Citizen of the Earth
Soft Star gives thousands of dollars back to our communities each year through donations and cash contributions. Soft Star also supports Waldorf and Montessori schools through our back-to-school discounts and promotions. We donate products to Le Leche League chapters, school fundraisers and other events around the country every year. Seconds or gently worn shoes are donated to charities in need of children's shoes.
We love working with the local community and give tours year-round of our workshop to visitor and school groups. We also support Cassidy's efforts in helping the people of Sudan through Kids for Kids. We donate our time making the playful pancake toys, as well as materials and shipping, donating 100% of proceeds to the charity in honor of Cassidy's mom. Over the years we have been able to purchase dozens of goats through this program. It's a wonderful cause and we feel honored to have been part of her project.
The Elves that work at Soft Star receive benefits such as paid vacation time off, disability insurance, tuition reimbursement, retirement savings and reimbursement for bicycling to work. Our workshop is family friendly and little elves are welcome.
Walking lightly on the earth is not just about our shoes! (yes, pun intended) For Soft Star, critically evaluating the upstream impact of the raw materials that go into our shoes (both environmentally and socially) is the most important way we can make meaningful improvements to our world.
Soft Star has earned the 'We Conserve' stamp of approval for our efforts to locally source our materials, conserve energy in our workshop and reduce and reuse whenever possible. You see evidence of this in our minimal shipping techniques, but it can also be seen internally in our solar panels, green energy purchases, and recycling programs. Another is thru financial support of the Earth Island Institute and participation in the local Corvallis Sustainability Coalition. Below are some more detailed examples of our commitment to walking lightly:
At Soft Star we use only leathers which meet high safety standards both for our customers, and for the environment. As our little ones like to occasionally chew on their shoes, it is important to us they are as chemical-free as possible. Many shoes today (99.9%) are imported from countries using formaldehyde tanning methods. Not only is this chemical a potential irritant to your skin and absorbable transdermally, but it poisons ground water downstream from tanneries, and causes well-documented health issues with tannery employees. Almost all or our leather is sourced from USA tanneries to ensure that strict regulations are adhered to. When the leather is not available from USA tanneries, it is sometimes sourced from approved tanneries in Italy, Brazil, South Korea or Mexico which meet labor and environmental standards set by our supplier. We are proud to also offer Ecopell vegetable tanned leather from Germany, which we import due to their extremely high standards for quality and sustainable practices, arguably the best in the world.
Other popular children's shoe brands will tout their "eco-leather" meets the British and European Safety Standard BS 5665. In fact - the aforementioned safety standard is really about safe construction of toys-- and has nothing to do with leather processing at all.
The carbon footprint of most shoes is staggering compared to the foot they cradle. Often materials are sourced in one country, staged in another, constructed in a third and packed in yet another before being bulk crated and shipped to their country of destination. On average, imported shoes and their associated components have been transported over 11,000 miles before they even reach their port of call. Soft Star is one of (literally) a handful of shoe manufacturers preserving the tradition of handcrafted shoe making skills in the USA using local materials and providing good jobs for our local community.
Resale and Reuse
It makes us sad to see good shoes go to waste, especially if they still have a lot of miles in them. That's why we introduced our Soft Star resale page. This page uses an Ebay tool to create a community where customers can buy and sell their used shoes to each other. By reusing shoes as much as possible, we reduce waste!
We actively participate in the Get SMART! Resource Efficiency program in an effort to stay on top of opportunities for improvements in our production processes and raw materials. In our workshop we use no dangerous chemicals or dyes in our manufacturing processes. We reuse, recycle and reduce whenever possible. Some examples of using our production resources effeciently include:
100% of our power usage comes from solar or wind energy. We are a luminary business partner in the "Blue Sky" renewable energy program - paying more for our power utilities in exchange for reducing our carbon footprint and protecting our natural resources. This program recently won the Green Power Program of the Year award from the U.S. Department of Energy. Our workshop power also pulls from a bank of solar panels mounted above our workshop - meaning we are solar powered most of the year - but because it does rain here a lot in the winter ... we use Blue Sky wind power for our excess power needs.
Soft Star Shoes is a proud member of NW Natural's Smart Energy Circle. The Smart Energy Circle is a group of Northwest organizations and NW Natural business customers who have made a pledge to the environment and Smart Energy by committing to offset 100 percent of their C02 emissions for one year.
We use minimal packaging to ship our products...just enough to keep them looking great. When possible, we ship our shoes using recycled/recyclable poly mailers. Our more structured shoes are shipped in recyclable boxes, wrapped with tissue paper made from 100% recycled materials and packed with paper we reuse from other local businesses.
Production scraps are sorted and reused or recycled. Leather is saved and donated to Cassidy's charity efforts for making her Playful Pancakes or given to children for art and crafts projects. We have also distributed it free to our local community and sell it on our website for free other than the cost of shipping.
We collect packing material from local bookstores to reuse when we need packing material to ship our shoes.
Faucet aerators are installed in our sinks and low-flow water savers in the toilets. It is estimated we save 11,500 gallons of water a year because of this.
Misprints are saved and then printed on the reverse side whenever possible. Spent printer cartridges are recycled and remanufactured cartridges are used, saving resources and reducing waste. We actively worked to restrict unwanted "junk" faxes" and unwanted marketing programs from wasting paper, ink and energy. Our receipts and product inserts are all printed on recycled paper with at least 30% post consumer waste.
All equipment is turned off at night to save energy, and windows opened to naturally cool the workshop. The Elves wear sweaters in the winter and shorts in the summer to save energy on heating and cooling bills.
All recyclable items are recycled on a regular basis (paper, glass, plastic, cardboard, metals, pop cans) decreasing our garbage load and supporting recycling efforts. When not possible to use energy saving LED lighting, we participate in a special disposal program for spent fluorescent lights. We purchase and use non-toxic cleaning products for use in the store.