Rapid City business uses jeans to strive for a more sustainable future

The jeans make things like dog toys and bags.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:03 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Rapid City’s Standing Committee on Sustainability is honoring one local with an award Monday night.

Stef Lee started Home Grown Goods back in 2018 after finding a way to carry less with her hands, and turning to her dogs paws during walks.

In Lee’s household it’s all about sustainability and that just happens to go hand in hand, or hand in pocket, with jeans. “I had, in my hallway, a stack probably as tall as what you’re sitting at right now on the floor,” and a few chairs equally as tall in the office. Of course, her husband is happy to contribute space too. “I also had the top of his gun case stacked with jeans, and then I have a chest that’s full of jeans as well.”

All of the jeans make knick knacks like cat toys, dog toys, bags and “we’re almost at 1,400 jeans we’ve kept out of landfills,” Lee says.

Home Grown Goods started a few years ago with a dog named Fluff when Stef decided that when she’s on walks with Fluff maybe she could have her carry some things for her. Unfortunately, Fluff passed away 18 months ago. However, now taking up the mantle is 6-month old Meena, who is Stef’s new model.

It all started a few year ago when Stef said to her daughter, “I have the best idea! I’m going to make a bandana with a pocket in it for the dog!”

Which was a strange concept, because she’d never been really artsy. Or, in Lee’s words, “not at all.” Let alone, been familiar with a sewing machine, unless you count being “forced to take home-ec in high school.”

She started anyways, wound up enjoying it, and one thing led to another -- orders were flooding in and so were jeans on her porch. “I have literally been pulling into the driveway and I see a plastic bag, and I can see jeans peaking out on the top. Never realized that, that many people had heard about us, because we’re pretty microscopic when it comes to a small business.”

Maybe so, but they’ve sent orders as far as Australia, and she’s built relationships with other sustainable ladies hundreds of miles away in Denver, where “she will send me her pant legs, because she doesn’t need them. And, if I have an abundance of tops of the jeans, I will send them to her so she can use the pockets.”

A journey to one day be zero waste, while she’s “trying [her] darnedest, but [isn’t] there quite yet.”

She takes sustainability seriously by gardening and using chickens, who Meena is now meant to protect like her predecessor did ever since, “somebody and their dog broke onto our property and killed all of our chickens except for one. That’s why we got a Pyrenees. It was to protect our chickens.”

Protection she feels the world is in need of too, especially because “15 months ago we had our first grandchild.” Now, for her, looking to keep the world livable and manageable for the next generation is even more apparent.

“It takes all of us,” Lee says optimistically, “and if all of us even make a little bit of an effort, it will help a lot.”

She says there’s nothing else but the mirror to look to, because “if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?”

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