Don’t you love documentaries? Lately, I’ve been trying to watch more documentaries on sustainability and the environment to learn a bit more about possible solutions to the climate crisis and how to do my bit.
But I have a problem with this kind of documentaries, you know. Often, they make me feel helpless. If you have read this post on my favorite inspiring books on the environment, you know what I’m talking about, right?
So, in general, I love learning about sustainability in a way that motivates me and doesn’t bring me down a self-loathing, guilt-filled eco-anxiety spiral.
Light-hearted documentaries on sustainability are not that easy to find. But these 7 films will show you the reality just as it is, but inspiring you to make a change, and helping you realize how important your role is.
What I love about these films is that they talk about different issues, but they all have the same takeaway: every single person in this planet has a role in the climate crisis, and it’s up to us deciding whether we want to use our power for good or for evil.
We can settle and shrug our shoulders waiting for someone else to step up and fix the situation, or we can be the change we’re expecting.
1. Chasing Coral
This is the first documentary on the environment that I ever watched. And I warn you: it’s a VERY moving film, and once you watch it you’ll feel the need to move to Bali or the Golden Coast to become a coral gardener.
In fact, this documentary made me want to write this post about why we need to save the coral reefs.
It follows the journey of a group of scientists that put cameras in the Great Barrier Reef to see the evolution of the coral and show the beaching process in a time-lapse.
Chasing Coral is on Netflix, but if you go to their website you can learn how you can host a public screening in your community to help them spread the message about ocean conservation. Environmental activism doesn’t get easier than this: you basically organize a get-together with your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and their dogs, make popcorn, and get to learn something new.
2. Chasing ice
This documentary follows the same idea as Chasing Corals. The makers put timelapse cameras in the Arctic (which you’ll see is a feat in itself) to capture how the landscape is changing as a consequence of the glaciers melting.
Do you know what I find extra special from this film? Well, the photographer who started this project was somewhat of a climate change skeptic. But after he traveled aaaall the way to the north and saw how the landscape was literally melting before his eyes, he realized that he couldn’t ignore the reality anymore, and that he had to do something to open other people’s eyes.
The documentary also talks about ways to reduce your carbon footprint – the same goes for their website, where they have a very nice resource library with more info on this. Or you can also check this post on how to reduce your carbon footprint easily, and how to reduce your waste on a budget.
Ah, this film is brilliant.
It follows two French artists and activists around the world as they learn about real, doable, and VERY original initiatives that some communities are already putting into practice to help fight climate change.
Out of all the documentaries on sustainability I’ve watched this far, this might be the (emotionally) easiest one to watch. So if you want an uplifting film, this is the one for you.
4. A plastic ocean
Have you read this post about ocean plastic pollution? This documentary is the reason why I keep writing and writing about our oceans – I’m actually kinda terrified of the sea…so that shows just how inspiring this film is.
It really opens your eyes to the very real problems that plastic pollution is causing right now, as you read this, all over the world, and how it’s affecting the lives of millions of people.
This film will show you how plastic pollution is not a superficial matter, and there’s more to it other than littered beaches and plastic patches in the middle of the ocean.
I love how it asks the right questions: how does plastic affect the environment? And what will it do to humans in the long term?
And most importantly: what can we do to get rid of this plastic plague?
5. An Inconvenient Sequel
This is the second part of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth – probably the mother of all documentaries on sustainability, and yet another must-watch.
Al Gore takes you on a trip around some of the areas that have been affected the most by climate change. And –spoiler alert! – to visit some of them he doesn’t even have to leave the US.
It features survivors of real climatic disasters like storms or floods, and yeah, it’s chilling at times. But it’s also empowering as hell – especially for the younger generations. If you don’t want to start your own activism organization after you watch it, I’ll give you your money back.
Is there any climate denier in your life? This is the documentary you should (politely) ask them to watch.
If you enjoy this documentary and want to learn even more, you can sign up to receive newsletters from the Climate Reality Project. They will send you info about their initiatives, and events – if you get lucky maybe there’s an event close to you!
6. Vanishing of the bees
I remember a couple of years ago everyone was freaking out watching on the news that bees were dying for “mysterious reasons”. Well, the mystery is uncovered in this documentary.
Did you know that if bees disappear, our food chain will basically crumble before our eyes? There’s this one quote that they mention on the documentary that gave me literal chills:
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man”
I don’t mean that we should take it literally – four years sounds a little bit too specific to me – but it does say a lot about the crisis we’re facing.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we’re plant-based or not, or in favor or against the use of honey bees. If bees disappear, we’re all screwed.
7. Before the flood
I’ve always loved Leonardo DiCaprio. Remember that bad boy look he had going on in the 90s? Iconic.
Now he gives us more reasons to love and admire him by becoming the celeb voice for climate activism.
In the documentary, DiCaprio travels around the world learning about the impact of climate change in different regions, and different solutions that can make a positive change.
My favorite part? The fact that they ask some reaaaaally uncomfortable questions to influential climate deniers in big companies and governments.