Eco Friendly Shoes: Eco Friendly Information

In the past few years the footwear industry has shifted its focus of marketing and development to the "green footwear" movement.  While the emphasis of most companies has been on incorporating natural and recycled materials in the shoe construction - the much bigger impacts of upstream manufacturing processes and shipping is overlooked.  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.

At Soft Star we use only leathers which are processed formaldehyde free and meet the highest 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. Most 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.

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.   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.

Processes: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 we have taken towards 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.  In 2008 our support of renewable energy avoided the release of 2,108 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Soft Staer 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.

Seconds or gently worn shoes are donated to charities in need of children's shoes.  As of November 2008, we have donated over $3,400 in product and cash donations to children's charities for the year.

We offer our customers the ability to choose "minimal packaging" when ordering to eliminate the extra box-within-a-box that is used for marketing purposes. We are happy to say 30% of our customers opt for this resource saver!

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 on E-Bay for "free" except to cover shipping costs.   Sheepskin "fluff" is gleaned and saved and distributed to crafters.  All cardboard that enters our workshop is re-used in our clicking process, and afterwards the bits and pieces are recycled.

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. Cloth towels are used instead of paper towels, reducing waste.

Misprints or draft paper is 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.  All shoe exchanges are returned using the original box to conserve resources. We participate in a special disposal program for spent fluorescent lights, which contain mercury.  We purchase and use non-toxic cleaning products for use in the store.

Here is a good Internet reference we found for everyday ideas on how to reuse or reduce waste:

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