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10 Must-Watch Netflix Documentaries on Sustainability

by Rishi Sharma |

Netflix is now a household name - it’s got something for everyone! While movies and sitcoms are consumed voraciously, documentaries still find select audiences. However, they are probably the most underestimated forms of education and entertainment.

And when it comes to topics on the environment and sustainability, there couldn’t be a more hard-hitting way to really get the message across!

Environmental damage is a topic that we can no longer stay ignorant about because the survival of our planet is at stake. It is time to learn about issues and become aware of steps that you can take, as an individual, to make a difference.

Here are 10 inspiring documentaries that guarantee to make you think again about the choices you are making with respect to the environment. They will also teach you practical tips on sustainability. Do watch for they will inspire you to make your life and your surroundings ‘greener.’

1. The True Cost

Directed by - Andrew Morgan

Running time - 92 minutes

IMDb Rating - 7.7/10

We all think it is a blessing to get new clothes at cheap rates, don’t we? The world of ‘fast fashion’ has taken the world by storm and has made everyone happy, but is it so? Watch ‘The True Cost,’ and you will be exposed to some shocking facts about the real world of ‘fashion.’

The documentary focuses on the enormous damage garment industry inflicts on the environment and the exploitation of workers in developing countries including India, Bangladesh, and others. The policy of the fashion industry ‘minimize cost and maximize profit,’ is depriving thousands of workers of their basic human rights. The hard-hitting documentary will force you to rethink your choices.

2. Minimalism

Directed by- Matt D'Avella

Running time- 78 minutes

IMDb Rating - 6.7/10

Do you need three shirts of the same color? Why the need for ten pairs of jeans, or ten bags, when you can do with one or two? The impressive documentary ‘Minimalism’ explores the fanatic over-consumption that has taken over our lives. Your home has no more space to accommodate more, but you keep adding to the heap, putting enormous strain on your life as well as the environment. The documentary takes you through the inspiring lives of minimalists, who believe in ‘less is better.’

Watch it for it will inspire you to declutter your wardrobe and your life!

3. Planet Earth

Directed by- series of directors

Running time- 11 episodes, 60 minutes each

IMDb Rating – 9.4/10

For once, here is a documentary that celebrates our planet. Planet Earth is an 11-episode series commissioned by the BBC and believed to be the most expensive documentary ever on the channel. It focuses on the diversity of habitats on earth and presents nature at its best thanks to spectacular cinematography.

4. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Directed by-Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn

Running time-91 minutes

IMDb Rating – 8.3/10

Your health and that of the environment would be better if you turned vegetarian - that is the message of the documentary ‘Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.’ Cowspiracy explores the alarming effects of animal farming on the environment. At the same time, it also takes you through the horrific process of before, after and during the slaughter. You will hesitate to order your beef or chicken burgers after watching this touching documentary.

5. Forks Over Knives

Directed by- Lee Fulkerson

Running time-96 minutes

IMDb Rating - 7.8/10

As the title would give you an idea, the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives,’ talks about how a plant-based diet is healthier than meat and dairy products. The film mentions research and studies that have established links between cardiovascular diseases and cancer, to non-vegetarian and processed food. You will say hello to fruits and veggies and no to junk food after watching this documentary that focuses on facts to encourage healthy eating. And guess what, what is healthy for you is healthy for the planet as well!

6. A Plastic Ocean

Directed by- Craig Leeson

Running time-102 minutes

IMDb Rating - 8/10

Though there is awareness about plastic pollution, plastic consumption has not reduced, and neither does it seem to become a reality soon. But after watching the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean,’ you may at least try to reduce plastic use in your daily life.

The film shows how plastic is causing havoc on marine life, killing them daily. The footages of marine animals suffering because of plastic in oceans will melt your heart. The animals get stuck in plastic fishing nets or consume plastic, mistaking it for food. It is a must-watch documentary for both young and old because the film also shares some valuable solutions to tackle the crisis.

7. Fed Up

Directed by- Stephanie Soechtig

Running time-92 minutes

IMDb Rating - 7.7/10

Though ‘Fed Up’ looks at the causes of obesity in the US, it is relevant to everyone because of the subject it focuses upon – sugar. A majority of food items contain sugar in one form or the other, from bread to aerated drinks. The film has special significance in today’s times because obesity is on the rise, especially among children. Diabetes threatens almost every family in the world. There are hardly any homes that do not have a case of diabetes.

The film interviews highly obese people and their families to emphasize how different forms of sugar is the leading cause of obesity. The documentary is also a lesson on sustainability because less consumption of processed food will mean a reduced impact on the environment as well.

8. Before The Flood

Directed by-Fisher Stevens

Running time-96 minutes

IMDb Rating – 8.3/10

A must-watch film for everyone, Before The Flood puts some grim realities before us, revealing the destructive effects of climate change on the ecosystem. Co-produced and narrated by Leonardo Dicaprio, the film takes you on a quest with Dicaprio to find how global warming is affecting our planet. It also focuses on the measures that human beings need to take to prevent disaster.

9. Blackfish

Directed by- Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Running time-83 minutes

IMDb Rating – 8.1/10

The documentary looks at the sad life of captive orcas or killer whales at Seaworld, a theme park in Orlando, Florida in the US. The film focuses on Tilikum, an orca at the park which was responsible for three deaths at Seaworld. Killer whales, and it is true for every animal or bird, thrive only in their natural surroundings and keeping them in enclosures harms them in many ways. Though featuring orcas and their captivity, the film is also a message to zoos or parks that ‘imprison’ living beings to entertain humans.

10. Sustainable

Directed by-Matt Wechsler

Running time-92 minutes

IMDb Rating - 7.3/10

Industrialized farming is harming the environment in more ways than one. Many would argue that it is necessary to feed the ever-increasing population, but the film Sustainable counters the argument. It focuses on the food growers or farmers and their role in sustainable farming practices and follows farmers who practice organic farming and supply to restaurants. Featuring Marty Travis, a farmer from Illinois who pioneered Chicago’s sustainable food movement, the documentary is a lesson in organic and environment-friendly farming practices.

The above 10 documentaries are clarion calls to you to rethink your choices to help save the planet from destruction. Healthy earth means a healthier you, and that is what these documentaries are trying to establish. Which one are you watching today?

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