By Hector Dominguez – Jade District Resident

The Empowerment Clinic was founded by Michael Braxton over 10 years ago with a vision of Compassion and Justice for everyone. The Empowerment Clinic ( serves the local homeless population focusing on Blacks, Latinos and LGBTQ as the most disadvantage individuals. Recently, they have moved their headquarters to the Jade District and are supporting people in need in our neighborhood.

Michael is an entrepreneur and looks into the success of the services that he provides to the community constantly looking for excellence and trying to make their operations more efficient. That is how Michael got interested when I first mentioned about the sustainability at work certification promoted by the city of Portland, as a way to encourage business to handle solid waste better and improve their sustainability practices.

After finishing the Master Recycler Program, I noticed that there was no business certified at the Jade District and practically none in East Portland. So,I decided to present the idea to promote better sustainable and recycling practice in local business to the Jade District Steering Committee; and Michael, who was there to introduce himself as a new business resident, took the initiative and we started talking about the certification and how to make their operations more efficient and engaging employees and customers.

Sustainability at Work offers three levels of certification to recognize your business’s positive impact on our environment and our community. This certification also helps to connect alike businesses, share achievements with staff and customers, and capitalize on the business success by accessing resources managed by the city and be part of the larger sustainable community.

How does the certification work? Basically, the business downloads its application and instructions from the internet. Requirements are different depending if your business is and office, restaurant, retail or grocery store. The areas on which business are evaluated are:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Employee Engagement




Community Engagement

After you have completed your self-assessment, you have to email your application and within two days of receiving it, the city will schedule an interview at the business. A visit typically takes an hour to complete.

After a first evaluation, a period to improve and a potential second visit, a certification is awarded according to the merits of the business, which will be included on the city website and all marketing communications. The certification lasts for three years. At the end of that period, the business will need to submit a new checklist and meet the latest program standards for renewal.

That was the process that Michael and the Empowerment Clinic followed and at the end of the process, on this May 2018, the Empowerment Clinic got awarded with a Silver level certification, which is a great achievement for an organization that is already busy with their day-to-day work and showcases the commitment that small business owned by people of color have to protect the environment.

Sustainability and recycling is important to everyone. Underserved communities are under constant stress and it is hard for small businesses to invest extra in more efficient lighting, or better drinking water facilities or ways to engage employees doing sustainable practices like using public transit instead or their cars or implement better recycling at work. That’s why it is so important to create community around this practices, so businesses can share resources and support each other.

If you want to learn more about sustainability at work, please visit the program website: and if you are interested in applying to the program, contact the Jade District staff to find more local support and learn more about this story: