Top Eleven Must-See Sustainability Documentaries

Dec 10, 2020 2:05 PM ET

You’ve already binge-watched Tiger King and Normal People during lockdown, so what’s the next course in your televisual feast? Acre has devised a list of Top 11 sustainability documentaries to give you food for thought. Stay safe and enjoy.

1. Where the Future of Fashion is Headed

The fashion industry is the most polluting after oil and more than 100 billion new garments are produced each year, a third of which are never sold or worn.

Enter the sustainable fashion pioneers. They show how to lower the carbon footprint of your clothing and embrace the circular economy.

The documentary features Vin and Omi, who use their plantation in the Cotswolds to transform plants such as nettles and cow parsley into fabric fit for the catwalk. They also make “leather” from the skins of tree mushrooms and horse chestnuts.

Tasteful. Literally.

2. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things​

This Netflix documentary confirms that we don’t need the biggest house, latest iPhone or a gleaming Porsche to make us happy. Featuring the Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, it looks at people who have downsized, decluttered and brought positivity into their lives along the way.

Joshua and Ryan had high-powered jobs and all the gadgets, but realised they always wanted more. The documentary demonstrates how you can live a more meaningful life with less. Warning: you’ll feel compelled to rid yourself of all of your extra clutter… but in an environmentally-friendly, sustainable way of course!

3. Chasing Coral

We all know that coral is vanishing – in the last 30 years, we have lost 50 per cent of the world’s reefs. This documentary takes you on a virtual dive to see the devastating effects of global warming.​

A team of scientists, divers and photographers spent more than three years shooting more than 500 hours of underwater footage to create the result.

We get to share in their highs and lows as they shine a light on the damage being done to ecosystems that are not only crucial to the health of the oceans but support the livelihoods of up to a billion people.​​

4. Our Planet

Netflix signed up Sir David Attenborough to add his dulcet tones to this big-budget nature series, which is to his usual high – and often breathtaking – standards.

The eight episodes took producer Alastair Fothergillfive years to create – he was also behind the BBC’s Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Frozen Planet­–and it doesn’t disappoint. The series has a strong sustainability message, and with a bit of luck will leave a lasting impression on Netflix’s global audience.

5. The Biggest Little Farm

Molly Chester and her Emmy Award-winning director husband, John, leave their apartment in Santa Monica to fulfil their dream of living on a farm in Moorpark, California.

These guys are hell-bent on living the Good Life and this heart-warming docu-film follows their journey as they learn to farm the eco-friendly way.

Of course, it’s not all pretty flowers and pink piglets. There’s plenty of drama (growing threat from wildfires) and gloom (coyotes becoming “well acquainted” with their poultry), and, of course, masses of muck.

6. A Plastic Ocean

Journalist Craig Leeson and free diver Tanya Streeter illustrate the consequences of eight million tonnes of plastic being dumped into the oceans each year.

The result is shocking. Plastic is not only posing a threat to marine life but is also in our food chain. There’s poignant footage of seals and turtles strangled by plastic and dead birds that never stood a chance.

The documentary stresses that it isn’t too late for us to make the change for a better future and that simple measures such as recycling and using reusable containers can make all the difference.​​

7. The Game Changers

This documentary shows how eating greens (and avoiding meat) can help you to go green, as well as being good for your health.

It also provides an argument for high-performing athletes to eat a primarily plant-based diet. Former professional mixed martial artist James Wilks, who suffered a broken vertebra in competition, discovers that to make the best recovery, the lentil may be mightier than the lamb chop.

Want to be vegan and as strong as an ox? Well, when did you last see an ox eat meat?

8. Earthlings

Animal lovers will find this documentary a very difficult watch. It looks at how animals are subjected to horrendous abuse for our food, scientific experiments, fashion and entertainment. And it pulls no punches in showing distressing images from laboratories and fur farms.

It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal, says narrator Joaquin Phoenix. After watching this you may never want to eat or use animal products again.

9. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Ten years after his Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was aired, Al Gore returns to ramp up efforts in the battle against climate change.

He notes that the most criticised scene in the first documentary surrounded the ability for climate change to create real destruction in places such as the World Trade Center memorial site. These claims were pooh-poohed as an exaggeration. Enter Hurricane Sandy, which flooded the 911 memorial site, as predicted.

“It is right to save humanity, it is wrong to pollute this earth”, notes Gore.

10. Waste Land

Jardim Gramacho outside Rio de Janeiro was the world’s largest landfill site before its closure in 2012 when toxic waste started leaking into the sea. Those who lived nearby earned a crust by sifting through the mountains of rubbish.

This heart-warming documentary tells the story of Vik Muniz, a renowned New York artist, who came to make portraits of the scavengers. His aim? To sell the paintings and give the money directly back to the people in them.

Waste Land gives an insight into the lives of the adults and children who spend their days on the dump and showcases the power of art and its ability to bring out the beauty in people.

11. Down to Earth​​

Zac Efron co-presents this new Netflix docuseries, alongside his friend and wellbeing specialist Darin Olie.​

Viewers travel vicariously as the duo embark on global trips from Paris to Costa Rica to investigate sustainable lifestyle choices and technologies.

The first episode sees the lively pair in Iceland, baking rye bread in a volcanic hot spring, dining on dung-smoked bacon and visiting a renewable energy power plant, where eco innovators demonstrate their efforts in the fight against climate change.

“Change has to start somewhere. Maybe it’s time we all change,” says Zac. He also says “rad” and “stoked” which are words probably better left at the skatepark, but then again sustainability should get people this excited.

If you’ve watched any sustainability documentaries that you’d like to share with the Acre team, let us know which ones you recommend. Contact us at​​

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