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Earth Day, the annual event on April 22 that serves as a way to support environmental protection, provides an opportunity for companies and organizations to showcase what they’re doing in the best interest of the planet.

Philomath’s own Softstar Shoes is doing its part with the introduction of zero-waste packaging, which the company kicked off on Earth Day. Bulky cardboard, plastic bags and various other types of packaging materials are not part of Softstar’s strategy.

For sending out its shoes, Softstar has switched to RePack, which are durable and reusable Velcro bags that can be shipped, returned, cleaned and reused up to 50 times or more over their life cycle.

“Reusable shipping bags make so much sense for Softstar and our sustainability goals,” said

SoftStar Shoes recently switched to zero-waste packaging. (Photo by Softstar Shoes)

Tricia Salcido, Softar’s CEO. “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. It is that simple!”

Softstar places great importance on holding sustainability as a core value of its operation. Power from wind and solar energy, an employee garden and compost, and electric vehicle charging are among the green features in place.

Softstar estimates that the switch to reusable bags will save over 4,000 pounds of cardboard and plastic waste from going to the landfill over the next year.

To read a press release that Softstar sent out, click here.

Virus variant in the area

Early last week, Oregon State University sent out a press release about ongoing statewide wastewater testing and genome sequencing through its TRACE-COVID-19 project. The most recent results suggest that the South African variant of the virus is present in Corvallis and Albany wastewater systems, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The South African variant of COVID-19 has a mutation that allows the virus to more effectively latch onto a person’s cells, so someone who is exposed is more likely to become infected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it spreads roughly 50% faster than the original COVID-19 virus.

Wondering if Philomath had been included in any wastewater studies, I reached out to Kevin Fear, our local Public Works director. Fear said no testing has been done in Philomath that he’s aware of and the city has not been approached for any testing at the lagoons.

“I would think we would be open to them sampling if they would like,” Fear said. “We haven’t turned anyone down in the past that I know of that wanted to sample the wastewater.”

News also broke in recent days about some counties going back up into the “extreme risk” category, including Linn County. Benton County remained in the “high risk” designation.

“This is a dangerous path, and we’ve been down it before. We know how these variants spread and we know how to stop them — through consistent masking, physical distancing, avoiding social gatherings and getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Melissa Sutton, medical director for respiratory viral pathogens at Oregon Health Authority. “We need the public to stay vigilant as we work to vaccinate people in Oregon.”

The wastewater samples were done on March 26 and 31 in Albany and on April 4 in Corvallis near off-campus housing north of the campus.

Read OSU’s full press release on this issue here.

The 1988 loss to PHS

The loss to Philomath had been haunting Vic Lease. A senior who played in the 1988 state championship football game, Lease today is the head coach at Mazama. The Vikings defeated Marist Catholic, 27-21, in the 4A championship game on April 10 at Cottage Grove.

KDRV published a story about the 4A finale and Lease told them about the painful memories of losing 33 years ago to Philomath, 28-21. In fact, all these years, he felt like he let the late Ron August, Dallas’s football coach at the time, down by not winning that championship game.

To review the 1988 classic, PHS quarterback Geoff Grass ran for 129 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown, and tailback Greg Yechout finished with 101 yards and a touchdown as the Warriors fought back from deficits of 14-7 and 21-14.

Just like the Dallas-Philomath game in 1988, the Mazama-Marist score was tied, 21-21, at halftime. The Warriors scored on the first half’s final play on a 41-yard Hail Mary pass from Grass to Jason Smith. Philomath went on to win the game over Dallas on a 13-yard Shane Stueve run in the third quarter combined with takeaways on defense late in the fourth quarter. Mazama won its game on a touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“I felt like reflecting that maybe I didn’t do some of the things that I could have done as a high school senior to help us have success,” Lease said about talking to his Mazama team at halftime with the score at 21-21. “I didn’t want any of these boys, especially the seniors, to have any regrets at all. You know, lay it all out on the field. You have two quarters left. You know, it’s an even ball game. We are starting from scratch. You got two quarters. Leave it all out here. Play your butts off.”

In the 1988 game, Philomath recovered two Dallas fumbles in the final 8 minutes and Chris Koenig sealed the win with about a minute remaining with an interception.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).