As a collective, we must protect and care for our environment, especially as climate change becomes increasingly problematic. The responsibility is ours, and with so much available information, there are no excuses. I’ve put together a small list of documentaries that provide an insight into some of the issues we face.

In terms of subject matter, I’ve tried to be as broad as possible and have provided my own descriptions as well as my personal thoughts about each of the documentaries. They are in no particular order.

“A Plastic Wave” (2018)

Duration: 25 mins

Where to source: YouTube


The extreme numbers of plastic entering our oceans is phenomenal, having significant affects on marine life and damaging the beauty of coastal locations. “A Plastic Wave” provides a good insight into the severity of the issue that can be clearly understood through shocking images and harrowing statistics.

The effects are shown first from a personal viewpoint that branches into a global awareness. Featuring experts both in the UK and India, they highlight the need for great change. It also raises awareness of the significance of micro-plastics, something that is less widely known of.

My Thoughts

In my own day to day life, I try to make a conscious effort to reduce my plastic waste as best I can. Having lived near a beach, physically seeing the litter there, I knew there was a problem. However I didn’t understand the extent of it. It was heart-breaking to see just how much litter was being carelessly thrown into one of the rivers in India, perhaps by lack of awareness, or perhaps by fear of taking responsibility for such a large scale issue. Until watching this, I hadn’t been aware of the significance of micro-plastics and was shocked to hear how this could literally affect the whole of the ocean’s food chain. It saddens me to think about the harm done to these creatures as it’s something that can be prevented. For me, this documentary has made clear there is a need for further education and an international collaboration to put an end to this problem.

“There’s Something in the Water” (2019)

Duration: 1 hour 11 mins

Where to source: Netflix


A look at some of the environmental issues directly caused by large waste companies at Nova Scotia, Canada. Stories are shared by locals of how the dumping of waste into their waters has had a drastic affect on the health of their communities and the ways in which they are trying to fight back.

This documentary describes the slow response in government on these issues and covers the history associated with environmental racism and how this affects people of today in these areas.

My Thoughts

I had not been previously aware of the specific issues talked about in this documentary and so was saddened to hear of them. It’s clear that the most marginalised people are being affected the most and are forced to fight back in fear of their own health. Having access to clean, drinkable water should be a necessity not a luxury. In listening to the stories being shared, I became frustrated with the lack of responsibility taken by both the companies causing the pollution and the government itself. Perhaps there needs to be a larger change in producing more re-usable products to prevent more potential issues in the future. Ultimately, after watching the entire film, it does give some hope. I also felt greater appreciation for water and an awakening realisation of just how important it is.

“Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” (2014)

Duration: 1 hour 30

Where to source: Netflix


When looking at environmental issues, the leading cause of many is something not talked about: animal agriculture. Through backed-up evidence, it is revealed just how damaging this industry has been. And it’s a growing problem.

“Cowspiracy” investigates the reasons why this issue has been hidden and the potential ways in solving it. As it’s personally led, it looks at how we can make a difference at an individual level.

My Thoughts

I truly wasn’t aware that animal agriculture was such a leading factor in a number of different environmental issues. The statistics and comparisons shown were shocking and gave me a wake up call. When explained, it made total sense and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made the connection before. I found it disappointing to realise that this type of issue is not being shared by environmental organisations considering their large and influential platform. I think perhaps if more people were made aware then more change would ensue. It also gave me a different outlook on the animals themselves, removing the detachment and seeing the reality. Hearing more about meat and dairy alternatives whilst still being able to maintain a healthy diet gave me motivation to pursue this way of living. It’s promising that this is something I can actively start doing that will have a large and instant impact.

“Chasing Coral” (2017)

Duration: 1 hour 30

Where to source: Netflix


The rise in sea temperature from climate change is causing coral to bleach and die. “Chasing Coral” visually captures this devastating change and states the importance of it.

It covers the biology of this extraordinary animal as well as statistical evidence in the increasing temperature of our oceans. The journey of how and why this documentation was made is the base of the film. Archive footage is also used to show the stark reality of our current situation.

My Thoughts

This documentary was very visually impacting from use of comparisons. It was able to demonstrate just how quickly the corals are transforming and therefore signifies a demand for change. Showing the filming process itself made me feel more emotionally involved as the team came across a number of problems. Their passion and determination was admirable and I feel as though they succeeded in what they set out to do. The beauty of the reefs were incredible; life that should be protected. It made me wonder what my own future was to look like if this was one of the major beginning effects of climate change. I was grateful to hear that it isn’t too late and with further education, a difference can be made. In sharing this documentary, I hope to add to the conversation which is something being encouraged by the creators.

“Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” (2016)

Duration: 1 hour 18 mins

Where to source: Netflix


This documentary film questions our participation in consumerism by sharing people’s own experiences of challenging this problem. It suggests a new way of looking at minimalism: it’s about living more intentionally rather than just a lack of possessions.

It follows the journey of “The Minimalists” as they share their philosophy publicly. It also features other individuals who have made large changes and found this way of living to be beneficial. The environmental impacts of our consumer based society are also covered.

My Thoughts

I’ve always feared away from the word “minimalism” based on my own associations of emptiness and reducing possessions to as little as possible. But this documentary opened my eyes to looking at the concept in a different way: it’s about living intentionally. We are made, through advertisements, to feel like we always need more and to keep up with the latest trends. Unfortunately this is never fulfilling and has extremely negative affects on our environment. In choosing to live more deliberately we can focus on our needs and understand what we truly enjoy and appreciate. This is what will increase our happiness. The impact this would then have on our environment would be highly significant. After watching this documentary, I am going to make an effort to be more consumer conscious and to use space more purposefully. It was encouraging to see that following this philosophy has worked for so many people and I’m going to try my best to begin to do the same.

close up of question mark on (my) notebook page

Final thoughts…

Learning about environmental issues is so incredibly important right now. As a documentary creator myself, I personally love to educate myself through this genre. In watching these five in particular, I feel a lot more educated in some of the current issues we face today and as a result have aims to reduce these at an individual level. I have hope for our future in the knowledge that there are people in the world who are also making an effort to save our planet.

What’s on your mind?

What other environmental documentaries would you add the the list? Have you watched any of those mentioned? Leave a comment below!

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5 replies on “5 Necessary Environmental Documentaries to Watch

  1. This is a great list and the only one I’ve watched is Cowspiracy and it does make a lot of sense.
    This definitely doesn’t come under an Environmental Documentary, but you should check out Black FIsh if you haven’t.
    It’s about captive Orcas.

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