Coconuts provide many benefits for human health, and a lot of those benefits are due to coconut oil.
Coconut oil is moisturizing when applied as a beauty product and highly nutritious when consumed.
And another use for coconut oil has been discovered.
It’s called coconut wax and it is quickly taking the candle-making and beauty industry by storm.
But is coconut wax more sustainable than other types of wax?
Considering all of the great things we already know about coconuts, it may come as no surprise that coconut wax is one of the most sustainable waxes there is.
But why is coconut wax so sustainable? To find out, we’ll look at several different aspects of coconut wax in this article.
1. Is Coconut Wax Made Sustainably?
A product can be sustainable in many areas, including the conditions under which it’s grown or how it’s produced.
Of course, it’s better for products to be sustainable all-around. But even if a product is only sustainable in one area, it’s better than a product that isn’t sustainable in any capacity.
So the source of a product is just as important to examine as the production of it is.
With that being said, let’s examine separately how coconuts are grown and how the wax is produced so we can determine how sustainable it really is.
2. Where Are Coconuts Grown?
Coconut plants are very resilient and can survive in conditions that other plants can’t, including extreme heat and humidity and acidic, low-nutrient soil.
They also require a lot of water, which is why they’re grown almost exclusively in tropical rainforests and coastal regions around the world.
Commercially-produced coconuts are mostly grown and harvested by small-scale farmers concentrated in tropical Asian countries such as:
3. How Are Coconuts Grown And Cultivated?
A coconut tree grows from a single seed and can take as long as 8 years to begin producing fruit, although you could start seeing coconuts as soon as 3 years.
But once a tree starts producing, it will produce a new bunch of coconuts per month – with as many as 20 per bunch under ideal conditions.
And since they grow in tropical regions where it doesn’t get cold enough for them to go dormant, coconuts are in season year-round. That means that you could potentially get as many as 150 coconuts per year under ideal conditions.
Planting enough trees could produce thousands of coconuts per year, so overall it’s a pretty high yield for the small farms that grow them.
What’s even better is that a lot of coconuts are grown without the use of pesticides.
One study found no evidence of pesticide use in coconut crops. Another study found no traces of pesticides specifically in coconut water.
And although we’re focusing specifically on coconut wax in this article, all parts of the coconut can be used.
The kernel is used to make food products and coconut water. Coconut oil is also extracted from it which is used to make wax.
The coconut shell can be used to make bowls, home decor, and even charcoal.
The husk can be used to make natural products like rugs and ropes. Coir is also a material that is made out of the coconut husk and is used for doormats and in gardening.
And once the tree is no longer producing or has to be cut down for whatever reason, the leaves and trunk can be used as well.
Coconut leaves are used to make brooms and as a filler for floral arrangements. The trunk of the tree can be used for building furniture.
4. How Is Coconut Wax Produced?
Coconut wax is made from the flesh of the coconut. More specifically, coconut wax comes from coconut oil found in the fleshy part.
To make coconut wax, the oil has to first be extracted from the flesh. This is done by two methods: hot press and cold press.
Hot Press Method
In the hot press method, there are 3 ways that coconut oil can be extracted:
- The coconut is run through a centrifuge which separates the oil from the meat.
- The coconut is dried and a solvent called hexane is applied to extract the oil.
- The coconut is distilled using harsh chemicals like lye to remove the oil.
Obviously, the first method is the best option in terms of safety and sustainability. But even with the second method, the coconut oil undergoes refining to remove the hexane.
The third option is the most unfavorable because there is a high chance that even with refining, not all of the chemical residue will be removed.
Cold Press Method
In the cold press method, coconuts are dried so that the oil is easier to extract.
Next, a machine called an expeller is used to press the coconut and extract milk. Then it is run through a filter to remove impurities, which results in coconut oil.
Another cold press method involves fermenting the coconut milk. First, it is pressed using the expeller to extract milk.
The milk is left to sit for a day, where It will separate and form separate layers of cream, oil, and water. The oil layer is then filtered to remove impurities.
To form coconut wax, the coconut oil goes through a process known as hydrogenation. In hydrogenation, hydrogen is added to liquids to turn them into solids.
