Turn off the lights, just don’t light any candles

Today was the WWF Earth Hour event. CNN reports:

The environmental group WWF has urged governments, businesses and households to turn back to candle power for at least 60 minutes Saturday starting at 8 p.m. wherever they were.

Yes, for some bizarre reasons candles are viewed as good for the environment. I first assumed it was just media and folks in general that were confused, but nope. On the Earth Hour FAQ you can read:

If you plan on burning candles during Earth Hour, make sure you use 100% beeswax candles which are gentler on our planet – smoke free, non-toxic and non-allergenic. They are also made of natural products, not petroleum-based materials, so they are effectively carbon neutral (the CO2 they emit has already been taken from the atmosphere to produce the wax).


Here’s an idea: let’s use beeswax for all our energy needs, since it’s carbon neutral.

(Of course, most people will burn paraffin candles, which are a by-product of, you guessed it, the petroleum industry.)

Why must environmental consciousness always seem to come with a dose of Luddism? Burning candles is a great way to add more CO2 to the atmosphere.

In my house most lamps are CFL (compact fluorescent) or halogen. They’re much more expensive, of course, but far greener. Indeed, CFL is several hundred (!) times more energy efficient than candles. The vast majority of the energy from a candle goes to heat and lighting in frequencies your eye can’t pick up anyway (e.g. infrared and ultraviolet).

Even good old-fashioned incandescent lights are much more efficient than candles.

Plus, the energy of the candle is 100% combustion-based. That means CO2. As opposed to the grid, which in North America is only 65% from combustion (the rest is nuclear, hydro, or renewable sources).

So yes, by all means, light those candles, and add some more CO2 to the world. Me, I celebrated Earth Hour by buying a neat new charger for my rechargeable batteries, plus a bunch of the new hybrid rechargeable batteries to try out.

And I threw my candles in the trash. Most US trash goes to landfills. So this way I’m doing some CO2 sequestering, too…


  1. Stuart

    Thank you so much for saying this! When I read that the residents of Australia were celebrating turning their lights out by lighting bonfires on the beach, I thought, “Wait a sec! Wouldn’t it be better to LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON and NOT start a bonfire?”

    Hey, even better, let’s make everyone on the planet go without lights for every night, but allow everyone to light bonfires. That would really cut down on the CO2.

    Our electricity comes from nuclear, wind, and yes, coal; but the CFLs are far better to leave on for that hour considering the source of the power (even coal plants are regulated to be cleaner than just an open fire) that generating light (and heat!) from a fire.

    [PSM] I wonder what the effective lumens / g CO2 equiv is? 🙂


  2. Karl Reimer


    Excellent article. I esp like the reference to government Luddism.

    The silliness reminds me of a rumoured politician campaigning on an environmental issue.

    He said “We know how concerned you all are about the pH of that water supply. I can assure you, if you vote for us, we will get that pH down to zero…..”

    Oh my goodness!


  3. Peter great post. So, instead of burning candles during Earth Hour use a Freeplay Indigo – crank it with some elbow grease and watch the light pour fourth! Here’s the link: http://www.freeplayenergy.com/product/indigo


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