Stretch out of your routine and get green

Good planets are hard to find. If we destroy ours, we’ll be left without a home. So what’s your environmental wellness rating?

Are you aware of the limits of the planet’s natural resources? Are you taking steps in your life to decrease your use of these resources? Do you conserve energy? Recycle? Reuse things whenever possible? Do you take conscious steps to conserve energy and water?

We used to think it was enough to just reduce, reuse, and recycle. Now we know that additional steps must be taken to ensure our home on this planet. I’d like to help you find new ways of doing things to stretch out of your routine and increase your environmental wellness.

The more information we have, the easier it is for us to know how to act responsibly in our daily lives. Without sufficient information, we may not even know certain issues exist, let alone know how to take action. We’re a big fan of documentaries in our home, and I’d like to suggest you take a look at some of the following films.

If you think you don’t have time to add documentaries into your life, stop and think about how many hours of television you watch a week. How many movies do you watch at home each week? If you replace just two hours of television or one of those movies each week, you can learn a great deal about environmental issues all around our planet: things that affect our lives as inhabitants of planet Earth.

After you watch each film, take some time to think about how you can change your lifestyle and current habits to improve the environment. If you watch the documentary with friends or family, discuss the issue amongst yourselves to brainstorm ideas.

Check out this list of environmentally conscious documentaries and books:

The Age of Stupid

This film stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old (real news) footage and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance? The Age of Stupid highlights six stories of individuals whose lives in the early part of the 21st century illustrate aspects of the impending climate crisis. These six stories take the form of interweaving documentary segments that report on the lives of real people in the present, and switch the film’s narrative form from fiction (Pete Postlethwaite’s world) to fact.

An offshoot of The Age of Stupid project is 10:10, a UK-wide campaign encouraging everyone in Britain to reduce their carbon emissions by at least 10 per cent in twelve months. It’s never too late to begin. What can you do to reduce your carbon emissions by at least 10%? What else can you do to reduce your emissions even more?

An Inconvenient Truth
I know you’ve heard of this one. This is the 2006 documentary about Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about climate change, based on a slideshow he’d shown more than a thousand times to public audiences in presentations on global warming around the world.

This documentary is shocking. It’s eye-opening. And it gives hope that we can still make a difference.

The film gives clear ideas at the end as to how we can make changes in our lives to reduce emissions and save energy. What steps will you take in your life as a result of having seen this documentary? What else can you do?

The Cove

Many who plan a holiday to a seaside destination plan to include a dolphin swim as part of their trip. Who doesn’t want to swim with dolphins, given the opportunity? They’re gorgeous creatures, friendly, and they play with humans in the water.

The problem is that dolphins are generally considered to be ill-suited for captivity, which means that they can become irritated and aggressive when captured and held for shows like this. They can also be injured during capture. Before you plan a vacation to the beach with a side trip to swim with dolphins, check out this movie. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2009. Educate yourself about the reality of this industry before you decide to participate in any way.

Dirt! The Movie

This documentary was inspired by the book Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan and explores the relationship between humans and soil. Dirt is just as important to see as Flow. Most people just don’t realize what we humans are doing to the soil (or the water), which the movie rightly calls the “skin of the Earth.”

What can you change in your life after seeing this film? What choices can you make regarding food purchases? What else can you do?

The End of the Line: Imagine A World Without Fish

Like fish? Imagine an ocean without fish. Imagine your meals without seafood. Imagine the global consequences. Scientists predict that if the global fishing industry continues as it is now, we will see the end of most seafood by 2048. The documentary makes it clear that the responsibility belongs to consumers who purchase endangered fish, politicians who ignore the advice of scientists, fishermen who break quotas and fish illegally, and the global fishing industry. The End of the Line highlights simple solutions. For more info on sustainable fish, check out the Seafood Watch.

What changes can you make in your diet as a result of what you’ve learned in this documentary? What else can you do?

Flow: For the Love of Water

This is an excellent film that talks about water around the world, and I highly recommend it. This is an issue that affects absolutely everyone. We all drink water, and we all need water to survive. Water is even more important than food for us. This documentary clarifies the water problem on our planet and also gives us a look at the people and institutions who are providing practical solutions to the water crisis.

