THE BEST SUSTAINABILITY DOCUMENTARIES, BOOKS AND PODCASTS TO EDUCATE AND INSPIRE
Like most people, my journey of sustainability began veeeeeeeery slowly. It started with a single documentary, and then the rest was basically history. I couldn’t stop learning, and to be honest, that hasn’t changed much today either. On a cold and wintery Sunday, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be on the couch diving into some documentaries.
However, what I wish I had when I first started learning, was a post just like this! A place that showcased everything I was looking for to fulfil my urge to learn… So, that’s what I’m here with today!
The ultimate list of sustainability documentaries, books and podcasts that will be sure to fill you with knowledge about the planet, the people and the animals too.
PLEASE NOTE: I have not watched, read, and listened to everything that’s mentioned in this post… I asked my followers over on Instagram to give me their favourites for each category, and this is a collection of some of the most popular responses. A lot of them are my personal faves too, of course! But I guess you could say this is a big group effort, and I’m kind of diggin’ it!
Before the Flood (2016)
Before the Flood showcases the dramatic influence that climate change is having on our Earth, as well as the actions we as individuals – and as a society – can take to prevent the disturbance of life on our planet. But beyond that, the film urges viewers to get political and push their government officials to step up and start taking action for the sake of our future.
Leonardo DiCaprio meets with scientists, activists and world leaders to discuss the dangers of climate change and the possible solutions… This is a film you cannot miss.
Climate Refugees (2010)
Climate Refugees is a documentary film that uncovers the unbelievable plight of people around the world displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters.
A Plastic Ocean (2016)
A Plastic Ocean – as the name suggests – dives deep into the issue of plastic pollution and the impact it has on the fragile state of our oceans. This documentary highlights plastic pollution as a man-made global crisis and tackles the actionable solutions that can be put into immediate effect.
The aim of this film, alongside the Plastic Ocean Foundation, is to limit the demand for non-essential plastic by using the Ocean to monitor pollution and its damage to human health.
In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. This is a very important documentary to watch in order to grasp an understanding of racial injustice and inequality in America.
From global warming and deforestation, to water use and ocean dead zones, Cowspiracy looks at a number of environmental concerns and dives deep into the dark and hidden secrets of the animal agriculture industry.
This sustainability documentary will change the way you look at the food on your plate, I have no doubt about it.
The True Cost (2015)
The True Cost pulls back the curtain on the dark, untold stories of fast fashion, and challenges us to consider, “who really pays the price for our clothing?”
This is a story about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. It’s an eye-opener, to say the very least.
Home is a French documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. The film is almost entirely composed of aerial shots of various places around the globe.
It’s not just a film about nature… It’s about the capitalist system which has destroyed the planet and brought humanity to its knees. It shows the diversity of life on Earth and how we are threatening the ecological balance of the planet.
More than Honey (2012)
More than Honey discusses the importance of our buzzing little friends! Beekeepers and scientists talk about the fascinating world of bees, address the world’s declining bee population, and talk about what this destruction may mean for modern society and all life on Earth.
“If bees were to disappear, mankind would only have four years left to live” – Albert Einstein
How to Change the World (2015)
In 1971 a small group of activists set sail from Vancouver, Canada in an old fishing boat, with the mission of stopping an atomic test bomb in Amchitka, Alaska.
How to Change the World is the story of the birth of the modern environmental movement. It centres around Robert Hunter, and his part in the creation of the incredible global organization we now know as, Greenpeace.
Sharkwater: Extinction (2018)
Sharkwater Extinction is a journey that follows filmmaker, Rob Stewart, as he exposes the huge illegal shark fin industry and the political corruption behind it – a conspiracy that, as the name suggests, is leading to the extinction of sharks. His original film, 15 years ago, rocked the world to its core and brought these issues to light. Now he’s back with more untold truths to share.
This passion-driven film is overwhelmingly heartbreaking at times, and is ought to fill you with rage.
There’s Something in the Water (2019)
This documentary spotlights the struggle of 3 Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia as they confront officials over the lethal effects of industrial waste. Environmental Racism is occurring all over the world, and these are the women leading the fight.
Blue is the story our generation desperately needs to hear.
