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5 must-watch sustainability documentaries for Earth Day!

Written by Ana Olteanu | @savour.the.detour

Looking to learn more about our planet and how to minimize your impact? Start with documentaries! There are many ways to start learning about sustainability, but by far the easiest is to get cozy on the couch with a film. From food waste to zero waste to fast fashion, I hope these top 5 picks inspire you!

The True Cost | 1hr 32min

Released in 2015, The True Cost reveals the truths behind the fast fashion industry.

The first time I really thought about where my clothes were made was after watching a short video called the 2 euro t-shirt.

A lightbulb came on - how can a clothing item ever really be under $7, $5, $2?! If you think about it, this price includes materials, labour, packaging, and shipping costs. After watching The True Cost it became even more clear that someone, somewhere, is paying the more accurate price - but it is not the consumer.

This documentary will probably change the way you shop, and you may begin asking yourself: “Who’s hands made this? Was child labour involved? Where did the materials come from? How far did this travel?”

The Story of Plastic | 1hr 35min

This eye-opening documentary, The Story of Plastic, was released on Earth Day 2020. The name might sound familiar if you’ve already read or seen The Story of Stuff (the book or 20 minute documentary). The linked non-profit organization, The Story of Stuff Project, aims to change our relationship with our “stuff”. They produced this film to direct their focus on a big part of that: plastic.

Repeat after me: Every piece of plastic ever made still exists today. Pretty shocking, right?

From extraction to disposal, plastic is affecting everything around us: the air, our oceans, our health. It is all connected. This documentary adds another layer that is made more explicit than in the other films: the intersectionality with minority communities, and the reality that they are undoubtedly affected the most. A must-see film, you won’t be able to look at plastic the same again.

The Clean Bin Project | 1hr 17min

I remember watching this 2010 documentary during a lunchtime screening in the workplace. It was really eye-opening seeing everyone head over to the garbage bin once it was over - safe to say we all went home re-thinking the way we prep our meals or where we buy them from!

In a nutshell, The Clean Bin Project features partners Jen and Grant who aim to produce as little waste as possible for 365 days. It is a hysterical and insightful look inside what the (close to) zero-waste lifestyle might look like, the challenges that come with it, and just how little we really need.

Get your popcorn ready and jot down which swaps you think might be a no brainer, and others you’re not quite ready for. You might just find yourself ready for your own clean bin! (For 1 week or 1 year, no one is judging! Progress over perfection.)

Wasted! The Story of Food Waste | 1hr 30min

Released in 2018, Wasted! is a deep dive into how much food we throw away and the devastating consequences this has on our planet. Not only that, but this film highlights how we could lift people out of poverty if we were simply more conscious food consumers.

The good news? We can make small changes starting today! The chefs in this film inspire us to get creative in doing our part to tackle this global problem.

“Use everything - waste nothing.” - Anthony Bourdain

And last but not least:

Minimalism - A documentary about the important things

An award-winning documentary, Minimalism is a close-up look at the lives of Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, and their journey to living with less.

What does minimalism have to do with sustainability? Truly, I would say: everything. The root cause of many issues discussed in the other documentaries begins with overconsumption.

This film strives to show how our lives can actually improve if we leave behind materialism and live for ourselves - not for our things. In turn our planet and all those in it will also benefit, leading to a win-win that’s hard to argue. A truly inspirational and thought-provoking film, you won’t want to miss this one!

Make sure to check out their 2nd film once you’ve seen the first: The Minimalists - Less is now (2021).

“It takes a lot of work to be intentional; it’s easier to go with the flow. In the end though, it’s worth the work”. - The Minimalists

For more tips on going zero waste, read the book and head to zero waste 101!


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