Top 10 Environmental Documentaries to Watch on Netflix

Top 10 environmental documentaries to watch on Netflix pinterest pin.

A few years ago, I went on a Netflix environmental documentaries binge. I watched as many documentaries about the environment, sustainability, food, and animal welfare as I could get my eyes on. I realized that recycling my plastic and eating a vegetarian diet wasn’t enough. As a result of watching these environmental documentaries, I have made many changes in my life.

If you want to watch documentaries to get inspired, watch 1 or all of them on my list. Some of the environmental documentaries I watched were more interesting, eye-opening, and thought-provoking than others. So, I’ve narrowed down my list to include only the best. Below, see my top 10 environmental documentaries to watch on Netflix.

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy explores the devastating effects industrialized animal agriculture has on our planet. Combine this message with the secret conspiracy going on among environmental organizations who refuse to promote a plant-based diet. This is an award winning and extremely frustrating environmental documentary. If you’re left wanting to attempt a plant-based diet, check out my post on tips to make the transition easier.

If you like Cowspiracy, check out the follow-up documentary, What The Health. It takes the conspiracy angle to health organizations, questioning why they are still promoting a meat-based carcinogenic diet. The answer, as it always is, is money.

Fed Up

Fed Up looks at the amount of sugar we consume in our daily diets. While not directly an environmental documentary, our diet undeniably plays a part in destroying our planet. This documentary is alarming and eye-opening and will make you want to immediately cut out sugar cold tofurkey!

Blackfish

Blackfish is a well-known film documenting the sad lives of orcas in captivity at Seaworld. I put off watching it for a long time because I thought I already knew the message. Unfortunately, I had no idea how deep the abuse went. Above all, orcas undeniably belong in the ocean, where they can swim miles each day and contribute to our natural ecosystem. Watch this movie and then never support Seaworld again.

Before the Flood

Before the Flood is a well-made environmental documentary starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo travels around the globe exploring the devastating effects of climate change. From melting arctic ice to waters flooding the streets of Miami, this film will leave you with little doubt about our warming planet.

Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives is a documentary that promotes a plant-based diet. It tracks the health changes of people who are eating unhealthy, meat-laden diets, to becoming plant-based. Spoiler alert: the result is a healthier lifestyle with fewer pills necessary. The less animal agriculture in our diets, the better off our planet is.

Plastic Paradise

Plastic Paradise looks at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the effects it is having on the local wildlife. Prepare to be outraged at the amount of plastic found in the stomach of a dead bird washed ashore.

This documentary will really open your eyes to the amount of disposable plastic we consume each day. This may even shift you into more of a zero-waste lifestyle. (If you need some easy tips to begin going zero waste, check out my post for beginners here.)

The True Cost

After watching The True Cost, I decided to attempt buying all my clothing from ethical sources using sustainable fabrics. The documentary outlines all the ways the fast fashion industry is destroying not only our planet, but also the lives of those who are forced to work in deplorable conditions. If human rights is more up your alley than environmentalism, this is the movie for you.

Sustainable

I watched Sustainable recently, drawn by the film being set not too far from Indianapolis, where I live. The documentary follows farmers trying to make an honest living growing crops. They work closely with restaurants to organically produce the crops that are desired.

We can’t feed the world’s population with our current production methods, or even the ones outlined in this film. But the farmers aren’t trying to feed the world’s population. They are trying to feed the local consumers, by growing the food they eat right there. You’ll want to join a local CSA by the end.

A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean opens with a man’s quest to find blue whales for a documentary he planned to shoot. After locating them, the camera pans back to show plastic trash surrounding the whales’ location off the coast of Sri Lanka.

The documentary he set out to film shifts gears and explores the incredible amounts of plastic flowing into our oceans. Heartbreaking scenes of dolphins and seals trapped in discarded fishing nets will cause you to rethink not only your plastic usage but hopefully your seafood consumption as well.

Vice Garbage Island

Similar to A Plastic Paradise, Garbage Island also explores the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. My boyfriend actually watched this with me. He was captivated by the swirling bits of plastic and microplastic that exist in the Pacific Ocean. (Sidenote: I accidentally wrote Plastic Ocean at first…fitting.) Produced by Vice, this film takes a grittier approach to reveal the truth. This may appeal to anyone who prefers a more straight forward message in their documentaries.