So What’s The Verdict?
The process of making coconut wax is pretty sustainable both in how coconuts are grown and how the actual wax is produced.
The high yield, absence of pesticides, and use of all parts of the plant all make growing coconuts sustainable.
But there are different processing methods used to make coconut wax and some are more sustainable than others.
For example, the cold pressing method is the most sustainable because chemical use is low. Hot pressing methods use more chemicals so they are less sustainable.
Overall, producing coconut wax is still more sustainable than most other types of wax.
5. Is Coconut Wax Eco Friendly?
The finished coconut wax product itself (and even the process of how it’s made) is very eco-friendly.
It is a natural product that contains no or very few chemicals and does little harm to the environment upon disposal.
However, the main concern surrounding the eco-friendliness of coconut wax lies in the growth of the coconuts themselves.
Although coconuts are grown in a more eco-friendly way than the soybeans that are used for soy wax, there are still a few concerns.
Coconuts being grown on a small-scale in the past meant that there were no large coconut farms or corporations taking charge of production.
Environmental impacts such as deforestation and pollution in the coconut industry haven’t been major problems.
Today, small coconut farmers still play a prominent role in commercial production of coconuts.
But over time, the increased demand for products made from coconuts – like coconut oil and wax – means that changes have occurred to the way coconuts are grown.
Of course, when things start to be produced on a larger scale, problems begin to come up such as a need for more land or more efficient cultivation methods.
That means there are more large coconut farms than there were in the past, especially in the primary coconut-producing countries listed earlier.
In fact, Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of coconuts at over 17.13 million metric tons.
But what do larger demand and larger farms potentially lead to?
Coconuts & Deforestation
One of the largest environmental issues with coconuts is deforestation.
To create larger coconut farms, deforestation usually occurs to create more usable land to grow coconuts on.
Deforestation creates habitat loss for both humans and animals. This can be detrimental to the environment especially considering the biologically diverse areas where coconuts are grown.
Although coconut wax is sustainable, impacts like deforestation that come from growing coconuts are still a major concern as demand continues to increase.
6. Is Coconut Wax Sourced Ethically?
A product that is ethically sourced will have little negative impacts on both the environment and on the people that work in that industry.
We’ve already covered the sustainability of coconut wax, but is it ethically sourced?
Remember that a lot of coconuts are grown by independent small farms who aren’t under the umbrella of larger corporations.
When it comes to the safety and working conditions of the people who harvest coconuts, a lot of the concern lies in these small farms themselves.
This video shows how coconuts are grown and harvested on a farm in Thailand.
As you can see, there is very little machinery involved in harvesting coconuts. This helps to keep them sustainable.
But growing and harvesting them requires hard work and often involves climbing the trees with little safety equipment. No matter how experienced the workers are, it still isn’t very safe.
It’s also worth noting that global production rates for coconuts have fluctuated over the last 20 years.
But the demand for coconut products isn’t showing signs of slowing down. It’s actually beginning to outpace the supply of coconuts.
Producers are struggling with how to increase production while still keeping coconuts as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.
Keeping crops sustainable can be expensive. And what’s worse is that a lot of these farmers are in poverty and living on as little as $1 per day.
Any impact that affects the coconut crop will affect coconut wax as well, and as of now there aren’t many solutions.
But one of the ways that you can help is by buying Fair Trade Certified coconut products. There are beauty products, candles, and food products.
These products are made from different aspects of the coconut, including wax, oil, and milk. Look for labels on products that recognize them as being Fair Trade.
Fair Trade Certified products help to ensure that products maintain protection, safe working conditions, and sustainable livelihoods for workers.
7. Is Coconut Wax A Natural Product?
Coconut wax is a natural product since it comes from a plant source. And what’s even better is that the production of the wax uses no or very few chemicals.
Even if chemicals are used, most of them are removed during refinement.
But since coconut wax is naturally white in color, sometimes dyes are added to give it more color especially in candle-making.
If dyes are organic and plant-based, then coconut wax is still natural. However, chemical dyes and other synthetic materials can make coconut wax less natural.
