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I have always wondered what leaders are like when the spotlights are out and the crowds disperse. There are already lots of lessons I can learn from them in books and on shows, but potentially, the holy grail of knowledge could be discovered in the homes and private lives of these leaders and their families.
When I found out in the middle of my trip to Raleigh, North Carolina that I was going to stay with the Replogles, I was ecstatic. I was excited to meet John Replogle, the man who leads Seventh Generation, and was equally excited to meet his family. I was curious about the morning coffee, dinner conversations, idle moments, and the spaces in between. I was sure that I could find practical, and perhaps, life lessons over and beyond the usual business strategy. So when I stepped inside their beautiful, shabby chic, sustainable home, I was prepared to open my eyes a little bit more, listen more carefully, and just be completely open to new ideas.
By the end of my stay, I learned the following:
1. You CAN have a lot of a good thing
I was happily immersed in Seventh Generation products and I couldn't ask for more. Every nook and cranny of the Replogle's residence was so filled with eco and ethical products that it was almost like the house was breathing life to the environment rather than taking away from it. While I am a firm believer of reducing, reusing, and recycling, it is also good to know that I can indulge in good things without the detrimental environmental impact that comes with consumption.
2. Idealism does not go away with age
I have heard so many times before that the younger generation is more idealistic. When we spend too much time with the realities of the world, we lose that idealistic spark, become more pragmatic, and sadly, sometimes even cynical. In my line of work as a social entrepreneur, I have seen hope and idealism in many people, regardless of age. My stay with the Replogles reinforced my belief that we can keep our idealism while being pragmatic at the same time. John and Kristin often talked about how to make the world a better place. But what's even more awesome is that they can act on their ideals. It is indeed easier to keep some idealism if one is empowered to take an active part in making great things happen.
3. We do not live in a vacuum
We know this. We know that we live on one planet. But sometimes, we live as if our "worlds" are not connected to each other. We take toxic waste materials away from our companies or from our homes and dump them "outside" our "worlds." What if our lifestyles really took into account that our home is the world and our neighbors, the global community? Living for a week with the Replogles was a refreshing experience. John and Kristin's works and advocacies already contribute to the world. But it was great to know that their decisions for their home and for their children also consider the environment and the world as a whole.
I had already heard of Seventh Generation before visiting North Carolina and living with the Replogles. I was thrilled to know more about the company, its corporate responsibility, and the people behind it. But more than learning through discussions on the values and mission of Seventh Generation, I learned about these through my experiences. The Replogles did not just talk about their advocacies as a family. John and Kristin did not just talk about their jobs. They live their values and their mission. For them, social responsibility is not an afterthought; it is the most sensible and rewarding way to live.
About the writer:
Reese Fernandez-Ruiz is the President and CEO of Rags2Riches, Inc, a social enterprise based in the Philippines that creates designer, artisan-made fashion and home accessories out of upcycled and organic materials. Rags2Riches supports hundreds of community-based artisans who are lifting themselves out of poverty through the opportunities Rags2Riches provides. Reese is one of five Rolex Young Laureates, and it is through this program that she was visited Raleigh, North Carolina last April to attend the opening of the Nature Research Center of the Museum of Natural Sciences.