Ezequiel’s Solution for Sustainability: An Interview with Ezequiel Vedana Da Rosa, UN Young Leader for the SDGs

Caroline Rakus-Wojciechowski (Chairwoman & President of the UNA-Brooklyn Chapter Young Professionals) interviewed United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Young Leader Ezequiel Vedana Da Rosa to learn more about his accomplishments during his term.

“Everything in my life changed after I started my first business.” 

For Ezequiel Vedana Da Rosa, the choice to start a business was not one that was made lightly. As someone from a low-income family in the small town of Sao Marcos, Ezequiel knew that, in this world, youth have to be innovative entrepreneurs in order to provide for themselves. First conceptualizing InMobile graphic design and later Marry Me Noivas, a wedding-dress shop, Ezequiel was financially supporting himself well. However, he couldn’t help but feel, even at a young age, that there was something greater he was meant to do.

“I wanted to find my purpose.”

Ezequiel’s new venture began as an idea that seemed out of reach. The mission of Ezequiel’s enterprise, Piipee, is to reduce water consumption by way of using environmentally-friendly sanitizing solutions to neutralize urine. “Our challenge as a company,” Ezequiel remarked, “is to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” Globally, most individuals aren’t aware of the SDGs or of what they stand for. Like the United Nations Association, Ezequiel seeks to bring the Goals to local communities. His challenge is proving to the people of Brazil that SDGs are worthy of investment.

In 2014, the launch of the product line coincided with a critical point in Brazil’s recent history, one that created a demand for his solutions on an unprecedented scale. Sao Paolo suffered a huge water crisis onset by what was termed the “worst drought in eight decades.” The city’s reservoirs were decreased by a staggering 95% percent, affecting more than 22 million individuals.  

Piipee utilizes statistics to demonstrate the individual contribution of water consumption per person. Ezequiel explained, “Every 24 hours, more than 10 billion flushes are pressed, consuming more than 60 billion liters of clean water. More than 80% of water consumption is to eliminate urine.” Put another way, if everyone flushed their toilets in a Manhattan apartment building at the same time, the pipes would actually break because no plumbing system is equipped to handle that much pressure. Using Piipee solutions would not only neutralize the urine and conserve our water supplies but would also annually save companies millions of dollars. Furthermore, Piipee also implements a four-month plan to change the behavioral habits of flushing to guarantee the success of the product for investors. 

COVID-19 has posed another threat to Brazil and its economy, a threat that has left no part of the world untouched. With the Brazilian government becoming increasingly lenient on strict deadlines, Ezequiel is relieved and grateful that he won’t need to furlough any employees. Instead, he needs only to decrease their work hours. Ezequiel dedicates much of his time, especially now, to ensure that the distribution of his products does not get disrupted: the Sao Paolo water reserves must remain un-threatened.  As COVID-19 presses on, Ezequiel’s business model also has a new focus. With the demand for sanitation products exponentially increasing across the globe while supply decreases, Ezequiel is focusing on new branding, slogans, and even a new formula for cleaning products that are less harmful to the environment. 

Becoming a UN SDG Young Leader meant bringing credibility to his company and to the SDGs in Brazil.

“I believed in the impact. I was so focused on saving water that people in Brazil called me the ‘Pee’ guy.” As Ezequiel furthered his work as a Young Leader, he saw that the challenge of making the SDGs relatable to his community was also a challenge in other parts of the world. Having the distinct title of ‘Young Leader’ would help show his country that the work he was trying to do was important, not just in Brazil, but around the world. This was what he found most rewarding. 

Ezequiel’s only regret is not having enough time to do it all and study the different branches of the UN: the reach of the United Nations is vast. Fortunately, Ezequiel’s passion does not end with his tenure as a UN SDG Young Leader. Both Ezequiel and UNA-USA demonstrate that the passion for bringing about social justice and preserving human rights has no deadline, and its reach knows no bounds. 

The takeaway for UNA-USA members: Continue utilizing your networks to bring about social change and to champion the SDGs to your community. As UNA-USA members, we are part of a larger movement that is helping to spread awareness of the SDGs, just like Ezequiel.