The story of Powerful Purchase

I decided to start writing this blog after I watched Trigger Warning with Killer Mike. There was an episode where he spent a day only supporting black-owned businesses. To the letter, he didn’t participate in any activity that didn’t buttress the black economy. No phone, no car, he ate no food that wasn’t prepared by black chefs AND sourced from black-owned farms. He didn’t smoke weed or stay in a hotel or take a cab. Maybe it was mostly a stunt, but the underlying point stuck with me. He explained on the show that there was a time when the black community sustained black businesses by choosing to purchase goods and services from those businesses. It was a conscious effort to bolster an economy for black entrepreneurs. During the civil rights era, it created a vibrant sub-economy.

I was struck by the clarity of this idea as well as ashamed by how little I myself considered from whom I was buying. I do try to be thoughtful about where I spend my money, but I never examined the real power behind it. So, I took my concern to Google to find a site that compiled businesses that are worthy of the dollar. There are sites for businesses that are green. There are lists of black-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, immigrant-owned businesses, locally-owned businesses. None of them felt complete to me. I wanted a site that gave me the product and told me the reasons I should buy it. That drew me a picture of the positive impact my purchase would make. I wanted a site with holistic meaning, more than just consumerist reflection. For example, my time is a valuable asset so I wanted to know valuable ways I could spend it. I wanted a guide to mindful consumerism AND mindful living. I couldn’t find anything like that. Thus, Powerful Purchase was born.

In most cases, the best thing you can do as a consumer is NOT to consume. Don’t purchase. However, there are other times in which you can choose to purchase because it positively impacts a community. Or, because it sends a message. Or, because it changes a business model. Finding purchase isn’t always about buying stuff. Gaining ground, holding on, finding a foothold sometimes means giving your time, rethinking your choices, planting new ideas, considering alternatives. We need each other to make things better and most of us need to buy things from time to time. There are ways to merge those two truths. That is what the powerful purchase is about. Making each other better by being better to each other.

This blog is intended to be a journey. There will be a fair amount of consumer reviews. But for every blog, I’m aiming for what matters. I’m aiming to find the best purchase, figuratively or literally. I’m aiming to find a powerful purchase because I care about how I spend my resources. I’m guessing you do too. Here I will build a collection of worthy ways to be a consumer — worthy ways to be a human being. This isn’t just a product review blog. I intend to highlight any organization or idea that matters. So you will find, within these pages, ways you can use your power for good.

I want this site to make a difference. I believe there is a way to make a difference, one powerful purchase at a time.


Photo by Karla Reina

Coffee has long dominated the morning ritual of Americans. In the daily hustle, the drive-through latte rules. Attempting to stay relevant, coffee has received numerous “upgrades” to make it more paleo, more nutritious, less acidic. What if there was a better way? An entirely different way? Siply is reinventing the morning routine to include clean organic loose leaf tea. The innovation doesn’t stop there, Siply aims to take tea drinking to a whole new level with exciting flavor combinations that will make it easy to quit coffee. If you are coffee drinker looking for a change, butter tea is the way of the future.

For Siply, tea isn’t just hot beverage. Tea is serene. It is both calming and invigorating. It is beneficial in ways that far surpass coffee. It is linked with decreased depression, diabetes and other diseases. Siply makes extra effort to source ethically. Teas are tested for heavy metals and pesticides. Beyond those benefits, Siply encourages a conscious connection to tea drinking. Drinking tea is about taking your foot off the pedal. It’s about the present moment. It’s about stimulating and focusing the mind. For Siply, tea drinking is meditation — as it has been for a thousand years.

Why it matters: Biodiversity

Tea is better for the planet than coffee. Period. It is easier to grow, and requires less water. It can grow in more diverse climates. Tea can also be mixed with other herbs or spices that further extend it’s sustainability. Transitioning the world from coffee is a huge undertaking, for sure. Siply is doing it one steamy cup at a time. We may throw our money at fatigue by ordering a double mocha latte. Siply teaches a better way to drink a better beverage that is ultimately better for the planet. It is a more conscientious way to spend your dollars, and a more mindful way to spend your morning.

Green Monkey

Finding the right childcare is challenging. Not only is it expensive but in a place like Austin, as in most large cities, wait lists are long. Parents hold spots at the best day cares before they even have children to fill them. We understood that we’d have to make some comprises when choosing a day care. We feel extraordinarily lucky to have found Green Monkey. Not a single compromise was necessary.

