Be a Toxic Free Zone
In 2013, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center developed the 6-week workshop titled, “Be a Toxic Free Zone.” With the knowledge and guidance of our experienced staff, we created a hands-on workshop teaching participants how to reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals and ultimately, improve the health of the marine environment.
Access our Be a Toxic Free Zone guide in English and Spanish for free. This resource will guide you in identifying toxic chemicals in your home and provide simple alternatives that are safe and cost-effective.
The following resources are meant to give you a sneak peek of the Be A Toxic Free Zone program. Each week’s steps will lead you to parting with toxic chemicals in your personal care products, cleaning products, food, and home. It will also guide you in becoming engaged with the issues surrounding toxics by asking you to take personal and collective actions. Each suggested action is designed to lead you and your community to reduce exposure to toxics and ultimately, result in a healthier ocean and environment. From toxic-free DIY (do-it-yourself) recipes, to short films, to attending community events, this sneak peek will leave you empowered and informed.
Week 1, Introduction to Toxics
Learn: Watch the film, Chemerical. It explores the lifecycle of everyday cleaning products and personal care products in your home. How we use them, what their ingredients are, and the effects those have on human health are some of the topics covered through this documentary that follows an average American family in detoxifying their home. You can view it online for free.
Learn: There are many actions we can take towards a healthier life and a healthier ocean. As part of The Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Gone Green? Go Blue! initiative, we encourage people to learn about the difference between a personal action and a collective action. See how these two types of action can make a BIG difference:
Be A Toxic Free Zone participants will be enabled to learn about and take the next step in helping to reduce toxics at the societal or collective level. This is where the most significant change will happen, in the policies and regulations that govern to how toxic chemicals are manufactured, stored, transported, and incorporated into everyday objects. It’s at the policy and legislative level where decisions are made about what information is required for product labels, and how businesses use toxics. There are also other ways to influence this issue at a larger scale, such as talking to retailers and businesses about what products they make or carry and sharing what you are learning here with your friends, family, workplace, social media and other places. These are all what we call collective actions. Throughout the workshop, you will see personal (on your own) and collective actions you can take to start making positive change.
Personal Action: Choose a commercial/store-bought cleaning product from home to investigate on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Cleaning Products.
Collective Action: Think back on any personal or collective actions you have taken in your life. What were the actions? What motivated you to do them? What cause were you doing them for?
Week 2, Household Cleaners
Learn: Many cleaning products and their ingredients make their way to the marine environment through waste water. Although waste water from your shower, sinks, or toilet is treated, many cleaning product ingredients are too small to be filtered out. Ultimately, they make their way to the oceans and into marine life.
Personal Action: Make do-it-yourself (DIY) cleaning products that are toxic-free, safe for you, and safe for the marine environment. Try these DIY cleaning products and cost-saving recipes.
Collective Action: Learn about how chemicals are regulated by reading about the Toxic Substance Control Act:
EPA’s summary of the Toxic Substance Control Act:
Learn how the Toxic Substance Control Act falls short of protecting us from harmful chemicals: Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
Week 3, Inside the Home Part I
Learn: The third week of the workshop focuses on issues surrounding chemical flame retardants. This week features excellent investigative journaling by filmmakers and writers. “Chemical flame retardants are everywhere. Our furniture. Our homes. Our bodies. But do they work as promised? And are they making us sick?” write the lead filmmakers of Toxic Hot Seat.
Rent the film, Toxic Hot Seat, by Kirby Walker and James Walker. If you’re unable to rent this film from HBO, you can read the Chicago Tribune series that the film is based upon.
Personal Action: Explore where flame retardants are in your home by researching what the label “California Technical Bill (TB) 117” means. Come to class with a list of where you found furniture or goods with the label, “This garment, furniture, etc. meets the standards of TB 117”.
Collective Action: Write and thank the people of Chicago Tribune or the makers of the film Toxic Hot Seat for bringing this issue to the public. You can also investigate your state’s position on chemical flame retardant regulation.
Week 4, Personal Care Products
Learn: Many personal care products (such as deodorant, shampoo, makeup, soaps, perfumes, etc.) and their ingredients make their way to the marine environment through waste water. Although waste water from your shower, sinks, or toilet is treated, many cleaning product ingredients are too small to be filtered out. Ultimately, they make their way to the oceans and into marine life. To learn more about this topic, watch the Story of Cosmetics.
Personal Action: Make DIY personal care products that are toxic-free, safe for you, and safe for the marine environment.
Collective Action: Sign up for the Safer Cosmetics newsletter or help others learn about this issue by sending the Story of Cosmetics video to three family members or friends.
Week 5, Inside the Home Part II
Learn: It’s important to understand how toxic chemicals make their way from our homes to the marine environment. Explore the Port Townsend Marine Science Center's interactive online program, Fishy Riddles. To learn about healthier alternatives to toxics in your home, you can also print a copy of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Be A Toxic Free Zone guide.
Personal Action: Make a step towards a toxic-free environment by visiting your local farmer’s market or grocer to shop for organic produce.
Collective Action: Collect hazardous wastes from your home and bring them to the proper disposal facility. Before going, call a couple friends and let them know you’re going. Ask if there is anything you can dispose of for them.
Week 6, Food and Final Messages
Learn: The final session teaches participants about toxic chemicals in and on our food. Learn more about this by visiting the Environmental Working Group’s resources on food. You can also learn which types of organic produce are the most important to buy by printing a copy of the Dirty Dozen shopping guide.
Personal Action: Get inspired to be a part of the solution for creating healthy alternatives to toxic chemicals in our environment. Watch The Story of Change.
Collective Action: Sign up for a Be A Toxic Free Zone workshop with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Share this workshop sneak peek with a family member.