The holiday season is typically accompanied by breaks from work, quality time spent with family, and (for many of us) chilly outdoor conditions. All of these factors combine to create ideal circumstances for cozying up to binge through some streamable content.

The enjoyment of a good movie or show has value on its own, but I always find it’s even more fulfilling to consume content with pertinence to my professional interests. And while there are EHS lessons to be drawn from holiday-themed classics, if you’re like me, you’ve probably seen Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story enough times that you can recite them line-by-line.

For those seeking out fresh and functional viewing this month, we’ve curated a list of documentaries and series that focus on different aspects of sustainability and environmentalism. Watching them may open your eyes to overlooked concerns, while also reinforcing why the work we do as environment, health, safety, and sustainability professionals is so important. 


8 Shows and Movies About Sustainability You Can Stream Now

From circular farming and ocean warming to food waste and climate change, these enlightening productions highlight critical topics in the sustainability movement. And they’re all available on popular home streaming platforms.

Biggest Little Farm (2018)

Streaming on: Hulu

This documentary follows the journey of John and Molly Chester, who pack up and leave Los Angeles to purchase an abandoned 200-acre lot in suburban Moorpark, CA with ambitions of transforming it into a fully-functional circular farm, coexisting with nature in perfect harmony. Viewers follow along in John and Molly’s seven-year process, with all its many ups and downs. Full of touching and beautiful scenes, Biggest Little Farm is a powerful display of nature’s awesome (and sometimes enigmatic) power.

Mission Blue (2014)

Streaming on: Netflix

Dr. Sylvia Earle is a revolutionary figure in marine biology and oceanography; she was named the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Time Magazine’s first Hero for the Planet in 1998. This documentary follows her efforts to combat threats such as overfishing and toxic pollution while laying out the daunting scope of these challenges. 

Kiss the Ground (2020)

Streaming on: Netflix

Understandably, documentaries about climate change tend to be a bit somber and deflating. And while Kiss the Ground is not shy about the seriousness of the problems we face, it strikes an optimistic note by centering on a real solution: a farming technique called “regenerative agriculture,” which focuses on topsoil regeneration as a means to sequester carbon emissions and stem the tide of climate change. Also, it’s narrated by Woody Harrelson!

Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017)

Streaming on: Amazon Prime

You’ll have to pay a few bucks to rent this film through Amazon Prime, but it’s worth the price for those who want to learn about the dire implications of food waste, as shared by the late, great celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. It’s a sharp, entertaining, and candid look at an enormous problem: one-third of all food grown for human consumption ends up in the garbage, with 1.3 billion pounds of food thrown out each year. (Note that this film includes some strong language and may not be appropriate for children.)

Before the Flood (2016)

Streaming on: Disney+

If you haven’t yet watched this sobering documentary, which chronicles actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio’s travels to various places around the world to provide first-hand glimpses into the already-visible impacts of global warming, it’s a must. The film serves as a stark rebuke to climate change denial, underscoring the urgency of taking action before it’s too late. The implementation of a carbon tax is posed as one possible action to slow and reverse these harmful impacts.

A Plastic Ocean (2016)

Streaming on: Netflix

Plastic waste is a major issue, and as this documentary explains, our oceans are among its most devastated victims. See it with your own eyes as diver Tanya Streeter is joined by scientists and researchers on expeditions to witness the destructive impact of discarded plastic on our seas and their inhabitants. While many of the images are heartbreaking, there is hope to be found in the solutions and progress covered within.

Down to Earth (2020)

Streaming on: Netflix

In this eight-episode series, actor Zac Efron is joined by wellness expert Darin Olien to travel around the world and learn how different cultures and geographies strive to lead healthy and sustainable lifestyles. From Iceland to France to Puerto Rico and beyond, the duo encounters many different inspiring people who are all doing their parts to reduce pollution, advance renewable energy, and support the longevity of their native ecosystems.

Our Planet (2019)

Streaming on: Netflix

If you want to experience the spectacular splendor of Planet Earth, and remind yourself why this place is worth saving (aside from the fact that, you know, our long-term continuity as a species depends on it), look no further. Narrated by David Attenborough, Our Planet features stunning footage captured in habitats around the world, from jungles to deserts to the high seas. Through this breathtaking experience, you’ll come to understand the fragile and deeply interconnected state of our global ecosystem. 

Watch and Learn

Each of these films and series offers an informative yet entertaining and engaging look at our environment and the many different elements of a sustainable vision for the future. During a time of year that many use to appreciate what they have, and aspire for self-improvement, the moment is right.

You might just hit the ground running in 2021 with newfound motivation and purpose.

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