How can you change your water usage now that you’ve seen this documentary? How can you bathe differently? Wash clothes and dishes differently? What else can you do?

Food, Inc.

The tagline is “You’ll never look at dinner the same way.” And they’re right. In a good way. This documentary is one of my favourites, and when it was running for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2009 I was so disappointed when it lost…until I saw The Cove. We are what we eat, and if we care about environmental wellness, it’s important to know where our food is coming from and how it’s being produced.

What changes can you make in your food purchases from now on, taking into consideration what you’ve learned in this film? What else can you do?


Fuel takes a look at energy in the United States, and describes the history of use of fossil fuels, explains the present situation, and presents a solution to dependence on foreign oil. Fuel is a journey of oil use and abuse as it examines wide-ranging energy solutions to oil, the US auto and petroleum industries, and the current mindset toward alternative energy.

How can you change your fuel usage as a result of what you’ve learned in this documentary? How about using alternative transportation to get to work? What else can you do?

Garbage Warrior

This is the story of an innovative New Mexico architect and his struggles with local authorities to build a sustainable housing development, designed with thermal mass and energy-independent homes he calls “Earthships.”

For 30 years Michael Reynolds and his green team have devoted their time to building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities, gradually improving on previous designs and adding new aspects to homes that have been designed to maintain a comfortable room temperature with snow and -30°F temperatures outside. Some homes were shown with full gardens inside them, including tropical banana trees. This is an inspiring movie about a visionary with creative solutions. What can you change about your home? What about growing more food at home? What else can you do?

King Corn

This film documents two friends who move from Boston to Iowa to grow an acre of corn. In the process of determining where their crop will end up once it’s harvested, they learn all about the increasing use of corn in the US food system. If you’ve read much on food these days, you probably have an idea of the role corn plays in US food. Almost everything Americans eat contains corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet.

If you see this just after Dirt! The Movie, as I did, you’ll be horrified by everything they spray on their crop: ammonia fertilizer and herbicide (they’re using GMO corn that’s resistant). And that’s how it’s done these days on US monoculture farms. How has this film inspired you to change your eating habits? What else can you do?

If you’re really not a big fan of movies or television, and you’d prefer to just read a good book, check out these following options. Again, take the time as you read to make notes on things you can change in your life to be more environmentally responsible.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
I’ve read this book twice now, partly because the first time it was loaned to me and I couldn’t mark it up (and I love underlining and commenting in the margins), and partly because I just love this book. It’s entertaining, well written, and informative. This is Barbara Kingsolver’s self-imposed challenge to not only be a locavore for a year (to eat locally produced foods), but to produce most of the food that she and her family consumed that same year. The book shares their year-long journey through producing most of their own food and sourcing the rest locally, and includes seasonal recipes.

What choices can you make regarding food purchases? Do you know where to source locally produced food? What else can you do?

An Inconvenient Truth
This is a great companion reader to the documentary of the same name, and is based on Al Gore’s lecture tour on the topic of global warming. The book elaborates upon points offered in the film (featured above). The book compiles research from scientists around the world to document the fast pace and wide scope of global warming. Here, you will find photographs, charts, and illustrations demonstrating the reality of climate change.

What changes can you make in your life as a result of having read this book? What more can you do?

Food, Inc. 
This is a great read that provides additional information to the topics covered in the documentary. The info shared in the book is complementary to the movie; it doesn’t duplicate it.

Do you know where your food comes from and how it is produced? What choices can you make regarding your food purchases from now on? What else can you do?

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
One of my favorite books on food. It’s mantra is simple: eat food (real, not processed, food), not too much, mostly plants. The book simplifies the whole process of eating, rejecting complicated diet plans and focusing on the important issue: namely, that most of the food consumed these days (especially in the US) is processed trash that doesn’t resemble a fruit, vegetable, or anything occurring in nature. What choices can you make regarding food purchases? How about purchasing only food without an ingredients list? Try it for a week. What else can you do?

Which book or documentary do you plan to read or watch this week to learn how to improve your environmental wellness? What other films or books do you recommend?

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