8. Is Coconut Wax A Vegetable Wax?
You may be thinking, “Coconuts aren’t vegetables, so how can coconut wax be a vegetable wax?”
But the term vegetable wax just implies that the wax came from a plant source.
Coconut wax is considered to be a vegetable wax since it is made from an oil naturally found in coconuts.
Other vegetable waxes include candelilla, carnauba, and soy wax.
9. Is Coconut Wax Biodegradable?
Yes, coconut wax is biodegradable. The lack of chemicals makes it safe to biodegrade.
And since it is a plant-based wax, it can be decomposed by bacteria and other organisms in the soil.
That means that it will decompose fairly quickly, likely in a matter of a few weeks.
10. Is Coconut Wax Compostable?
100% pure coconut wax is compostable.
But due to the many ways that coconut oil can be extracted and made into wax, there’s really no way to know how it was made – unless it specifically states it was cold-pressed.
If it was made using one of the hot press methods mentioned earlier, there’s a chance that there could still be traces of chemicals in the wax especially if refinement wasn’t properly done.
Dyes and other additives can also put chemicals into the wax.
Any chemicals can harm your compost. So unless you know for sure that the wax is 100% pure and chemical-free, don’t compost it.
11. Is Coconut Wax Recyclable?
Coconut wax and any other type of wax product are not recyclable.
It isn’t efficient or feasible to recycle wax because as you know, wax melts when heated.
The consistency of melted wax is sticky and can cause problems for recycling facilities because it can clog up the machines.
12. Is Coconut Wax Better Than Beeswax?
Coconut wax and beeswax top the list of most sustainable waxes.
They are both clean-burning waxes that are great to use for candles. The two are commonly used in beauty products as well.
Since they are so similar in terms of characteristics, it can be hard to say which one is better.
For some people, coconut wax is better since it is a vegan product. Beeswax is not vegan in the strictest sense – although it’s acceptable for some vegans.
But the uncertainties surrounding the supply and demand of coconut wax and a lack of solutions to help bring farmers out of poverty may cause people to lean toward beeswax instead.
Another benefit of beeswax is that it can be produced locally in most countries – unlike coconut wax, which often has to be shipped long distances, which causes greenhouse gas emissions.
13. Is Coconut Wax Better Than Soy Wax?
Coconut wax is better than soy wax because coconuts are more sustainably grown.
The soybean industry contributes to massive deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. Soybeans are also grown using more pesticides.
Because coconuts are grown on a smaller scale, there aren’t as many negative environmental impacts.
Sometimes though, candles that are made from soy wax have coconut wax mixed into them. The coconut wax is more pure than soy wax and provides better qualities for the candle.
14. Is Coconut Wax Toxic?
Overall, coconut wax is not toxic.
Coconut wax is classified as a clean-burning wax. That means that it doesn’t produce soot or release harmful chemicals into the air.
And during the production of coconut wax, most of the chemicals that are used to extract the oil – if any at all – are removed during refinement.
15. What Is Coconut Wax Used For?
The main uses for coconut wax are candles and beauty products.
Coconut wax can be used on both your skin and hair since it has natural moisturizing properties and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals.
Sustainable lip balms, lipsticks, lotions, and other cosmetic and beauty products can all be made from coconut wax.
16. Are There Sustainable Alternatives to Coconut Wax?
Coconut wax is one of the best types of waxes in terms of sustainability and being vegan.
There is only one other type of wax that compares to coconut wax in all aspects: beeswax.
Beeswax has similar uses and characteristics. It is sustainable, but it is also ethically sourced.
And due to potential supply and demand issues that come with coconut wax, beeswax is also more readily available and affordable.
Ultimately, whether you use beeswax or coconut wax, you’re making a good choice.
As far as waxes go, coconut wax is one of the best in terms of quality and sustainability.
But because of this, demand for coconut wax is increasing so much that supply can’t always keep up.
This is causing negative impacts on the small-scale farms where coconuts are grown.
Hopefully, solutions will be forthcoming to better meet the demands and provide a better life for coconut farmers as well.
Until then, continue to do your part by looking for certified ethically sourced coconut wax and spreading awareness toward sustainability and eco-friendliness in all products.
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