‘Bee’ well with local clean-burning candles
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Bleach, carcinogens and petroleum — oh my! Not to worry though; these are all ingredients that you’ll never find in Alpine Bee Candles.
A few years ago, Kristen Pappas realized the candles she was burning in her Steamboat Springs home were often giving her headaches. This is because, she says, most traditional candles on the market contain ingredients like bleach, several carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde and toluene, and often have metal-core wicks.
“These are all things you should not burn and breathe, especially indoors,” Pappas explained. “Many types of wax contain GMOs (soy) and petroleum (parrafin). These types of chemicals can result in respiratory issues, asthma and allergy problems, cancer and, in my case, headaches.”
But after searching for candles that didn’t contain those ingredients and coming up short, Pappas decided to make her own, and Alpine Bee Candles was launched in 2016.
She chose beeswax as the main ingredient in her candles because as it burns, it emits negative ions that combat positive ions released by electronics. That and the fact it is a pure material with outstanding burn time that was available locally.
She enlisted the help of her family — her husband, Greg, and daughters Parker and Carly — and they got to work experimenting.
“We learned how to make the candles after lots of research, trial and error and testing,” she said. “We had to perfect things like proper wick size, correct measurement of essential oils to wax volume and proper curing times. It’s a lot of work but satisfying, knowing our product is made from clean ingredients and that the main ingredient is local.”
The family buys its beeswax from local apiaries in Routt County. Then it has to be cleaned before it is usable. It naturally contains much debris in the form of dirt, pollen, bits of insects and leftover honey.
“The process to clean it is tedious and involves heating it up to melting and then pouring it through a series of sieves,” Pappas said. “This is done multiple times, and the result is a clean wax in a beautiful shade of yellow that smells amazing.”
If you think that it sounds like a time-consuming process, it is. But Pappas and her family were ready for a new business venture when they got into the candle-making business.
“We figured there were other people out there looking for cleaner candles too,” Pappas said.
After working several craft fairs and participating in the local farmers market, Pappas approached several retail outlets about selling the candles. Now they can be found in many downtown Steamboat Springs stores from ACE Hardware to Elevated Olive. The candles can also be ordered on the Alpine Bee Candle website and shipped to anywhere in the U.S. for free.
But it’s not just about the business, it’s also about the bees. As avid gardeners, Pappas and her family chose to donate 5% of sales to the bees via organizations raising awareness about honeybees and other pollinators and their struggling numbers due to disease, lack of habitat, pesticide and herbicide overuse and other problems.
In the future, the Pappases hope to grow the business into a national brand and even hire a few employees to help run it, all while helping to spread the word about protecting pollinators.
For more information on where to buy the candles locally or to buy online, visit alpinebeecandles.com.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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