Tea lights - small mood highlights with a big effect
Festive mood on the dining table, flickering lanterns on the terrace or contemplative decorations on the windowsill - tea lights have become an integral part of our everyday life. The practical small candles are versatile and conjure up a romantic atmosphere in no time. They are used especially on gray autumn days and at Christmas time. They give our home small light accents and a pleasant warmth. But where does her name actually come from? And what about sustainability? In the following you will find out what types of tea lights there are and how you are doing something good for our environment when you buy them. In addition, we explain how you can make tea lights yourself and we give you decoration tips for every season.
From a niche product to a long-running hit
The small, inconspicuous-looking candles can be found in almost every household today. But where do the little lights actually come from? And what do they have to do with tea? The practical candles were invented in Holland. At that time they were given the name "Waxinelichtje". However, the Dutch did not use them for decoration, but to keep tea warm. The small candles were placed in the warmer under the teapot and in this way heated the popular hot drink with their flame - the tea light was born.
It's not surprising that the Dutch invented it. After all, it was they who first imported tea to Europe in 1610. In 1898, the Verkade company brought the tealight onto the market. For a long time, the lights were purely a niche product. It was not until the 1960s that they were no longer only used in the warmer, but also for lighting. Their triumphant march into the world began and they can now be found in probably every country on earth. Incidentally, the term "tea light", which is on everyone's lips today, was only included in the dictionary in 1973.
But what actually distinguishes a tealight from other types of candles? On the one hand, of course, it's the size. With a diameter of around 3.9 centimeters and a height of around 1.7 centimeters, tea lights are significantly smaller than conventional candle models. However, there are also larger tea light variants. In addition, the cylindrical lights are usually not freestanding, but are surrounded by a shell made of aluminum, plastic or glass. This is often the criticism of the small light sources. Because neither the often used paraffin wax nor the aluminum casings are considered sustainable. In the following sections we will explain which more environmentally friendly variants are available.
Depending on the type of wax, the lights have a burning time of about three to eight hours. The classic are the simple white tea lights. Today, however, you can find them in a wide variety of colors, from bright red to soft purple to deep black. The market also offers all kinds of scented candles in the form of tea lights. From vanilla to eucalyptus to apple and cinnamon scent - there is something for every taste.
Sustainable tealights and candles - cozy and environmentally friendly at the same time
Candle sales are booming! Especially the white tea lights, which are available in packs of 50 or 100 in the supermarket, should not be missing in any household. But what flickers so comfortably is often very uncomfortable for our planet. The enormous consumption of tea lights creates huge mountains of aluminum waste. Because the small aluminum sleeves are thrown away by most consumers as soon as the candle wax has burned down. At the same time, the carbon footprint of the wax used is in many cases anything but good.But how do I know which items are environmentally friendly and which products I should do without for reasons of sustainability? In the following we deal with the different types of wax that are used for tealight production
Paraffin - Advent, Advent that burns petroleum
Around three quarters of all candles in Germany and thus also the majority of the tea lights on the market are made from paraffin. This substance is obtained from mineral oil. More specifically, it is a by-product of petroleum refining. As with all petroleum products, the CO₂ balance is correspondingly poor. After all, crude oil is a non-renewable raw material that emits large amounts of CO₂ when it is burned. Added to this are the long transport routes. In rare cases, paraffin is also extracted from lignite.
Paraffin offers many beneficial properties for candle production. The substance is flammable, non-toxic and tasteless and odorless. Above a temperature of around 40 °C, paraffin begins to melt. For this reason, paraffin candles can easily deform, for example due to warm hands or long exposure to the sun. However, deformation and liquefaction is not a problem with tea lights, as the lights are held in shape by a shell made of aluminum or other materials. The so-called powder pressing process is usually used for paraffin candles. In this inexpensive industrial process, paraffin powder is pressed around a wick. Since paraffin candles have a rather low density, their burning time is comparatively short.
Stearin - a renewable but not always sustainable raw material
After paraffin, stearin is the second most important raw material in candle production. This is made from vegetable and animal fats, i.e. from renewable resources. What initially sounds like a very environmentally friendly product must be viewed with caution. Because stearin is often obtained from palm oil. In order to set up palm oil plantations, rainforests are often cleared or peat forests, in which large amounts of CO₂ are stored, are burned. Stearin from such sources is therefore anything but climate-neutral.
In certain cases, however, stearin tealights are a good choice for our planet. Namely when the stearin comes from sustainable agriculture. Ideal: tea lights made from rapeseed oil. Rapeseed is a fast-growing raw material that is also cultivated in our latitudes. In our online shop you will find tea lights made of 100% rapeseed wax - environmentally friendly and vegan. A non-vegan alternative are stearin candles made from animal fats. These are obtained from slaughterhouse waste. Since these are real by-products that are also produced regionally, their climate balance is excellent.
Even though stearin tealights are more expensive, they are also heavier and harder than paraffin candles. Because of this, they burn slower and you can enjoy their light longer.