The industrialization that has occurred in our oceans over the last century, reflects the events that have caused mass extinctions on land. Industrial-scale fishing, habitat destruction, species loss and pollution are a few of the issues that have left the oceans in serious danger. The very nature of the sea is being altered beyond repair, and Blue will take you on a journey through its demise.
“Our ocean has been the guardian of life on earth. Now it is our turn to be guardians for the ocean.”
Planet Earth (2006)
Planet Earth is a British television series narrated by David Attenborough (AKA. the best man on Earth!) which took 5 years to create and features footage of some of the world’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders – from the oceans to the deserts to the polar ice caps.
10 years later, Planet Earth II was released and is a sequel showing a deeper insight into the flora and fauna of this wonderful place we call home.
Gringo Trails (2013)
Gringo Trails raises urgent and important questions about the tourism industry. From Bolivia, Thailand, Mali, and Bhutan, through the life-changing stories of travellers and locals, this film explores the dramatic impact of tourism around the world and gives examples of sustainable alternatives that travellers can implement on the road.
“Are tourists destroying the planet or saving it?”
Tilikum – a performing killer whale in Seaworld, Orland – killed several people during his life in captivity. Blackfish is his story, compiled with shocking footage and emotional interviews to get a deeper insight of the creature’s extraordinary nature. It dives into Tilikum’s cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers, and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.
This emotionally curated story challenges us to consider our relationship with nature and shows just how little humans have learned from these highly intelligent and sentient beings.
Salt of the Earth (2014)
The Salt of the Earth follows Sebastião Salgado – a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist – who spent 40 years recording deprived societies in hidden corners of the world. It follows his work from South America, to Africa, Europe, the Arctic, and back home to Brazil focusing on international conflicts, starvation, and natural landscapes on the decline.
No Impact Man (2009)
No Impact Man is the story of Colin Beavan, who made the drastic decision to give up all the comforts of modern-day living in the bid to dampen his environmental impact. This story shows the struggles of going against the societal norm, the impact it had on Colin’s family, and the way in which going “green” brought their family together.
Girl Rising (2013)
Girl Rising spotlights the stories of nine girls who overcome their unforgiving circumstances by believing in their own power and potential. The main focus is that the investment into the education of young women is one of the most powerful ways to induce change around the globe. From Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan, this is a story of these young women’s journey to education.
I haven’t seen this one myself, but according to other people, the documentary style isn’t the most entertaining… But the message is incredibly powerful.
The Next Black (2014)
New technologies, sustainability concerns and innovative minds are transforming our clothes. The Next Black documentary film introduces the designers, innovators and leaders who are shaping the future of clothing.
“This is not a film about what’s new, it’s about what’s next.”
“A cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet”…
From concrete seawalls in China that now cover 60% of the mainland coast, to metal festivals in the closed city of Norilsk, to the devastated Great Barrier Reef… The filmmakers of Anthropocene have travelled the globe to document evidence and experience of the human domination of Planet Earth.
By Bruce Pascoe
Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating, and storing — behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag.
It is about Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture, and is a wealth of information about Australia’s Indigenous population before white settlement. A very important read.
Climate of Hope
By Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope
This book starts a new conversation about climate change and gives readers an insight into how the biggest challenge of our time can be solved by working together. Michael and Carl are two highly successful individuals who are the helping to shape the way of the future, and showing you how you can do the same too.
As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker
As Long As Grass Grows is a story of Native peoples’ resistance to environmental injustice and land incursions, and is a call for environmentalists to learn from Indigenous community’s rich history of activism.
This book highlights environmental racism, the fraught history of treaty violations, struggles for food and water security, and protection of sacred sites. It highlights the important leadership of Indigenous women in this centuries-long struggle.
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we Make Things
By Michael Braungart and William McDonough
Cradle to Cradle is a non-fiction book written by a German Chemist and a US architect, who are changing the narrative and shifting the pattern around the way that human industries work. They discuss the damages behind the current “cradle to grave” cycle and encourage a “cradle to cradle” design instead.
This book will make you challenge the “reduce, reuse, recycle” notion that’s commonly praised by environmentalists, and will open your eyes to a new way forward.
Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered
By E.F. Schumacher and Jonathan Porritt
Small is Beautiful looks at the economic structure of the Western world in a revolutionary way. This title affirms that Man’s current pursuit of profit and progress, has in fact resulted in total economic carelessness, environmental pollution and inhumane working conditions.
This book is full of thoughtful – yet revolutionary – ideas of how to structure a sustainable economy whilst basing them around the needs of communities, not corporations…
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
By Naomi Klein
“Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon – it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.”
Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World
By Josh Tickell
Discover the ability that soil has in reversing climate change and its damaging effects on the planet. This book shows how regenerative farming not only delivers us better health and wellness, but also rebuilds our most precious resource – the very ground that feeds us.
Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet
By Ashlee Piper
Give a Sh*t guides you through the transition to a kinder, healthier, more conscious, and sustainable life like no book has done before. With a humorous and nonjudgmental tone, savvy eco-friendly lifestyle expert – Ashlee Piper – walks you through easy-but-impactful shifts that anyone can make to be better every damn day.
Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World
By Tyson Yunkaporta
This book looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective; everything from echidnas to evolution, cosmology to cooking, sex and science. Indigenous thoughts have been dismissed for too long, but Sand Talk will show just how connected to the planet Indigenous people really are…
If you care about the world around you, this is a must-read.
Draw Down: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
By Paul Hawken
This New York Time’s Best Seller holds the 100 most substantial solutions to reverse global warming, based on precise research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world.
Brown Girl Green
Brown Girl Green is a podcast by Kristy Drutman, who interviews environmental leaders and advocates about diversity and inclusion, as well as creative solutions to the climate crisis. Fellow intersectional environmentalists, this is the podcast for you (aka. everyone)!
As the name suggests, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (the stars behind the Minimalism film) discuss how to live a meaningful life with less. Each of their episodes discusses interesting topics that encourage you to reflect on the way that you live and consume.
1619 is a podcast by the New York Times – an Audio series about the history of American slavery which began 400 years ago. This series is a MUST for understanding systematic racism, which is vital in the fight for environmental, economic and social justice in the US.
Plant Proof – Plant-Based Nutrition & Inspirational Stories
The Plant Proof podcast is about connecting with like-minded & inspirational people to share their story, advice and experience on plant-based living. This podcast celebrates the fact that together, with unity, we can become more mindful of the impact our everyday decisions have on our health, our fellow beings, and the planet we call home.
Mothers of Invention
Former Irish President Mary Robinson and her co-host Maeve Higgins, come together to celebrate amazing women doing extraordinary things in chase of climate justice. With each episode featuring women encouraging powerful solutions to climate change, this is a podcast that will keep you highly entertained whilst learning about this extremely complex issue too!
“A podcast where what we wear matters”
Conscious Chatter is an audio space that asks hard questions about fashion. It allows you to continue to learn about the garment industry and how we can all be a bigger part of positive change in the industry.
The Green Dreamer podcast explores how we can cultivate sustainability in all areas of our lives and in our passion projects helping the Earth to thrive. If you’re eager to break down the complexities of sustainability with an open mind, this podcast will inspire your creativity, activate the change maker within you, and support you in all that you do.
Low Tox Life
The concept of living a Low Tox Life is one that believes in progress over perfection and rejecting the black and white notions of there only being one way to ‘do it right’. Instead, they take a relaxed and curious approach to better choices that we can incorporate into our lives as – and if – they fit.
The Sustainable Jungle
The Sustainable Jungle Podcast is mission-driven; focusing on solutions for the world’s sustainability and conservation challenges. Each episode is an interview with an inspiring change maker who dedicates their time to future-proofing our planet!
Live Planted is all about practical Vegan living! The episodes go into health, wellness, activism, environmentalism, cruelty-free practices, sustainability, animal rights, and how to make it all work while living a ‘regular’ lifestyle.
The Slow Home
In the Slow Home Podcast, Brooke McAlary discusses how to slow down your life in a fast-paced world. She talks about simple living, slowing down, opting-out, saying no, and gives advice on how to get yourself out of the fast lane.
What are YOUR favourite sustainability documentaries, books and podcasts? I’d love to know in the comments below!