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Eco-Friendly Footwear Brands Champion Reusable Packaging, Carbon Offsets

Sustainability, long recognized as an ascendant priority among consumers, has gained ground in recent years as a core value at footwear brands big and small.

Footwear heavyweights like Nike and Adidas are now regularly updating the public on their environmental plans and introducing new eco-friendly initiatives. Newcomers, meanwhile, are making sustainability a priority from the outset.

In fact, when the Portuguese Footwear, Components and Leather Goods Manufacturers’ Association surveyed manufacturers, distributors and other industry insiders last month, sustainability concerns had outpaced fashion trends as the more relevant factor they believed determined the evolution of footwear sales. This marked a dramatic, more than 20-point shift from the organization’s first semi-annual report, issued in the latter half of 2019.

Softstar, a decades-old handcrafted shoe company from Philomath, Ore., and Della Terra, a young brand debuting its first line this spring, are just two of the names in footwear centering environmentally friendly business practices.

A direct-to-consumer business, Softstar is well aware of the considerable waste shipping can produce. Already, it has taken steps to lessen these impacts, eschewing the shoebox-within-a-box model and utilizing recyclable and repurposed packing materials. On Tuesday, it unveiled plans to further lessen the environmental impact of its shipping process by introducing reusable packaging.

Softstar will work with the returnable packaging business RePack on the initiative. Already partnered with more than 150 apparel brands and retailers, RePack creates durable and reusable Velcro bags that can be shipped, returned, cleaned and reused up to 50 times or more over their life cycle. Softstar estimated the switch will save more than 4,000 pounds of cardboard and plastic waste from going to the landfill over the next year.

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“Reusable shipping bags make so much sense for Softstar and our sustainability goals,” Softstar CEO Tricia Salcido said in a statement. “We hope to see more companies like us utilize this option in the future. When customers receive their shoes, they simply fold the reusable bag with its prepaid USPS label and pop it in their mailbox to be returned for reuse.”

Softstar has designed and handcrafted minimal leather footwear since 1985. Its styles range from baby moccasins to minimal running shoes for adults.

Meanwhile, Della Terra has embraced a host of sustainable initiatives for its June 1 debut. Its PETA-certified footwear incorporates vegan and recycled materials. It claims to work exclusively with fair-wage factories. It also has partnered with the non-profit organization One Tree Planted. For every pair of shoes purchased, Della Terra said it will plant one tree, working to offset its carbon footprint.

“I set out to create real shoes for real people,” Emily Landsman, founder and CEO of Della Terra, said in a statement. “By combining comfort with style, Della Terra is a transition back to the real world, post-pandemic. I am eager to make fashion sustainable and inclusive.”

Pre-sale for Della Terra’s debut line of sandals and block heels opened Tuesday.