Buy local, buy small – a minimum we should all practice

The last few days in Chile have been incredibly difficult for everyone and the situation continues to be extremely complicated, with no clear resolution in sight. No one wants to see public infrastructure such as the metro destroyed and supermarkets and shops looted, but we need to focus on the fundamental issues that have led to the current situation. Society has finally said “enough is enough” to serious social inequalities in a country that has been hailed as a shining light of economic success and stability in Latin America. But this success is only enjoyed by a very small portion of the country’s citizens.

For those of you that follow our blog from other countries, it is likely that the media are only showing the terrible terrible side of these protests, but it is also important that people see the amazing, peaceful protests that have also been taking place, with thousands of people, in parks and plazas from the north of Chile to the far south in Patagonia. Families, children, grandparents, people from all socio-economic levels peacefully demonstrating for a more just society.

But the point of this post is not to go into politics. Over the last few days I have been reflecting a lot on the role each of us plays in the current situation, and even more importantly, what each of us can do as we look to the future and how to rebuild trust, relationships and society as a whole.

And it got me thinking about what our role in Maria Pinto is as we build our home here.

If you had asked me in the beginning of our project who our main supplier would be, I would probably have said Sodimac (for those of you overseas, this is the biggest home improvement and construction retailer in Chile and Latin America). I have worked with the sustainability department in Sodimac for many years and I know how committed they are to being a sustainable company. So it was natural for me to think that they would be our supplier of choice.

But, in the end, although we have used Sodimac, we have put far more emphasis on using local suppliers from Maria Pinto, or from the nearby town of Melipilla. In some cases, local suppliers are slightly more expensive than bigger retailers (for obvious reasons), but the added benefit of quick response and delivery times, made it well worth our while. And at the end of the day, I know that our support is going to a local family, in a community that is one of the poorest in the Metropolitan Region of Chile.

Buying local has meant that we have gotten to know some great local businesses starting with La Paloma Hardware store in Maria Pinto:

From day one they have always responded quickly to our needs and it is a pleasure to go into the store and be greeted with a smile by everyone.
Or Don Juan and his son Claudio’s earth moving business which he started from scratch. Don Juan helped us excavate the swimming pool at the beginning of our project, and went well beyond the role of a normal digger driver. In a few weeks time he will be back helping us install the pool in its new location, ready for the summer. Claudio has always been very attentive to our needs, even whatsapping Rodrigo at 6am one morning to confirm that he had managed to get a digger to start our excavations that same day. Diggers, and good diggers are hard to come by in the valley, so his commitment to not delaying the start of our project was highly appreciated.

Or Victor, owner of VHB Construction Materials, who has provided us with countless materials including 10.000 screws (I had no idea interior walls used so many screws!) at prices that put bigger retailers to shame. He started his own distribution business after working in a hardware store and understanding the huge logistical challenges in the construction industry. He replies incredibly quickly to our needs, has decent prices and delivers on time, as promised.

And finally there is Don Manuel, our “fletero”, (transporter) who has helped us deliver a large portion of the materials for our house, including equipment we have had to rent for specific jobs. He was there the first day we bought materials for the builder’s house and he has been there seeing our progress along the way. He is even going to help us move in a months time!

The point I want to make is that each and every one of us, with our purchasing decisions, can influence and support the development and success of small businesses in our towns, cities or neighbourhoods. The knock-on effect of supporting small, local businesses is far bigger than we can even imagine. So think twice before buying from a big chainstore, who won’t be so affected by your purchase, and try and find small entrepreneurs or local business people, who will appreciate and value your business.

Buy local! I know we will continue to do so, even after we finish building our house.   

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