999Bottles has attracted the attention and support of hundreds of people from all over the world. One of our most vocal supporters is Jonathan Eric Defante, who was selected as a 2011 United Nations Citizen Ambassador for his change-inspiring video Changing the World, One Bottle at a Time. A native of The Philippines, Jonathan currently lives in Dubai. But not for long—he is planning to go to Guatemala and help build a classroom out of used plastic bottles.
We sat down with Jonathan last week to learn more about what inspired him to do the video and what lies ahead for him.
Tell us about yourself. How did you become a UN Citizen Ambassador? What did you do before and how has this honor changed your life?
I graduated in Mapua Institute of Technology back in Oct 2009, under the program of Electronics Engineering. I worked as a high-school teacher for about a year. I was 21 back then and in 2011 tried finding work here in Dubai. It was around August that I had the chance to stumble upon a website citing that it was World Humanitarian Day and then the UN had this contest for the Citizen Ambassador. I checked out couple of the previous videos and then I felt that I could do it as well. I had a whole week off before I started my new job as a sales associate in Virgin Megastore and so I used that time to create the video and deliver the idea into a 30-second pitch.
I got a call from New York early October informing me that I qualified to the Top 20 and then, the next day, that I was selected as one of the three Ambassadors, out of more than 500 entries worldwide. Limitless opportunities opened up for me — I’ve been introduced to many great and inspiring individuals and it gave me a chance to connect to people who share my vision and advocacy passion. It made me more responsible and led me to have this dream of helping communities and the environment at the same time.
The idea about the plastic bottle eco-bricks is brilliant. What inspired you to do the video and send it to the UN?
Back in The Philippines, I lived in a province where they first constructed a school made out of plastic bottles filled with liquid. It was under the program of My Shelter Foundation led by Mr. Illiac Diaz. I also saw a video by the Hug It Forward Foundation in Guatemala, showing how the whole community made classrooms out of this often discarded material. I knew that projects such as this that turn a problem into a solution should be witnessed by more people on a global scale.
You have been a vocal supporter for 999Bottles. What about our project encouraged you to lend your voice to our efforts?
Aside from being in line with my mission of changing lives one bottle at a time, the product itself serves as a daily reminder on how one small act done consistently compounds into an act that would definitely benefit the environment in a big way. Here in the UAE alone, a person consumes about 450 bottles of water each year, that is the highest rate in the whole world! Think about the amount of waste that can be eradicated if such product becomes available in the market. Plus, it’s a tool to remind each and every one of us about our responsibility in this planet.
What is in store for you? What are some of the changes you would like to see happen to improve our environment, our lives and our societies?
On 2013, I’m planning to visit Guatemala and help building a classroom out of used bottles in one of Hug It Forward Foundation’s selected communities. I am in communication with the other 2011 Citizen Ambassadors,as well as with some of the Foundation’s leaders and I amtruly looking forward in working chand-in-hand with them in the coming year.
I would like to see a cleaner and greener world, where each citizen is genuinely concerned about the environment. Personally, a 999Bottle in every person’s hand instead of a PET bottle would be a great start. I also hope that the principles of sustainable development would be more integrated in government policies and programs and that each country would focus its efforts to reverse the damage in our environmental resources.