Environmental Documentary Wrap Up

These documentaries all horrified me in various ways, and I hope you found them just as eye-opening. If so, remember to try to align your actions with your values, and take steps towards changing your lifestyle. If you’ve seen any other great environmental documentaries, please let me know in the comments! I’m always down to check out something new.

Sustainable and Ethically Sourced Clothing Brands

About a month ago, I watched a documentary on the fast fashion clothing industry. I’ve known sweatshops were awful for a while, but I wasn’t sure exactly the reasons why. I watched The True Cost on Netflix to help learn about the industry and was appalled. From unsafe building conditions to awful wages to the horrible diseases and disfigurements that come from working with non-organic cotton, this movie really did reveal the true cost of the cheap clothing items we all buy from Target and Old Navy. So, my 2019 New Year’s resolution is to become more conscious of the source of the clothing I purchase and try to purchase only sustainable and ethically sourced clothing. I’m on a journey to find brands that align my actions with my values, and I’ve gathered some of the best options below. 

ABLE

ABLE clothing is manufactured in Nashville, Tennessee, meaning it complies with the strict laws of the US. They go further than simply complying with the minimum wage law, and pay their employees at least $14/hour. Moreover, they publish their wages on their website for transparency and encourage others to do the same. Factory workers could greatly benefit from this trend catching on! The clothing itself consists mostly of basics, with some modern twists. A simple black top runs $34. 

PACT Apparel 

PACT Apparel stands out to me as a source of casual, everyday basics.  Their FAQ states they will always be sweatshop-free, which is a must. They also use organic cotton, which prevents the workers handling the clothing from suffering from horrible illnesses. Win/win. In addition to simple t-shirts and dresses, they offer undies and socks. A gal can always upgrade her old worn out socks and undies, and I intend to replace a lot of mine soon. PACT Apparel will be my first stop for those items! A simple black top only costs $16!

EcoVibe Apparel

EcoVibe Apparel takes an environmentalist approach to produce ethical clothing. They create accessories out of recycled material and donate 1% of their profits to an environmental nonprofit. Some of their material is sourced from trees that are merely trimmed, not cut down! I love this approach and agree with their philosophy of sustainable and ethically sourced clothing. A simple black top costs $39.

Threads 4 Thought

Threads 4 Thought is a line that started with basics and then expanded to include some fun print dresses and even sports bras. I love how timeless and classic most of their clothing has remained, and can see many items becoming staples in my closet. Their products are produced responsibly and they support sustainable initiatives. A simple black top costs $34. 

Alternative Apparel

Okay, I’m a bit obsessed with Alternative Apparel after learning about their production and shipping processes. They use organic cotton and material from recycled plastic water bottles. They use biodegradable envelopes to mail orders and created a vendor recycling process. And! They provide fair wages and safe working conditions. Can a company get more perfect? Oh yeah, and a simple black top costs $34. 

Ten Thousand Villages

This one is a little different from the other retailers because Ten Thousand Villages sells ALL KINDS OF THINGS like candles and stationary and home decor. But I wanted to include them on this list because they sell jewelry, handbags, and scarves, which fall within the fashion realm. Their items are all fair-trade, and they ensure fair wages for the workers who created them. They don’t sell simple black tops, but most of their scarves are in the $25 range.  

Final Thoughts

I have three or four black t-shirts in my closet, all of which are from cheap mall brands (aka bad quality), and none of which really even fit. My first clothing purchase next year will likely be a simple black top from one of these brands. I’m excited to test out new clothing options, and hope you are excited about searching through the options for yourself! If you know of other brands that you love, please do let me know in the comments, so I can look into them for myself! 

Easy Zero Waste Swaps

Pinterest graphic: 6 easy zero waste swaps to help you go green.

We’ve all seen the video of the turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril at this point. (Sidenote: if you haven’t, it’s heartbreaking.) That video helped create momentum behind a movement to ban plastic straws. More and more people and businesses these days are opting to sip without a straw or use reusable ones. I use stainless steel straws and I absolutely love them. This easy swap helps me cut down on my trash, and brings me one step closer to “zero waste.” Of course, zero waste is a bit of a misnomer, because nobody is perfect. But every time we opt out of sending something to a landfill, we are choosing not only to help the planet, but also all of the people and animals that live on it. So if you care about any of those things (hopefully at least puppies, for kitten’s sake!), see below for a few super easy zero waste swaps you can make to your daily routine to help go green.

Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means if you click them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Straws

As I mentioned, I use stainless steel straws that I got on Amazon for a few bucks. I love them for anything cold because the straw itself gets cold as the beverage flows through it. This seems to help keep my iced coffee nice and cold as I sip it! The pack I bought also comes with two little straw cleaners that help scrub out bits of smoothie that may be left behind. Of course, you can also opt to just go strawless! Many drinks can be easily sipped sans straw, but when you gotta have one, these are a great option. 

Stainless steel straw in cup
The pack of straws I bought came with 4 straight (seen here) and 4 curved.

Reusable Bags

I’ve always been guilty of having the bag of bags under my kitchen sink. In fact, I usually had two. Everyone likes to make the excuse that they use them again, but do we really use ALL of them again? Mine piled up faster than I went through them. I finally vowed to take my reusable tote bags with me to the grocery store, and avoid getting more plastic bags. I find that we (aka usually my boyfriend) still occasionally bring one home, and I do reuse those for scooping the litter box. Otherwise, I find creative solutions for dumping litter (into bread bags or empty cat food bags, for example) and I just dump my small trash cans directly into my actual trash can. This cuts out the plastic bag entirely, and leaves me with no excuse for not using reusable! Plus, you can pack more groceries into a reusable tote than you can a plastic bag, making the trip in from the car easier with fewer bags! 

Toothbrush

Replacing my toothbrush was one of the first zero waste swaps I made. Immediately after I did it, I had a dentist appointment where they tried to push a little goodie bag on me at the end. I’d received the bags before, and they contain a new plastic toothbrush, a mini toothpaste, and some floss. All great things, but did I really need them? I declined the bag, and felt like I was a real pro at avoiding plastic! My new bamboo toothbrush from Brush With Bamboo was working just fine. I ordered a set of 4, and while the bristles are not currently compostable, they easily pop out and allow the bamboo brush handle to be composted at the end of its useful life. Pro tip: Make sure you pat the toothbrush dry after using it and don’t put it away wet. This ensures the handle doesn’t start its process degrading right there in your bathroom!

Two bamboo toothbrushes, alternatives to plastic.
The toothbrushes come in compostable boxes. Win/win!

Water bottle

Plastic water bottles really grind my gears. Sure, we all have those moments where we’re out and about and would love some water. I get it. It happens to the best of us. But with a little bit of foresight, we can just grab a reusable bottle and fill it up with water to take on the go. I like ice cold water, so sometimes I fill a bottle up with ice and water and then leave it in the freezer for a bit to get REALLY cold before leaving. Of course, I do filter my water before drinking it, and if you live in an area where drinking from the tap is dangerous, then by all means feel free to ignore my advice. But for most of us, tap water is just fine and avoids plastic littering our oceans. If you recycle your bottles, that’s great, but just know that often recyclables are turned away from the facilities for not being clean enough, and will end up just being landfilled anyway. The best option is to avoid the plastic in the first place.

Muslin Cloth Makeup Wipes

In my past life, I used cotton pads, cotton balls, and cotton Q-Tips to take my makeup off or clean my face. Sometimes I used makeup remover wipes and then tossed them in the trash without another thought. Eventually, I realized how wasteful I was being and ordered a pack of 10 muslin cloths on Amazon. I now use these to wipe my face and take my makeup off, and avoid disposables entirely (unless I’m traveling, I’ll admit). Just be sure to hand wash and line dry these, or else they will shrink up considerably. Don’t expect them to come out bright white, because mine do seem to lightly stain. But as long as they’re clean, I don’t mind! They are also extremely soft, and I don’t experience any discomfort or redness on my face, so they are perfect in my book! 

Muslin wash cloths
The cloth on the right was machine washed and dried. It still works fine, but there is less surface area to work with. 

Paper Towels/Rags

We all have old t-shirts laying around, right? The ones that aren’t good for anything but sleeping in, and we have way too many of them crammed into a drawer. I took one of mine and cut it up into little squares. I now use those squares to clean up small spills or to wipe down countertops. Then I toss it in with my load of towels and wash it. Because I was already going to be washing towels, I’m not increasing the amount of water or energy I’m using. Paper towels are still great for certain uses (cleaning up cat puke, anyone?) but for the most part I’m able to completely avoid using them in favor of reusable rags.

So there you have it, 6 easy zero waste swaps to avoid sending trash to a landfill. If you have any ideas or questions, please let me know! I’d love to try out new recommendations, and I’m happy to help with any issues you may have along the way.