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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: 10 Must-Watch Sustainability Documentaries on Netflix

By Mary Mazzoni

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

April showers are on the horizon across the country this weekend. How will you spend your rainy days inside?

No, we're not going to make a "Netflix and chill" joke. In fact, everyone's favorite streaming service is good for more than just background noise and decade-old dramedies. As it turns out, you might actually learn something.

Chasing Ice

IMDB rating: 7.8/10 stars

In a multiyear effort leading up to the release of "Chasing Ice" in 2013, National Geographic photographer James Balog deployed time-lapse cameras across the Arctic for one reason: to record the world's changing glaciers firsthand.

The cinematography will take your breath away, but what you see -- Arctic glaciers literally disappearing before your eyes -- may be a touch unsettling.

Planet Earth

IMDB rating: 9.5/10 stars

Looking for a new reason to love our planet? Look no further. Produced in 2006, "Planet Earth" is the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC and the first to be filmed in high definition.

The 11-episode series won four primetime Emmys, and with a quick glimpse at the stunning cinematography and riveting shots of nature at its wildest, it's easy to see why. It's an oldie but a goodie, and if you've never seen it, get the popcorn started -- we know what you're doing this weekend.

Forks Over Knives

IMDB rating: 7.7/10 stars

If a few of your friends suddenly went vegetarian back in 2011, there's a good chance it's because of "Forks Over Knives." A number of celebrities and even professional athletes reported adopting a more plant-based diet after seeing the film, which explores how cutting out meat can improve our health and that of the environment.

As it turns out, Netflix is a fountain of information when it comes to our food system, which may be an indication of how ugly things are getting. If you're hungry for more info, check out one of the many other sustainable food documentaries on offer, including "Cowspiracy," "Food, Inc.," "Fed Up" and "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead."

The Mask You Live In

IMDB rating: 7.3/10 stars

Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, "The Mask You Live In" chronicles the narrow definition of masculinity in modern culture, and how it harms boys, men and society at large.

Released last year, the 90-minute documentary explores how to raise a healthier generation of boys -- and it just may make you think about what you classify as masculine: Why can't boys cry? Why do we glorify the "strong, silent" type? Why is emotion equated with weakness? Prepare for these answers and more.

Chelsea Does

IMDB rating: 7.7/10 stars

After spending years making jokes about the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian on her entertainment-focused late-night show "Chelsea Lately," comedienne and writer Chelsea Handler isn't often associated with the sustainability set. But her new, decidedly more serious docu-series "Chelsea Does" may prove the skeptics wrong.

Available exclusively on Netflix, the four-episode series features Handler taking a deep-dive into some of the most controversial topics facing society today. She visits former plantations and Mexican border checkpoints to discuss America's growing racial tensions and interviews the founder of notorious adultery website Ashley Madison for a conversation about women's perceived need to walk down the aisle.

The issues are poignant -- and "Chelsea Does Racism" might even bring a tear to your eye -- but the tongue-in-cheek delivery that typifies Handler's work means the series is far from boring. Make this one your Saturday night special.


IMDB rating: 9.2/10 stars

In another gorgeously photographed BBC series, the makers of "Life" chronicle the existential challenges facing creatures at all levels of Earth's value chain -- from humans to deep-sea animals.

Watch in awe as the crew led by David Attenborough expertly documents the extraordinary tactics plants and animals have developed to stay alive in an increasingly hostile world.

The Out List

IMDB rating: 7.4/10 stars

Released in 2013, "The Out List" paints a thought-provoking portrait of the LGBT community through the lens of some of its most high-profile members.

The HBO documentary features interviews in which celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris and Wanda Sykes, as well as academics, politicians and other thought leaders, explain the challenges they faced coming out and what it means to be LGBT in modern society.

The True Cost

IMDB rating: 7.6/10 stars

People are finally starting to pay attention to the impact the fashion industry has on people and the planet. Case in point: This 2015 documentary that takes a chilling look inside fashion's supply chain.

Directed by Andrew Morgan and featuring designer Stella McCartney, "The True Cost" examines the rising pressure for low-cost fast fashion and peeks into the lives of sweatshop workers earning pennies an hour to create your $40 jeans.


IMDB rating: 7.3/10 stars

From Academy Award nominated director Roko Belic, "Happy" takes viewers on a journey around the world in search of what really makes people, well, happy.

Belic blends real-life stories from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research to learn more about what drives humanity's most valued emotion. Spoiler alert: It's not money.

More Than Honey

IMDB rating: 7.6/10 stars

The rapid decline of U.S. honeybee colonies has scientists concerned. While many cite pesticides as the cause, researchers are still seeking a definitive link between bee deaths and agricultural practices.

The 2012 documentary "More Than Honey" takes a closer look at the issue. By examining honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Australia, director Markus Imhoof seeks to reveal how vital bees are to our existence and what could be causing them to die off.

Image credit: James Balog courtesy of "Chasing Ice"

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni