I absolutely love watching documentaries. They’re a great way to dive deep into issues and learn about pretty much any topic under the sun.
However, it can sometimes be difficult to find good documentaries. I oftentimes spend 15-20 minutes just searching for something to watch! In an effort to help you avoid this, I’ve decided to make a masterpost of the best sustainability documentaries.
I’ve compiled a list of the best sustainability documentaries I’ve watched, broken them down into categories, and summarized each to create a comprehensive resource.
Unless otherwise noted, I’ve watched every documentary on this list and recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about sustainability. I’ve also included where to watch the documentaries online if the option is available.
I’ll continue to update this post as I watch more, so be sure to check back for new titles.
Even better, you can save this post to Pinterest for later and sign up for my newsletter to be notified of updates!
And now, onto the list of the best sustainability documentaries!
Climate Change Documentaries
Chasing Coral (Netflix Original)
Chasing Coral follows a team of divers and scientists as they attempt to capture coral bleaching on camera. The composition of this documentary is beautiful and really helps to drive home the seriousness of the situation. The evidence of coral bleaching they capture shows just how devastating climate change is for our oceans. I found myself getting very emotional while watching this documentary, but I think that’s a good thing. It’s a heartbreaking situation and they mange to convey it perfectly.
Fire in Paradise (Netflix Original)
This documentary showcases one example of the consequences of climate change. Survivors of the 2018 Paradise California Campfire Wildfire share their stories from that day. At times it can be hard to watch, but it puts the reality of the climate crisis into perspective.
Ethical and Conscious Consumerism Documentaries
Broken (Netflix Original)
Broken highlights issues in various industries today. It was super interesting and I hope they make another season of this show! Two specific episodes I’d recommend are:
- Deadly Dressers: shares how “fast furniture” giant IKEA is harmful to both it’s customers and the environment by exposing it’s unsustainable and unethical business practices
- Recycling Sham: explains why our broken recycling system can’t handle the world’s single-use plastic problem and what happens as a result
The True Cost (Amazon Prime Video)
This documentary has been on my watch list for years and I’m so happy I finally sat down and watched it. It exposes the reality of the fast fashion industry and just what goes into the production of our cheap, “disposable” clothing items. Slave labor, economic bias, environmental impacts, and more are all discussed. I truly believe this is a must-watch for anyone interested in sustainability and ethical consumerism, as so much is covered in the film.
This cult classic documentary exposes how SeaWorld mistreats their captive animals. This was very eye opening for me and changed my perspective towards establishments like SeaWorld when I first watched it many years ago.
Our Planet (Netflix Original)
Similar to the famous Planet Earth series, Our Planet shares breathtaking videography of nature’s most remarkable events. I love the sustainable twist that has been put on this series, though. It really encourages viewers to consider the effect their actions are having on “our planet”
Planet Earth and Planet Earth II
I’m fairly certain everyone has heard of the Planet Earth series, and for good reason. If you’re in the mood to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, this is the show for you.
The World’s Most Wanted Animal (Netflix)
Pangolins are an animal poached for their scales, which are considered medicinal in traditonal Chinese medicine. Little is known about these creatures other than that they are extremely endangered. This documentary follows Maria Diekmann as she attempts to document the life of these creatures and share their story.
A Plastic Ocean (Netflix)
This documentary highlights just how pervasive plastic is in our oceans. By diving into the the detrimental impacts plastic has on the health of both humans and animals, this film is able to make a strong case for why plastic is bad.
Mission Blue (Netflix Original)
Mission Blue shares the inspiring life story of Sylvia Earle, an ocean botanist who paved the way for female scientists. She’s a fascinating woman and I learned so much about the health of the ocean through this documentary.
Sustainable Food Documentaries
Forks Over Knives (Netflix)
Forks Over Knives shares the amazing effects of a plant-based diet on ones’ health. This documentary isn’t produced from a sustainability standpoint, but reducing your consumption of animal products is a good way to reduce carbon emissions. The health benefits highlighted offer a compelling argument for why we should eat more plants.
Just Eat It
I LOVED this documentary! If you’re looking for an introduction to food waste, this is the show for you. Filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer challenged themselves to eat exclusively food waste for six months and documented the entire experience. The amount of food waste they uncovered was truly shocking.
The style of this documentary is super approachable and engaging. Whether you’re new to the sustainability space or have been here for a while, I believe you’ll find the information presented in it to be valuable.
Rotten (Netflix Original)
This series is so good! While Rotten isn’t exclusively about sustainable food topics, there’s several episodes that cover these issues. I’d specifically recommend the following:
- The Avocado War: describes the cartels that have been created in Mexico due to the extreme value of the avocado, as well as how resource-intensive avocado production is
- Troubled Water: tells the stories of vulnerable communities who have been hurt by the bottled water industry
- Bitter Chocolate: follows the production of chocolate from start to finish, with emphasis on the slave labor that goes into cocoa production
While these three episodes specifically touch on sustainability and ethical issues, I’d highly recommend watching the entire series. I learned so much from every episode.
This documentary is wonderful! It follows farmer Marty Travis through a full year’s worth of seasons on his farm while telling the story of how he transformed the farming community in the Chicago area. By overhauling a failing system, he was able to build relationships and create a sustainable agriculture movement that benefits everyone.
Zero Waste Documentaries
The reality of our waste system is shocking and Trashed aims to document it. It covers topics such as landfills, incineration, recycling, and plastic pollution and shares just how devastating these things can be for our world. This isn’t a hopeful documentary, but it conveys just how out of control our garbage problem really is.
Other Sustainability Documentaries
After buying his daughter a pair of pajamas with an overwhelming chemical smell, Jon Whelan set out to discover what was in them. When the company refused to tell him, he decided to make this documentary to show just how many toxic chemicals are hidden in products we use every day.
The Devil We Know (Netflix)
Teflon is a popular chemical used to make non-stick surfaces. It’s also highly toxic. The manufacturer, DuPont, knew but still decided to produce it. The Devil We Know shares the stories of people who were impacted by the production and irresponsible disposal of Teflon and it’s byproducts.
I hope you enjoy these recommendations. Be sure to comment any sustainability documentary suggestions you have down below and pin this post for later!