PSU Partnership Awarded EPA Grant to Provide Pollution Reduction Programming to Native-Owned and Native-Serving Businesses

The two-phase program will provide sustainability and pollutant-reducing coaching sessions to 100 organizations across the state.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Portland State University will receive $716,494 for a project to deliver sustainably technical assistance to Native-owned and Native-serving businesses to reduce exposure to toxins and inhalants.

The first stage of the project will involve appointing up to 10 leaders from the Native and Native-serving business community to design culturally specific material and programming to reduce exposure to toxins within tribal communities, as well as reduce the number of pollutants that enter the environment through disposal training and sourcing of material.

In the second phase, 100 Native American and Native American-serving businesses and organizations will be selected by Portland-based Northwest Native American Chamber of Commerce, an arm of Prosper Portland that provides support and connections to Native American businesses, to receive direct technical assistance through four sessions over three months. Sessions will involve live webinars and virtual coaching in online meetings with members of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council, a nonprofit made up of purchasers and suppliers founded in part by Emory University in 2013, which exists to provides a shared platform for guiding, measuring, and recognizing leadership in sustainable purchasing practices.

The funding is made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provides resources to help local communities develop and implement practices that prevent pollution at the source. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that Native people in the US are 20% more likely to have asthma than whites.

The project will be administered through a partnership between Portland State’s Community Environmental Services unit, PSU’s Institute on Tribal Governance, the Northwest Native American Chamber of Commerce, and the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

“This project is a great example of how the federal government can partner with higher education and non-profits to improve people’s lives, especially in Tribal communities that have greater exposure to toxics and experience more health impacts due to environmental pollution,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller during an event announcing the grant at PSU Native American Student and Community Center, per the release.  

“PSU’s Community Environmental Services has a legacy of putting our expertise in sustainable materials management to use to benefit all people. We’re excited about this opportunity to connect with and learn from Native American businesses in this mission,” said PSU Community Environmental Services director Christa McDermott.  

The funding was announced alongside funding for the Washington State Department of Ecology, which will receive a grant for $412,327 to provide technical assistance to the Hispanic/Latino community in central Washington, in partnership with the Commission on Hispanic Affairs.