Jesse Naidoo and Tammy Greyling’s clothes recycling mission sewn together by love for people and planet
Their ultimate goal is to bring out the light in the people they serve, to provide a way for people to find their purpose.
Clothes To Good started by accident.
In 2011, Jesse Naidoo’s golf club was running a promotion that promised a pair of golf shoes to anyone who paid their club fees early. Jesse took the offer and gifted his pair of shoes to Lucky Madiba, his club caddy of 10 years. As a result of accepting the gift, Lucky lost his job due to an altercation with the caddy master who wanted the new pair.
Jesse decided to help Lucky and his wife to start a used-clothes reselling business. They appealed to parents from Crawford Pretoria International School for donations to support recycling and enterprise development.
They received more than 4.7 tonnes of clothing.
Realising that this was too much for Lucky to deal with, Jesse took on three more people who sorted through and resold the donated clothes that steadily built over a short time.
Twelve years later and Clothes To Good is a much bigger operation. They employ 35 people, support 108 micro-businesses and have high-level partnerships with H&M and Levi’s, as well as an ongoing collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger to produce “Nim Nims” – weighted blankets for people living with autism, anxiety and ADHD.
They recycle between 15 and 20 tonnes of used clothes that are sorted into three recycling categories;
Items for Reuse – selling good-quality clothes to micro-businesses at a heavily discounted price for the purpose of resale.
Items for Up-cycling – using material from used clothes to make weighted blankets, reconditioned wheelchairs, toys and other sustainability projects.
Items for Down-cycling – breaking down fibres to provide materials to the bedding, building and motoring industries in order to reduce their environmental footprint, and divert clothes and shoes from landfills.
It is through a collaboration with Tammy Greyling, who came on board as a health professional (occupational therapist) with broad experience working with people with disabilities, that Clothes To Good branched into new projects that focused on people with disabilities and early childhood development.
In fact, these projects are so important to them that they will proudly tell you that 56 out of 108 micro-businesses that they support are run by mothers of children with disabilities. They also work with 148 early childhood development centres and helped seven people with disabilities get employment in H&M’s distribution centre, to which they provide ongoing support through their team of disability inclusion specialists, as part of the OnRoute Life-skills and the Supported Employment Programme.
“Clothes are just the vehicle to do other things,” says Tammy Greyling.
And it doesn’t stop there. There is so much more to this company than we can cover here. But what you need to know is where the motivation comes from.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The Pretoria café where generosity, kindness and love are the order of the day
Jesse and Tammy are both passionate about people. Their ultimate goal is to bring out the light in the people they serve, to provide a way for people to find their purpose, their passion and the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
An innate love for people and the planet oozes out of them, and they have created a way to turn that love into a sustainable, life-changing organisation. DM
The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who engage in direct action. They are people anyone can turn to in difficult circumstances: a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa. Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles these people. Through a website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide ways for people to get involved.
Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]