After ditching traditional cable a few years ago, my wife and I now turn on our favorite streaming service every night. While we may both have a penchant for some mainstream series (I can’t help it, but I must watch anything Gordon Ramsey is in), we also have a problem: documentaries. We love this film format in general, but as a family that is consciously trying to reduce our impact on the planet we live in, we regularly look for the best green documentaries available.
A word of caution: while this “must-watch” list contains my personal favorites, be aware that, when watching ANY documentary with a “cause,” just listening to only one side of any argument is dangerous. I want to help you get eco-educated, and this includes listening to the other side – even if you don’t agree with it!
Perhaps the most famous green documentary of all time, it details Al Gore’s efforts to educate people about global warming and humanity’s role. This documentary is now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and I view it as a must-see, no matter your opinion on climate change.
This documentary changed the way I think about water. Tapped is a scathing indictment of the bottled water industry and its effects on the environment, both at the local and global-scale. It takes something that you see everyday, without thinking (a water bottle), and forces you to really think about what has happened behind the scenes to bring it to you.
One of my favorite documentaries of all time, it has inspired me to work towards making tiny houses myself. Tiny follows Christopher Smith as he build his own tiny home, detailing his successes, trials, and his overall motivation behind the project. While tiny homes may not be everyone, it is hard not to get sucked in to watching this documentary to see whether Christopher manages to finish his house.
An author and an environmentalist, Colin Beaven embarked upon a year-long mission in 2006 to make as little impact on the environment as possible. This involved a radical lifestyle change which included no electricity, no non-locally sourced food, and a strained marriage as he dragged his wife headlong into a project she was not the one to spearhead. It is a brutal look at how material consumption has overtaken our everyday lives, but also at how we can help turn the tide and reduce our impact.
This documentary focuses on a year-long intentional-living project in Australia. A group of volunteers learn to build their own homes, grow their own food, and live as a community – something I often bemoan the loss of in my everyday life.
6) Food Inc.
My wife has watched Food Inc. too many times. The film looks at the food system in America as a whole, from the fields to the government’s role in the standard American diet. A fully plant-based diet might not be for everyone, but the take home here is that our current system is broken and unsustainable, so re-watching this always reminds my family to spend our money intentionally at the grocery store.
Technically these two series aren’t strictly green documentaries, as they are not specifically focused on environmental issues. However, if you give them a chance, you might find they are perhaps the most awe-inspiring and beautiful documentaries exploring the ecological wonders of planet Earth. It’s hard to watch these and not come away wanting to do everything you can to help our environment.
What are your favorite green documentaries? Share with us in the comments!