Softstar's Sustainable Practices

Our Community

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

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.

Our Environment:

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 green energy purchases, material sourcing, 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:

The Highlights:

  • 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 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 workshop as well.
  • Reusable Hand Towels: Elf Cindy turned fabric scraps into stylish hand towels to replace disposable paper towels in our bathroom. No paper waste!
  • Alternative Transportation: We give our staff incentives to commute to work by bike or carpool along with free bus passes.
  • 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: Our employee garden features a well-used composting bin for our lunch scraps. Yes, we have an employee garden filled with strawberries, fruit trees and herbs!

The Nitty-Gritty:

Leather

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 USAtanneries 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.

Local Production

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!

Processes

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 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.

Misprints are saved and then printed on the reverse side whenever possible. Spent printer cartridges are recycled. Our receipts and product inserts are all printed on recycled paper.

All recyclable items are recycled on a regular basis (paper, glass, plastic, cardboard, metals, pop cans) decreasing our garbage load and supporting recycling efforts. We purchase and use non-toxic cleaning products, and all equipment is turned off at night to save energy.

Our Workshop

Repurposed from a 1950's roller rink as an environmentally sustainable building, our workshop has won the prestigious regional DeMuro award for historic preservation. Our workshop restoration is an integral part of Softstar's ranking as one of the top greenest companies by Oregon Business. Here are a few ways our work environment helps contribute to a healthier world:

  • Green building construction means no drywall, paint or chemicals were used and there was no need for solvent based coating, curing/release agents or treatments. The exterior siding is Doug Fir wood, which is naturally aged and will never need paint while maintaining the building's historic look.
  • Double pane windows in the original style were added to increase natural light and decrease energy use.
  • Building materials were either carefully restored or sourced locally. Refurbished remnants of the old skating rink floor are now featured as the flooring in the retail area. Reclaimed exterior siding was used indoors and the soaring original trusses restored and highlighted for all to enjoy.
  • Sustainable building construction means screw and bolt connections enable deconstruction and remodeling without sacrificing the utility of materials.
  • Radiant heat flooring supplies 100% of our heating needs. LED lighting and green-sourced insulation in the walls and roof reduces energy consumption.
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures are estimated to save 40,000 gallons of water a year. Efficient heat exchangers are used for fresh air flow and in the summer fresh air is pulled in at night to naturally cool the building.
  • Permeable parking lot allows storm water to filter naturally into the ground reducing concentration of pollutants. The lot also avoids the use of petroleum and other chemicals present in traditional asphalt. 
  • Rooftop reclaimed water system is in use for outdoor irrigation of our employee garden area. The garden is planned not only as a restorative and healthy elf habitat, but also features strawberries, herbs, and fruit trees.