies native ritual and gracefully captures its own unique history. Made from a natural beeswax blend, the unique "lantern-effect" creates a mood of primitive simplicity. As the candle burns, the hand crafted glowing Amat� paper lantern is left standing. Available in all Inara blends: Ignite, Enliven and Quiet. To order go to

Buying and using organic candles helps further the aims of the international organic movement. Lumia Organic, as the first company to make wax from organic soy oil, is also the first organic candle company to apply for organic certification for wax from vegetable oil. Developing their own organic wax from organic soybeans grown by organic farmers, Lumia Organic offers a wonderful assortment of 100% biodegradable candles free from all petroleum products. Using a special technique that allows the three notes of each essential oil fragrance to emerge, these lovely candles are hand poured in the clean Rocky Mountain air of Boulder, Colorado. Fragrance-free candles are also available. It makes you feel good just reading about it! Available at

Here's to a soy-ful holiday season!