Best Documentaries & Films About Sustainability | Netflix & More

5 of the Best Sustainability Documentaries

Knowledge is power — it can damage the earth, yet it can also restore balance. It all comes down to what people do with their insight. In the case of sustainability, the more there is to learn about the impact people have on the planet, the better. So without further ado, brush up on your knowledge with these 5 must-watch documentaries that highlight sustainability matters.

#1 Years of Living Dangerously

Why this documentary is important

A documentary series called “the most important series ever made”, which won the 2014 Emmy Award in the Best Documentary Series category, gathers media personalities such as Jack Black, Ty Burrell, David Letterman, Gisele Bündchen, and Ian Somerhalder. These celebrities lend their faces to raise awareness of the severity of climate change and the continued deterioration of the natural world. Co-producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger did an excellent job highlighting the urgency of fighting climate change in the show.

The impact

Climate change is one of the most hotly debated topics today, which is one reason why shows such as this exist. If melting glaciers, disappearing islands and radically changing weather weren’t enough proof global warming isn’t a conspiracy, then I’m not sure what’ll change a cynic’s mind. Perhaps, Years of Living Dangerously might turn a sceptic into a believer that climate change is real. If not that, then these 7 debunked fake claims might.

With a science-focused approach, the docuseries explores topics such as overpopulation, sea level rise, the collapse of the oceans, deforestation and extinction of species, people directly affected by global warming and, on the flip side, options to address the current situation.

How to support the initiative

Join The YEARS Project by signing up here. You will receive weekly editions of your choosing on ways to get involved in the climate movement.

Where to watch it

Watch Years of Living Dangerously for free with ads on The YEARS Project YouTube Channel or on The Roku Channel.

Watch the trailer here:

 

#2 ReDress the Future

Why this documentary is important

ReDress the Future is a new series addressing the unsustainable fashion industry as we know it today. The show comes at a time when fashion is emitting more carbon than maritime shipping and international flights combined.

The impact

Clothing has become so disposable that a piece of clothing is only worn on average 7 times before it’s discarded. As a result, the textile waste pile has grown gigantic. Sure, fast fashion makes shopping for clothes affordable, but at an environmental (and human) cost. “The fashion industry has developed an image problem,” says host of the show and climate justice activist Mikaela Loach, “and it’s about time this harmful trend goes out of fashion for good.”

The ideas highlighted in the show call out the relentless consumerism and instead offer a peek into a possible circular fashion future.

How to support the initiative

Buying better and buying less is a good start to help challenge the unsustainable ways of the fashion industry. Supporting brands that embrace the circular business model, among others, is an excellent way to get involved.

Where to watch it

Watch ReDress the Future for free on WaterBear, “the first interactive streaming platform dedicated to the future of our planet”.

Watch the trailer here:

 

#3 Down to Earth with Zac Efron

Why this documentary is important

Down to Earth has a fun angle with bite-sized seriousness to a very pressing topic, which I personally loved. And no, not just because Zac Efron is the face of the show. Although, the show certainly paints him in a refreshing light as he journeys around the world with a wellness expert, who seems to be a close friend, Darin Olien. Sure, some of the ideas are considered pseudoscience, which can be somewhat problematic, but overall the show paints a crucial picture —the planet is worth looking after.

The impact

It might be somewhat disappointing that the thrill-seeking docuseries kept science as an afterthought but it still does a great job of being relatable, encouraging viewers to adopt a higher level of eco-consciousness, good health and cultural awareness. Some say the show lacks depth, but perhaps that’s missing the value of challenging habits in a simple way that entertains. After all, while some documentaries focus on scientific facts to persuade, to make an impact you need to get folk’s attention and scientific didacticism can get some folk switching off.

All-in-all, Down to Earth is a heartfelt docuseries that reveals how more environmentally friendly efforts, although small, are improving people’s lives.

How to support the initiative

Join Zac and Darin in contributing to some of their favourite and most humbling charities urgently needing it.

Where to watch it

Tune in on Netflix to stream all episodes.

Watch the trailer here:

 

#4 Chasing Coral

Why this documentary is important

Unlike Down to Earth’s modest approach, Chasing Coral takes a much deeper dive. The film got a team of scientists, photographers, and divers to embark on a 3-year ocean adventure to learn why corals are vanishing at an alarming rate. They rely on the 500+ hours of visual evidence captured of coral bleaching to reveal the devastation brought on by climate change.

The impact

Chasing Coral was released globally in 2017 and continues to make waves even today. The team also launched an impact campaign to make sure the terrifying loss of reefs doesn’t go unseen. In 2019, the film crew was honoured with the DocImpact Hi5 for “excellence in filmmaking and creating significant and measurable social impact”.

Read the impact case study here.

How to support the initiative

As cliché as it may seem, collective action can make a difference. Visit this page to find ways you can take action and become part of the solution—not the problem.

Where to watch it

You can stream Chasing Coral on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here:

 

#5 Our Planet

Why this documentary is important

Planet Earth and Our Planet might be from the same creator and narrated by the familiar soothing tones of David Attenborough. Yet, there’s a stark difference between the two documentaries. The latter is a more called-for update, still appealing to the sense of wonder, but with a purpose. Our Planet is a groundbreaking 4-year collaboration to ignite global interest in understanding the planet — and the problems it faces.

The impact

The film not only showcases the familiar pattern of breathtaking shots meant to encourage awe for the delicate systems of the planet but also implores us to save it before it’s too late. Each episode is about the web of life in a place, showing the devastating effects if only one element is disrupted. For the most part, Our Planet revels in the remaining grandeur of Earth. But it doesn’t hold back how badly humans have messed it up. It’s genuinely startling.

How to support the initiative

Visit Our Planet’s website to find out what you can do to help save the planet.

Where to watch it

You can stream Our Planet on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here:


So there are some impactful documentaries about sustainability but it doesn’t end here. If you are anything like me, you would venture down the rabbit hole even further. There are many documentaries out there waiting to be discovered—let me know your favourites in the comments section below. And of course, don’t forget to contact Akepa to help you grow your sustainable mission with a dedicated sustainable marketing agency.

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Celesté Polley

Celesté is a content writer, creative photographer, pianist, avid birder, environmentalist at heart, and Earth wanderer from South Africa.

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