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Chatting to Suwi Katuka, founder of Lanji Candles, for Plastic Free July

“Underwater pipeline leak creates ‘eye of fire’ in the Gulf of Mexico”, “Deadly winter storm sweeps Texas”. In the past few weeks, mother nature has shown the consequences of centuries of disregarding and manhandling the environment, and we can’t help but wonder if everything started with plastic shopping bags.

According to Good Find, each year the UK throws away 295 billion pieces of plastic waste. Only 10% of the plastic that is disposed of is correctly recycled. The other 90% ends up incinerated or stays in landfills for hundreds of years before breaking down into microplastics contaminating soils, water, wildlife and humans.

Plastic Free July is celebrated this month. It is a global movement that helps millions of people be a part of the solution to eradicate plastic pollution by cleaning streets, oceans and communities. This month is an excellent opportunity for small businesses to promote their plastic-free alternatives, reinforce the importance of purchasing eco-friendly products, and go into detail about the active role that they play in the fight against plastic waste.

Image of candles
Lanji Candles

Beauty bars as substitutes to plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles, plastic-free hygiene cleaning, bamboo oral care, and sustainable scented candles are some of the small businesses black female entrepreneurs have ventured into to establish how the sustainable and conscious production and distribution of plastic-free products are primordial for the survival of the planet.

Let’s take a minute to talk about scented candles.

There is something alluring and fascinating about candles that makes people spend small fortunes on them. Perhaps it’s the chalky smell or the restful warmth and serene atmosphere it brings into a room. Unsurprisingly, many people are oblivious to the detrimental impact of modern-day candles on the environment. Coconut wax, beeswax, soy wax, paraffin and other vegetable waxes are the main ingredients used to produce candles now. Paraffin comes off as the least environmentally friendly type of wax since it is made from unsustainable fossil fuels. Consequently, it is bad for your health to use it at home.

Candles can have a small environmental footprint so long as candle lovers make an ethical purchase. To gain insight into how scented candles can be friends of the environment, sweet-thang caught up with Suwi Katuka, the 26-year-old founder of Lanji Candles, who is on a mission to eradicate the world of plastic waste.

The current system we dwell in does not support BIPOC communities and, as a result, investments in women and minority businesses are 80% lower than the median investments in businesses owned by white men.

Despite the apathetic statistic, Suwi Katuka guarantees it had no bearing on her decision to start her own business and was actually a motivation to fix the problem.

Having understood how scented candles can be disastrous for global warming and plastic pollution, it was interesting to learn how Lanji Candles currently minimises plastic usage. Suwi mentions that all the candles come in glasses, and on her Instagram and website she teaches people how to reuse them. “When it comes to the packaging, it is all cardboard or recycled paper. I also use glassine bags for my wax melts. Once you take the wax melts out, you can reuse the bags for other things or you can recycle them.”

In five years, Suwi expects Lanji Candles to be even more plastic-free and eco-friendly. “There’s always room for improvement,” she tells me.

In addition, the Lanji Candles which are made in the comfort of her house in Bedford with the assistance of her boyfriend come with affirmation cards. She came up with the idea when she developed vitiligo and had difficulty coming to terms with her body changing. The affirmations are now an essential feature on each candle jar. “It’s just a nice wellness reminder to love yourself and stay grounded.”

As our conversation went on, Suwi opens up about the times when she felt like being a Black woman entrepreneur produced its fair share of obstacles. “I’ll go to a market or a craft fair to sell my candles and sometimes customers will just walk straight past my store. It’s definitely noticeable, being one of the few Black sellers there. Unless it’s a specifically ‘Black Owned Fair’, it’s hard to get noticed”. Notwithstanding these microaggressions, Suwi stays positive and sees obstacles “as an opportunity to prove people and statistics wrong.”

Although “living in an eco-friendly world does not seem tangible sometimes”, people like Suwi prove that it is possible to make changes, big or small. Movements such as Plastic Free July are a great reminder of the work that is yet to be done to keep our planet habitable.

See what Lanji Candles is up to on Instagram and Facebook.

Written by Maureen D'almeida

Read more about her here

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