Many of us are concerned about our impact on this planet, and however easy it may seem to find information about what sustainability means and how we can reduce our ecological footprint, it’s also a slippery slope into finding yourself questioning every single little thing in your life.
Documentaries are a great way to begin to understand a topic or to make you proficient and articulate enough to be able to explain to your friends and family why you’re not buying that £3 top from Primark or eating that ham and cheese sandwich from Greggs.
We thought we’d give you a little nudge in that direction, so here are 10 of the best documentaries on Netflix right now (as well as a few bonus ones).
// On climate change
Documentaries on climate change set the scene to why living sustainably is important and remind us of the big picture. Ten years after An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore came back to show the impact of human activities on the planet, why we should care about global warming, and what can be done.
Several other movies have also been released on this subject. You can watch Before the Flood, in which Leonardo DiCaprio investigates global warming and what is being done across the globe; and Tomorrow, which shows what communities all around the world have already changed and brings climate change action to an achievable level for all of us.
// On fast fashion
Focused on the cheap clothing that can be found in many cities, this movie shows the real cost of what is now called “fast fashion”. It explores the social, environmental and economic impacts of selling (and buying) £5 T-shirts or £20 jeans. It also presents what some brands are doing to enable the fabric producers, the clothes-makers, and retailers to make a decent living. If you want to know more about the subject, you can then visit the movie’s website which is has a wealth of information on this.
On the same subject, you can also watch both Sweatshop movies, in which fashion bloggers are presented with the lives of Cambodian workers:
// On minimalism
The best way to avoid the damaging impact of what we buy is… to stop buying it. This documentary explores the minimalism movements and how people have turned their lives around to own and buy as little as possible. It follows two of the founders of the Minimalism movement as well as families who have adopted the same lifestyle, showing the viewer that a minimalistic approach to life doesn’t need to be that difficult to attain.
(A word of caution though, after watching this documentary you might want to sort all your belongings and donate a lot of them!)
On a similar subject, you can also watch Happy, which take a slightly different approach: by exploring what makes people happy and positive psychology, it shows that possessions are not the key to happiness.
// On food production
While it is possible to live with minimal ownership of material goods, we all still need to eat. Food production is the biggest water consumer in the world and amongst the biggest polluters of our water and soils. Sustainable depicts a good picture of the main issues linked with food production, but also what farmers are already doing to limit its impact and what customers can do.
If you’re keen on the topic and want to delve deeper, Cowspiracy is a great watch (and one of the most prominent documentaries on the meat industry), as well as Rotten, a great docuseries on specific food-chain related issues, and Food Choices on the food industry.
// On waste
In this breath-taking documentary, we are taken through a journey around the world’s oceans and shown to what extent they are polluted with plastic waste. If you are trying to convince your inner circle to limit their plastic consumption, it’s a very good idea to start with watching this documentary with them!
Plastic pollution has been well documented, so if you’ve already watched A Plastic Ocean, you can also watch Plastic Paradise, a multi-awarded documentary on the effects of our plastic consumption, even in the most remote places in the world.
For something on the impact of human activities in the ocean, Chasing Coral explores the disappearance of coral reefs around the world; and for something more focused on the impact of food waste (outside of the realm of Netflix) Just Eat It and Trashed give us a good grasp of the subject.
If after watching all these you are filled with a sudden sense of urgency urge to massively reduce (or eliminate) your waste production, No Impact Man and the Clean Bin Project will introduce you to zero-waste living and how you can make it work.
There are many more extraordinary documentaries out there shining a light on these issues. So, occasionally, instead of watching your favourite Netflix binge, why not learn all about the amazing ways people are finding to tackle them? You won’t even have to leave your sofa.