How Green Degree supports education programmes through upcycled denim

by | Jun 24, 2021

Green Degree does a few things: It upcycles old denim into new items; it raises funds; and it supports education by equipping learners with classroom tools.

Founded in 2019 by Anne Henderson and Cheryl Macdonald, Green Degree collects old denim jeans to make upcycled fashion pieces and school pencil cases. The better quality denim is used for clothing and home decor, and the other for pencil cases. For the clothing, different denim fabrics are stitched according to different silhouettes. Different denim fabric pieces are thoughtfully placed next to each to make up the patterns – the creases and marks in the fabric become part of the design. In collaboration with Mors Design, Green Degree has created upcycled denim bags. Everything is stylish, a little quirky and very well crafted. Although only four patterns are used for the collection, the different shades and age of the denim fabric and finishes used make each garment unique.

The old denim jeans are from various sources including Vintage with Love. The best quality jeans are kept for the upcycling projects, and the very worn out pairs go to The Sewing Café in Masiphumelele where the denim is recycled into pencil cases. Small pieces of denim are used for tassels and buttons, and the unusable scraps go to stuffing. “Nothing goes to waste.”

Anne and Cheryl want to ensure denim is kept in the fashion system, while funding charity work. Their intention is to counteract the heavy environmental footprint of jeans. Anne says, “The goal is not about selling the collection, the mission is not to profit but to fund charity work”.

Every cent made from selling the designs goes straight to the charity fund for pencil cases. A few weeks ago, Green Degree hosted a pop up to sell their detailed, stylish and uniquely crafted jackets and accessories such as hat and bags. They raised R70 000 which will sustain and fund the pencil case project.

The organisation’s mission is to ensure that every child stays in school. By donating the pencil cases filled with the tools needed for learning, Green Degree hopes to support the education system. These are then filled with wax crayons, a pencil, an eraser and a sharpener.

Each pencil cases has a messaged attached to it for its owner:

”Hi, I am yours. I am made from recycled denim. I am big and strong.  I will carry all your pens, pencil, crayons, rulers, calculators and more. I hope that we will be together for all your school days and beyond… Please put your name on me and look after me.”

The pencil cases have been distributed directly to primary schools and through The Lifematters Foundation, a NPO that runs literacy and numeracy educational programmes in under resourced schools

Green Degree has overshot its targeted goal to distribute 1000 pencil cases by the end of the year 2021. It’s well on its way to supplying 2000 pencil cases to schools.


  • To find out more about Green Degree visit its website. 
  • Images: Supplied
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