15 Eye-Opening Docs About the Environment That Will Inspire You to Take Action

Earth Day may only come once a year — this year, it's April 22 — but taking care of the environment should be a priority every day. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start. Should I give up plastic, conserve water, switch to sustainable fashion brands? All those things are great, but if you're ready to dig deeper into environmental activism, there are plenty of amazing documentaries to help you get started.

From The Swim, which premiered on Discovery + on April 15, to the fascinating I Am Greta about teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, there are options for every interest. The stunning shots, heartbreaking facts, and moving interviews will inspire you to fight for our planet and take care of it in a bigger way. A few of my favorite documentaries about the environment are available for streaming today — check them out in the slides ahead.

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The Swim

Long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte traveled on a historic 5,700-mile swim across the Pacific Ocean in 2018 to document the state of our oceans for The Swim. He swam from Japan to Hawaii, at one point seeing a piece of plastic in the ocean every three minutes. Seeker documented the six month-long journey, helping deter sharks, measure the impact of the swim on Lecomte's mind and body, and document the pollution, plastics, and potential consequences from climate change that Lecomte encountered.

Watch The Swim on Discovery+.

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The Year Earth Changed

One of the greatest benefits of lockdown? Nature had a chance to bounce back and thrive. The Year Earth Changed documents never before seen footage of how Earth found its rhythm across seas, skies, and lands in response to a global lockdown. Narrated by David Attenborough, this documentary shows how changing human behavior, reducing cruise ship traffic, closing beaches, and more brings harmony to the Earth.

Watch The Year Earth Changed on Apple TV.

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This Changes Everything

This Changes Everything is a 2015 documentary filmed over 211 different days over four years in nine countries and five continents. Inspired by Naomi Klein's nonfiction bestseller of the same name, this documentary shows Klein's most controversial idea: "We can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better." Through footage of communities from the coast of South India to Beijing to Montana and beyond, you will feel empowered after watching this.

Watch This Changes Everything on YouTube.

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Planet of the Humans

The controversial and captivating Planet of the Humans documentary explores how we are losing the battle to stop climate change thanks to leaders who have sold out the green movement to bankers and billionaires. It's designed to spark anger, debate, and real change on our planet. It stars Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Richard Branson and is directed by Jeff Gibbs.

Watch Planet of the Humans on Amazon.

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Chasing Coral

Coral reefs are an underwater masterpiece, filled with gorgeous colors and designs known as the "rainforests of the sea." This heartbreaking documentary features divers, scientists, and photographers from around the world who are working together to document the disappearance of Earth's coral reefs.

Watch Chasing Coral on Netflix.

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Ice on Fire

Ice on Fire takes viewers to Norway, Alaska, Iceland, Colorado, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Connecticut, and more to highlight firsthand accounts of scientists, farmers, innovators, and more about the climate crisis. The documentary focuses on the cutting-edge research behind today's climate science. It's produced by Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio along with George DiCaprio and Mathew Schmid, and it's directed by Leila Conners.

Watch Ice on Fire on HBO Max.

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Saving My Tomorrow

This documentary series, Saving My Tomorrow, focuses on the future generation that will benefit from our work taking care of the planet. Each episode is filled with songs, activism, and heartfelt tips for protecting nature, along with kids' thoughts on everything from endangered animals to climate change.

Watch Saving My Tomorrow on HBO Max.

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A Perfect Planet

David Attenborough and the award-winning team behind the original Planet Earth and The Hunt have created a five-part series called A Perfect Planet that showcases volcanoes, the sun, weather, oceans, and the human impact on the environment.

Watch A Perfect Planet on Discovery+.

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I Am Greta

Learn more about the inspiring teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg in this interesting documentary, I Am Greta. This 2020 documentary highlights never before seen footage of her one-person school strike for climate action, her rise to prominence, and her global impact on school strikes around the world. It ends with her wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Watch I Am Greta on Hulu.

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Before the Flood

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens and Academy Award-winning actor, environmental activist and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio host Before the Flood, a documentary about the dramatic changes caused by climate change around the world. They will inspire you with their messages about the actions we can take to save the life on our planet.

Watch Before the Flood on Disney+.

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You'll never look at cows the same way again after watching Cowspiracy. This documentary focuses on how factory farming is decimating the planet's natural resources — but is being largely ignored by major environmental groups.

Watch Cowspiracy on Netflix.

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The True Cost

Have you ever thought about the true cost of the clothes you wear? Andrew Morgan's documentary, The True Cost, starring Stella McCartney tells the story of clothes, who makes them, and the impact the industry has on our world. Although the price of clothing has dropped, its impact on humans and the environment has continued to grow.

Watch The True Cost on Amazon.

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Paris to Pittsburgh

Originally released in 2018, Paris to Pittsburgh reflects on the US's decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement and demands that viewers pay attention to what's at stake for communities around the country. Despite the national debate and political battles over this, Americans are responding in inspiring ways that will make you want to join the cause.

Watch Paris to Pittsburgh on Disney+.

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Jane Goodall: The Hope

In 1960, Jane Goodall began the Gombe chimp observation in Tanzania, which is now the world's longest running continuous wildlife research project. Learn more about this remarkable woman in Jane Goodall: The Hope, which follows Goodall through her travels and shows her transformation from scientist to inspirational activist and leader.

Watch Jane Goodall: The Hope on Disney+.

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Climate Warriors

Don your superhero cape and become a climate warrior! The environmental documentary Climate Warriors is an inspiring take on how to bring climate change to a halt. It focuses on the energy transition, highlighting voices from diverse backgrounds who are calling for a fast change to protect the environment and preserve our human rights. These climate warriors offer solutions for an energy transition with cutting-edge technologies and inspiring activism, with a challenge to go to 100 percent renewable energy.

Watch Climate Warriors on Apple TV.