5 must-watch sustainability documentaries: learning while being entertained

How and why documentaries are perfect for learning about sustainability

Key takeaways from this article

  • Documentaries, prized for intellectual stimulation, have become streaming essentials.
  • They are emerging as the leading form of “edutainment,” providing a popular platform for sustainability narratives.
  • A curated selection of five documentaries, from “River Blue” to “No Impact Man,” offers an entertaining journey into pressing environmental challenges.

Documentaries have become a must-have in all of our streaming libraries, perhaps because they appear to be more intellectually stimulating than the average TV show or because they are able to shine a light on current and relevant social issues.[1] True crime stories are those magnets that would keep us awake all night, and Hollywood stars are known for choosing to release documentary films about their careers. Digital, innovation, art, fashion, and architecture are just a few of the other hot topics.

What about sustainability?

In the previous article, we discussed how capturing attention with authentic and entertaining content on social media serves as a gateway to conveying difficult-to-digest environmental messages. In this piece, we will look into the documentary phenomenon and how it can be one of the most effective forms of “edutainment” for spreading knowledge about sustainability.

Docu-mania: a bandwagon to jump on for sustainability

Documentaries are true-life stories with the ability to highlight the absurdity of ordinary events or people’s daily lives all over the world. They are able to share knowledge, which is fundamental in today’s world of misinformation, without having to remind us of a traditional school lesson. They are proof, as described in the previous article, that “edutainment” is a strategic tool for spreading difficult-to-digest topics like sustainability.

Thanks to all these benefits, the streaming industry, which has decided to invest in such a format in the past ten years to increase revenue, supports documentaries with a dedicated budget and creative ideas.[2] The strategy is working, and sustainability now has an appealing way to reach new people in order to make the topic more accessible and mainstream and consequently lead the change.

There are numerous stories about humans’ impact on the planet and the environment, and they can be found on streaming platforms or on specific websites. We chose five of them to give you a general overview of some of the most pressing challenges.

Relax and enjoy the ECONYL® curated selection!

5 must-watch sustainability documentaries

Journey to Ithaca 

“Journey to Ithaca” depicts the restoration of a natural paradise through a 76-ton cleanup effort by The Healthy Seas Foundation and its partners. After going bankrupt, a fish farm on Greece’s Ithaca island was abandoned, wreaking havoc on the marine environment, local community, and maritime traffic for ten years. Its Cannes World Film Festival win for Best Environmental Film demonstrates its ability to raise awareness of long-term environmental issues. The movie encourages us to preserve the planet’s beauty for future generations.

A life on our planet

In this thought-provoking film, David Attenborough reflects on his lifetime of witnessing the impact of human activities on the environment. Through powerful storytelling and compelling visuals, the documentary offers a sobering account of the challenges our planet faces, including deforestation and climate change.


This film takes a constructive approach, exploring innovative green solutions to global environmental issues. Through inspiring examples, “Tomorrow” showcases grassroots initiatives that contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future. By emphasizing community-driven efforts, we are encouraged to actively participate in creating positive change.

No Impact Man

This film chronicles the year-long experiment of Colin Beavan and his family as they attempt to live with minimal environmental impact in the heart of New York City. Through a personal narrative, the documentary explores the challenges and successes of their eco-friendly lifestyle. By documenting their journey to reduce waste and live sustainably, “No Impact Man” inspires us to reconsider our own ecological footprint and adopt more environmentally-conscious choices.

Minimalism,  A Documentary About the Important Things

This documentary dives into real-life stories and interviews, urging us to question our relationship with goods. With striking visuals, it challenges us to embrace a simpler, more purposeful life and rethink our priorities, finding beauty in simplicity.

An entertaining train ride towards sustainability

Sustainability gains an accessible and mainstream platform for change as the streaming industry invests in documentaries. As a result, we enjoy an entertaining train ride toward a more sustainable future that is filled with gripping tales, real-world examples, and extraordinary adventures that help us grow more interested in a subject that will be crucial to safeguarding our planet.

[1] https://time.com/5951774/new-documentaries-streaming/

[2] https://www.netflix.com/tudum/articles/netflix-documentary-renaissance-kanye-west