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Helping to make the world greener - and more plastic

Citizen ambassador to UN hopes to make schools use water bottles

Jonathan Eric Defante
Image Credit: Supplied
Jonathan Eric Defante
Gulf News

Dubai: Each person in the UAE consumes up to 450 bottles of water each year — the highest per capita consumption in the world and a waste problem for most. But for a Dubai-based Filipino, this could just be the answer to changing the world.

Jonathan Eric Defante, 22, was one of the three winners of the 2011 United Nations (UN) Citizen Ambassadors for his ‘One Bottle, One Life' YouTube entry. The 30-second video pitch talked about how the world could change if countries had model communities made out of plastic bottles or ‘Eco bricks.'

“My idea was inspired by the Bottle Schools in Guatemala by the Hug It Forward Foundation. Through the power of advocacy, I can urge nations to build model communities around the globe”
-Jonathan Eric Defante
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"My idea was inspired by the Bottle Schools in Guatemala by the Hug It Forward Foundation. Through the power of advocacy, I can urge nations to build model communities around the globe," Defante, a sales associate at Virgin Megastore, told Gulf News.

The Hug It Forward Foundation builds schools made out of plastic bottles in Guatemala. It takes around 6,000 water bottles to build one school there. The same concept is being implemented in Defante's hometown in Laguna in the Philippines by the My Shelter Foundation.

Abundant material

With tonnes of water bottles being thrown into landfills every year, a model bottle community will have no supply shortage. In the UAE, an estimated 275 litres of water — or 350 to 450 bottles — are consumed per capita every year, according to a study by the Worldwatch Institute. "Eco bricks is a very abundant material nowadays that has a very low recycling rate around the globe. The existing houses and schools built with it provs it to be feasible and efficient and can be done on a global scale," Defante said.

Since 2009, the UN Department of Information has been chosing Citizen Ambassadors from around the globe to encourage people to voice their ideas on how to change the world directly to world leaders. A panel of UN experts chose this year's winners from among the 600 video submissions from 50 countries through YouTube.

The two other Citizen Ambassadors are 20-year-old Sigin Renwa Ojulu from South Sudan for his ‘In Our Way, In Our Time' entry and Sergio Valdez, 19, from Guatemala for his ‘Let's Empower Youth' entry.

Defante, along with the two citizen ambassadors, will meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in December to discuss their ideas.

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