Green Monkey is an in-home day care that incorporates respectful principles and practices play-based learning. The ratio of children to adults is small. It is chemical free. Meals are plant-based, no processed foods. The owners, Ruby and Adrian, cook fresh pasta and bread for the kids, introducing them to new flavors and cultures at lunchtime. The kiddos often “help” with cooking. They have a lovely garden where the children experience growing their own food. It is near a park where the kids can run in open fields or ride their balance bikes or fly kites. The owners are bilingual, singing Spanish and English songs with the class. Because it is a small group of children, we are building a community with the other families. Weekends are full of birthday parties or other opportunities to connect.

Why it matters: It takes a village.

The owners of Green Monkey aren’t just setting new standards for child care, they are offering to teach others to do the same. Their vision for care extends beyond their own home and into the homes of others. Ruby and Adrian offer consultation services that range from helping an existing childcare facility become more green to establishing brand new home day cares that follow their model of healthy, wholesome childcare. It matters because it’s not all about expanding their own business to take in more kids. It’s about creating a bigger greener village that will enrich the lives of more children. It’s about a rising tide lifting all boats. Green Monkey is sharing their very special gift with as many as they can, and in doing so transforming childcare in a genuine, positive and enduring way.

Enlightened Baby

New parents are often overwhelmed by product advertisements. Most of those products are unnecessary. Too many are cheap, plastic and disposable. It is frustrating to purchase something, spend time assembling it, only to have it break within a few weeks of play. That is why I choose quality over quantity. I’d rather have a few sturdy wooden toys, than a plethora of plastic ones.

Enlightened Baby is based in Austin TX. It is family-owned and operated. Their mission is to consider not only the utility of their products but also their environmental footprint. They aim to give parents simple, natural options that won’t require replacement. Products that stimulate learning, that are made with love, and that offer peace of mind new parents desperately need. No worrying over toxins. No stress about tiny pieces breaking off or little teeth scrapping paint. It is obvious that everything on their shelves has been chosen with care and consideration. Though the price tags might be higher, the value of products is obvious. Enlightened Baby offers toys and essentials that will last.

Why it matters: Worker Benefits

Enlightened Baby allows their associates the option to bring baby to work with them. It is easy for a small family-run baby store to offer this benefit. However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible for larger stores to do the same. There are many reasons why Enlightened Baby is worthy of your dollar. From the conscientiously curated collection of goods, to the fact that it is owned and operated by a mom. Re-envisioning how employees, especially new moms, are treated, is why it matters. It is an innovative, forward-thinking way to elevate the work environment. Rather than asking a parent to leave their young baby at home, Enlightened Baby encourages new parents to bring their infant to work. The future of work is changing. Putting families first is something every business owner should consider just as Enlightened Baby has done.

Hemp 360

For years I struggled with my complexion. I tried everything from Amoxicillin to Proactive to Accutane. Nothing helped. My skin remained stubbornly and unpredictably blemished. Then, as I began to reevaluate my overall health, I started also to understand more about my own skin.

Skin is the largest organ. Among other purposes it serves, it acts as a conduit. It will absorb toxins from clothing, the air, and from anything applied to it. Those toxins damage the skin’s ability to function. There are also long term implications because toxins may enter the blood stream through the skin affecting other internal systems. Part of the natural process of skin is regeneration. However, external impurities halt its ability to heal, hence unbalanced visibly distressed skin.

I discovered Hemp 360 at the farmers market in Austin. Using raw, organic, cold-pressed ingredients, including, but no limited to, the super nutritious hemp oil, Hemp 360 offers skin care with zero toxins. No preservatives, no nonessential stabilizers, just pure oils and butters. Within a month of using their skin repair raw lotion, I no longer had the deep cystic spots that afflicted me most of my life. My skin healed and brightened. Hemp 360 is an impressive skin care line born of simple, nourishing ingredients.

Why it matters: Hemp.

Hemp is the non-drug version of the cannabis genus. Though it shares a family with marijuana, it is not psychoactive. It does, however, grow like a weed. That means it does not require pesticides or fertilizers and can thrive in diverse climates. It is a hardy plant that can be utilized in many different ways; from textiles, to nutritional supplements to skin care to building materials. It is a high return resource with a low environmental impact. Hemp 360 Skin Care takes advantage of one aspect of this versatile plant; it’s beneficial oils. But in doing so, they continue to support the market for a plant that has the potential to move many industries toward a more sustainable model of production. They may have chosen hemp for it’s miraculous skin healing properties, but ultimately that choice can also help to heal the planet.

