Softstar's Sustainable Practices
Softstar is ever grateful to the wonderful community which has allowed it to thrive and grow over the past three decades. It is committed to repaying this kindness however possible. Learn more.
Our Elves are creative and talented artisans who actively participate in the shoe design process. We have 30 years of shoe-making experience at our disposal, and we are constantly working to find new ways to improve our work. Softstar is committed to helping all its team members maintain satisfying work and family lives, offering flexible scheduling, paid time off, and paid maternity/paternity leave. In an effort to encourage professional and personal growth, Softstar also provides funding for continuing education opportunities, empowering employees to expand their skills and pursue their passions.
Walking lightly on the earth is not just about our shoes! (yes, pun intended) For Softstar, 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.
Softstar has always striven to make our operations as sustainable as possible, locally sourcing our materials, conserving energy in our workshop, and reducing and reusing 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 through financial support of the Earth Island Institute and participation in the local Corvallis Sustainability Coalition. Below are some examples of our commitment to walking lightly:
- Workplace Recycling: We have bins not only for common commingled items, but also materials that are harder to recycle such as metal, soft plastic and Styrofoam. Founder Elf Tim makes regular trips to dispose of these bins at our community recycling center.
- Upcycled Leather: We carefully monitor our leather scrap output to make sure we're using as much of each hide as we can. The scraps we do produce end up in a trunk in our public showroom, where local customers can take them for craft projects free of charge. We also sell these scraps on our website for only the cost of shipping.
- Sustainable Materials: We are careful to source non-toxic materials for our shoes, including leather colored with food-grade dye and non-toxic adhesives.
- Green Energy: Our electricity is 100% sourced from sustainable wind and solar energy sources. We are working towards installing new solar panels in our new workshop as well.
- Reusable Hand Towels: Elf Cindy turned fabric scraps into stylish hand towels to replace disposable paper towels in our bathroom, complete with a hamper so we can wash them after use.
- Alternative Transportation: We give our staff incentives to commute to work by bike!
- Minimal Shipping: We use minimal packaging to reduce waste when shipping shoes. We also collect and reuse paper packing materials from a local bookstore and newspaper for padding.
- Compost: Elf Emily brings in buckets for food composting, which she takes home to her garden.
At Softstar 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 Germany 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. Softstar 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 Softstar 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 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 efficiently 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.
Softstar 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 scrap is saved and donated to businesses, individuals and schools 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 and newspaper 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. 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.
All recyclable items are recycled on a regular basis (paper, glass, plastic, cardboard, metals, pop cans) decreasing our garbage load and supporting recycling efforts. All of our lighting is LED except for direct task lights. 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.
Future projects for our new workshop include raised vegetable gardens watered via a rainwater retainment system for our elves, grey water reuse and solar panels. We also plan to add bird habitats and a compost pile on site.