Going Green: 8 Films About Sustainability to Watch Now

Going Green: 8 Films About Sustainability to Watch Now

In this week's edition of going green, we explore 8 sustainability documentaries you can easily stream to get informed about climate change, food production, and environmental justice

In this week's edition of going green, we explore 8 sustainability documentaries you can easily stream to get informed about climate change, food production, and environmental justice

Text: William Defebaugh

Forks Over Knives (2011)

IMDB score: 7.7/10 stars

Where to watch: Netflix

As we mentioned in last week's edition of Going Green, the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to diet, whether it's eating only local and seasonal produce or cutting out red meat. Forks Over Knives will inform you not only of the environmental impacts of the food your consuming, but also its health effects. Aside from praise from health organizations and critics, there's a reason numerous celebrities came out in support of the 2011 film, and have since sung its praises. Ariana Grande, for one, said, "Forks Over Knives is one of the most eye opening, enlightening films I’ve ever seen."

Mission Blue (2014)

IMDB score: 8/10 stars

Where to watch: Netflix

Mission Blue explores the life and work of oceanographer and marine biologist Sylvia Earle. As one of the first deep sea divers, Earle has built a career out of seeing wonders that the majority of people on Earth will never witness. As such, she has seen first-hand the effects our environmental negligence have had on our oceans and marine wildlife; When she began her career, she was discovering ocean floors untouched by man; now, she laments that she cannot go on a single dive, no matter how deep, without encountering trash. When asked if she ever wakes up and doesn't feel like being an activist, Earle offers a poignant analogy, asking her interviewer if, were he to see a baby falling out of a ten story window, he would ever consider not catching it. Many don't realize that our oceans are not untouchable, and this film brings marine issues to the forefront with a deeply human approach.

Food Inc. (2008)

IMDB score: 7.9/10 stars

Where to watch: Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Video

In the same vein as the previous film, Food Inc. is a great investigative documentary about America's deeply unsustainable food system, and its effects on the world we live in. The filmmakers interview farmers and produce workers, who explain how the big food companies (Tyson Foods, Monsanto, to name a few) consistently edge them out of work. The film illuminates how the decrease of local farming, and the emphasis on large corporations, creates a system the relies on carbon-intensive systems for food transportation.

Planet Earth (2006)

IMDB score: 9.5/10 stars

Where to watch: Netflix

A hike in the forest. A trip to the beach. The easiest way to be inspired to live more sustainably is to spend some quality time in nature, and escape the deafening buzz of every day life that drowns out our planet's call for help. For those who can't afford to travel to the planet's natural wonders, BBC's Planet Earth series is a close second. The Emmy Award-winning series may not technically be about sustainability, but it provides a powerful look at the ecosystems that make up our world—many of which are now in danger—and why we need to protect them.

The True Cost (2015)

IMDB score: 7.6/10 stars

Where to watch: Netflix

The True Cost explores the unethical practices of the fast fashion industry. While many of the issues dissected in the film are more to do with the living conditions of the workers employed by mega retailers like H&M and Zara, the primary question raised is: what are the consequences of an industry that has become entirely focused on profits? One of the answers is, of course, the detriment of the environment. The documentary makes a compelling case for how unsustainable fast fashion is, and calls for more eco- and ethically-minded designers and industry influences (like Stella McCartney, who speaks in the film), as well as consumers. One watch and you'll be sure to think twice about where, and what, you shop.

Chasing Ice (2012)

IMDB score: 7.8/10 stars

Where to watch: Netflix

For those who are still skeptical about the effects of climate change, environmental photographer James Balog provides up-close evidence of how global warming is shifting the arctic landscape. Balog himself admitted to being skeptical about climate change before his trip, but once he saw the melted ice firsthand, he felt he had found his personal mission: to find a way to show the world exactly what he had witnessed, and how quickly the problem is developing. The photographer and his team created a multiyear time-lapse of the ice melting, and the results are irrefutable—and an excellent motivational tool for reducing your carbon emissions.

The Cove (2009)

IMDB score: 8.5/10 stars

Where to watch: iTunes, Amazon Video

Animal lovers who are faint of heart, beware; this Academy Award-winning documentary examines Japan's practice of dolphin drive hunting. The technique is employed by the residents of Taiji, who corner the Dolphins into a cover where they are stabbed to death with spears and knives, and then sell the meat to the fish market. Directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, the film takes an investigative approach to highlight the unnecessarily cruel approaches humans have developed for killing animals—specifically with sea animals (sharks and bluefin tuna are even more endangered due to similar fishing practices).

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

IMDB score: 7.5/10 stars

Where to watch: Hulu

Many of the aforementioned documentaries likely would not exist without the precedent set by Davis Guggenheim's film about former Vice President of the United States Al Gore's initiative to educate the public about climate change. The documentary won two Academy Awards and raked in $50 million at box offices worldwide, proving that environmental education is something that the public actually wants, and communicating a critical message to Hollywood that these projects deserve its support. Gore's slide show about global warming has since become a part of science curricula in schools.

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