The Future 50 Foods

“Future 50 Foods is the beginning of a journey and a way for people to make a change, one delicious dish at a time.” –WWF/Knorr Future 50 Report

Several years ago my interest in the sustainable food movement began. Volunteering at the farmers market and finding other ways to shop for local, sustainably-raised food became a kind of obsession. I volunteered at the Sustainable Food Center. I spent a few years eating as a vegan. I’ve read Dan Barber’s book Third Plate twice. When it comes to mindful eating, I’ve been on board for awhile.

My views have evolved over the years. The roll industrialized agriculture plays in damaging the environment has only become more apparent to me. As the population continues to expand, the urgency to find new ways to feed the world increases. Dangerous mono-crops threaten the vitality of the entire industry and continue to wreak havoc on ecosystems. The Future 50 Foods report, compiled by Knorr and the World Wildlife Fund, is the best compilation I’ve seen which offers solutions to the food crisis. Solutions in the form of nutrient dense foods that are easy to produce en mass.

Biodiversity is key when considering the possible effects of what we eat. The report asserts the importance of eating a variety of food, siting that “75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and 5 animal species.” Finding new foods, new varieties, new flavors should be an imperative as we look for ways to help the environment. Establishing a demand for unfamiliar foods like bambara groundnuts or fonio is challenging, but doable. Think of the rise of kale and quinoa in American cooking. We can eat our way into sustainability by making the foods on this list more mainstream.

Why it matters: Affordability.

“Local,” “sustainable,” “organic” — these words though important, have come to be more of a status symbol than an environmental practice. After all, these types of local, sustainable and organic foods often are priced to reflect the demand for such labels. The Future 50 list is different. It is about choosing foods that are inexpensive to farm and inexpensive to consume. Foods that often grow well in poor or unpredictable climates. Foods that are affordable in every sense of the word. They cost the earth minimal energy to produce. Many foods on the list invest valuable nitrogen back into the soil, bolstering the ecosystem rather than draining it. Sustainability is only truly effective if every class of person can be involved, not just the affluent. Eating the Future 50 Foods is not a class signal, it is a pragmatic and inexpensive way to eat healthy. It is about health for the body and health for the world.

Thai Fresh

Thai Fresh is our favorite spot for Thai food in Austin. A plate full of Pad Thai or a steaming bowl of Tom Kha soup at Thai Fresh makes for a pretty perfect meal. I like to finish it off with my favorite coconut-based Thai tea ice cream, a delightful dessert option.

With a bar offering locally roasted coffee and local taps, Thai Fresh is a great spot to work or play. Start the morning with a strong Thai coffee and then finish the afternoon with an IPA. Now that’s a good day’s work!

Thai Fresh sources from local farms as much as possible. It shows in the freshness of the food. Partnering with local farms is a standard of any sustainably-conscious restaurant. Thai Fresh pulls this off brilliantly with mindful recipes developed to include flavors that can be found right here in Texas rather than imported from far off places.

Why it matters: Living Wages.

Recently Thai Fresh joined a growing movement of restaurateurs that have done away with tipping and adjusted menu pricing to cover the cost of paying employees better wages. Full-time workers that make below $11.83 per hour live in poverty, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In a place like Austin Texas, where the cost of living is higher, it is exceptionally hard for service industry employees to survive much less thrive. Thai Fresh made the decision to pay a fair wage — to care about their service team. I don’t mind paying more for Pad Thai or Tom Kha when I know that the men and women working hard to make it are earning more than $2.15 per hour. Local sourcing, woman-owned and minority-owned are great reasons to give Thai Fresh your business. Bucking the system and pledging to treat staff better — That is why Thai Fresh matters. It is why they deserve your time and your money. Your taste buds and your conscience will thank you!

What is a powerful purchase?

A powerful purchase is more than an exchange of goods and services. It is a reflection of values. It is an investment in community. It is an opportunity to make a difference.

The word purchase doesn’t just mean the act of buying. Purchase also means a hold or position on something for applying power advantageously. Purchase means foothold. It means anchor. It means support. We look for purchase in things that are sturdy, foundational and reliable.

We look for purchase in places that will hold us up.

Finding purchase in this mixed up world is difficult. It can be intimidating. Finding purchase for our time and money is overwhelming. In the vast ocean of commerce, it can be hard to stay anchored.

This is a collection of places where you’ll find purchase.

Organizations and businesses that are powerful in stabilizing ways. That consciously consider their employees. That actively work toward sustainability. That cultivate their communities.

In a world full of information, finding what you need can be surprisingly hard. Here you’ll find opportunities that will empower both your dollar and your spirit. Ways to improve your interaction with the standard structure of buying and selling goods.

Here you’ll find what matters.