• The Mindful Materialist

8 Documentaries to Watch Now


There’s a lot to wrap your head around when it comes to climate change, sustainability and ethical consumerism. There are so many bloggers (like myself) out there who are committed to educating themselves and their readers alike. On my resources page, I have listed the books, websites, individuals and materials that have informed and influenced me. As someone who is always wanting to learn more but is a bit stretched for time, I find documentaries to be an invaluable resource. They are visually captivating and include a range of voices and perspectives. From David Attenborough to lesser-known local films, documentaries are an accessible and informative way to gain an insight about what is happening around our world. They’re also a great excuse for spending a guilt-free day on the couch – but that’s just an added bonus of course!



A Life on Our Planet

Who doesn’t love a bit of Sir David Attenborough? His latest film release is both a cinematic masterpiece and a cautionary tale about the impact of climate change. Attenborough recalls his extraordinary life and reflects on the changes he’s seen to the natural environment over his career. The film uses historical as well as contemporary footage and is a beautiful display of the natural world. What’s different about this film though, is Attenborough’s personal message. We’re used to him teaching us about the natural world and all the wonderful creatures in it, but this film takes a political turn as he urges governments and people in power to take action. It is both frightening and empowering. Definitely a timely and vital documentary for 2020.

Available to watch on Netflix.



Our Planet

This one is another David Attenborough offering because, let’s face it, he’s a legend. This series takes a close look at the various environments present on our planet; from jungles and rainforests to deserts and oceans. The series is captivating to watch, with incredible rare footage of a Siberian tiger and a blue whale with its calf. This one is a series, so it’s a bit more of a time commitment, but it’s worth it. Attenborough celebrates the many living creatures that we share this planet with, while stressing the importance of their preservation and conservation.

Available to watch on Netflix.


The True Cost

This film has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Ask anyone working in the sustainable fashion space about this film and it’s likely they will have seen it. This documentary was a gamechanger when it came out. It was made in response to the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster to uncover the unethical treatment of garment workers in the fashion industry. Since then, it has become an essential resource for educating industry professionals and the general public alike on the dark side of the fashion industry. For too long, the exploitation which is rife in fashion supply chains had gone unnoticed, but this documentary exposed all. From factory workers to cotton growers, environmental pollution to child exploitation, this film will change the way you look at clothing forever.

Available via film website.

Stills from The True Cost film.



War on Waste

Australia’s ABC first aired the War on Waste series in 2017 as a call to action on climate change. Hosted by Craig Reucassel, the documentary series explains the waste problem we have here in Australia and provides practical solutions at a domestic level. By empowering households and individuals to take responsibility for their own contribution to Australia’s waste problem, collective change filters through to those in power. Reucassel covers plastic waste, fast fashion and fast furniture waste, food waste and more. The series is revealing and shocking, but also inspiring with logical and simple solutions to an unsustainable system.

Available on ABC iView.


Fight for Planet A

This 2020 documentary hosted by Craig Reucassel on Australia’s ABC continues the fight against climate change. Reucassel works with a few Australian households to demonstrate how small changes at a domestic level can create major change on a national level to reduce carbon emissions. He also works with schools and talks to farmers and scientists who are innovating new technology and championing ways of managing carbon footprints. The series covers the environmental impact of food production and land clearing in Australia, as well as the impact of fires and reef bleaching. Reucassel hosts the program with his usual charismatic and comedic tone, while emphasising the need for serious change. The series isn’t all doom and gloom though; it shows how cities can be designed for sustainable futures, how farming can be adapted with carbon offsetting, how households can lower their impact through simple swaps and behavioural changes, and how beneficial these changes would be not just to the planet but also to our lifestyles. While the documentary is aimed at Australians, it is full of advice which could be applied worldwide.

Available on ABC iView.




The Great Acceleration

Also on ABC, The Great Acceleration is a science and history-based documentary hosted by Australian biologist Dr Shalin Naik. Over six episodes, the series looks at the rapid expansion of human knowledge and exploration, and how our lust for scientific discovery can come at a cost to the natural world. Some of the topics include space exploration, our reliance on machines and finite resources, the pace at which we produce food and energy, and even how we have manipulated our own evolution through medical science. The series draws on academics, scientists and experts in respective fields to deliver complex ideas in an easy-to-understand format; so even if you’re an arts kid like me, you’ll be able to follow along.

Available on ABC iView.


Food Inc.

Despite its 2008 release, Food Inc. is still such a relevant documentary today in 2020. At the risk of putting off all the meat-eaters out there, this is the documentary that helped me decide to give up red meat when I was fourteen. The documentary film reveals the animal cruelty occurring in the meat industry, as well as the environmental destruction caused by the food and agricultural industries. While it is a US-based documentary with mostly American statistics and evidence, the implications and practices being scrutinised in the film are not exclusive to the US industry. I think we should all know where our food comes from and how it is made. This documentary showed me how much is hidden from consumers and how unsustainable the meat industry is. It’s a shocking film to watch, but still so very important.

Available to watch on YouTube.


Minimalism

I’d seen the word ‘minimalism’ a lot, but I hadn’t really understood the meaning of the word until I watched this film. The film is by ‘The Minimalists’ – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – and shares their experience with minimalism from the beginning, as well as footage from their talks during their book tour. They explain minimalism in terms of their influences, their motives, their day-to-day experiences, and how they’ve helped other people adapt their lives to live with less. This documentary is definitely more uplifting than the others I’ve recommended. It is easy to watch while being informative and inspiring, and it offers an alternative method for simplifying and reducing your impact.

Available on Netflix.