Beeswax - a scarce luxury item
No additives, natural raw materials and a wonderful scent - beeswax candles are something very special. Regionally produced beeswax is considered to be extremely sustainable. At the same time, the raw material is very rare and also very expensive. No wonder: a colony of bees works for a whole year for one kilogram of pure beeswax! Beeswax is therefore not a real alternative for the high demand for tea lights. And beware: tea lights and candles made of beeswax are only considered climate-neutral if the wax is produced regionally. With imported raw materials, the long transport routes destroy the positive climate balance.
Tea lights without aluminum
The aluminum case is typical for tea lights. This ensures that the wax does not flow apart. Aluminum is often used because the material is heat-resistant, flexible and very light. Unfortunately, aluminum production is also very harmful to the environment. In order to extract the metal, the ore bauxite must be mined. This often leads to deforestation of rainforests. In addition, the waste product red mud is produced during production. This contains many toxic chemicals that can destroy entire ecosystems if they are discharged into rivers and lakes, as is common in many countries. In addition, aluminum production is very energy-intensive and causes enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. According to the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), the production of aluminum is responsible for around one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
As you can see, the production of the aluminum shells is a major burden on our environment. The small molds are now filled with wax and light up our home for a few hours and then - they usually end up in the garbage. It is important to dispose of them in the yellow bin, yellow sack or recycling bin. So there is at least a chance that they will be recycled. In principle, aluminum is easily recyclable. However, since these are often different alloys that can no longer be separated, a loss of quality during recycling has so far been unavoidable.
So what can you as a consumer do to reduce the environmental impact of aluminum and still not have to do without the pretty little lights? One option: You keep the empty aluminum shells after the wax burns off. Then you buy tea lights without a cover without aluminum, which are available in many places today. But it is also possible without aluminum. For example, there are tea lights with plastic covers. In our online shop you will find such tea lights without aluminum made from sustainable rapeseed wax. Alternatively, you can also opt for glass tea light holders.
A round thing - the many possible uses of the small light sources
As we already told you in the chapter about the history of the tea light, the small candles were once developed to make tea to keep warm. Of course you can still use them today and put them in the warmer under your teapot. The small flame keeps your favorite drink at the optimal temperature for hours. This not only works with tea, food can also be prevented from cooling down by placing tea lights under a warming grid. There are even cheese or chocolate fondues in miniature form that work with a simple tea light - practical and romantic at the same time.
The small light sources are mainly used today for decoration and lighting. The individual flames create magical light accents in the home and a truly cozy flair. Above all, of course, they are used during the Christmas season. In pretty tea light glasses that shimmer golden or silver, the festive spirit comes up. But tea lights are also very popular at other times of the year. For example, what do you think of an enchanting lantern on the terrace on a warm summer evening? They also come into their own on an autumn plate with rose hips and pine cones. In addition, the lights are perfect for decoration at weddings or other celebrations.
DIY: make your own tealights
How about a zero-waste tealight that you can easily make yourself ? The production is really fast.What do you need for this?
- Candle wax: First of all you need wax, of course. One option: You collect old candle stumps and melt these wax residues together. If you buy new candle wax, you should make sure that it was produced in an environmentally friendly way. Sustainably sourced soy or rapeseed wax is ideal.
- wick: In order for a candle to burn with little soot, it is important to choose the right wick size. The wicks should be very thin for tea lights.
- Container: If you still have empty aluminum molds, you can reuse them. Alternatively, tea light holders made of glass or plastic are also suitable.
First, cut the wicks to the right length and place them with the wick holder in the empty tea light molds. If the wicks are too long, the flame becomes too big and begins to smoke. Now the wax is gently melted in a saucepan on the stove. The easiest way to do this is over a water bath. The liquid wax is then poured into the tealight holder.
In addition to white tea lights, you can of course also create colored variants. There is special coloring wax in a wide variety of colors for this purpose. Or how about a scented tea light that spreads a pleasant aroma in your home? Simply add a few drops of essential oils to the liquid wax. Since the oils evaporate from a temperature of 55 °C, you should make sure that the wax is not too hot. Another pretty and aromatic idea: Mix a few lavender blossoms, coffee powder or herbs with the candle wax and enjoy your favorite scent.
Another tip for creative people: Surprise your loved ones with homemade tea lights for Christmas, in which you have hidden secret messages. To do this, place a round piece of paper between the wick holder and the tea light that you have previously painted or printed with a motif of your choice. If the candle is then lit, you only have to wait until the wax is liquid and your message appears - an individual gift with a surprise factor.
Buy sustainable tealights and candles at Wisefood
Would you like to buy tealights and candles with a green conscience? Then you've come to the right place at Wisefood. All our candles are made from renewable raw materials in Germany and are free of palm oil. In our online shop you will find a set of 40 tea lights. The white tea lights have a burning time of seven hours and burn without soot. They are made of 100% vegan rapeseed wax - an environmentally friendly and regional product for everyone who cares about the environment and still doesn't want to do without atmospheric candle lighting.