10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You
10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You


Looking for a good zero waste documentary? We’re visual creatures, so it makes sense: Sometimes we just need to watch something in order to grasp it. Documentaries have the ability to not only educate, but also motivate and inspire. One time I watched a documentary about dolphins being slaughtered and sold in supermarkets for their meat in Japan (The Cove) and I started to literally bawl. Sometimes, these films deliver hard truths we aren’t prepared to hear, but need to know about. Now, I don’t necessarily want you crying over these films, that’s not the end goal. What I do want you to do is to use it to motivate you to make a change, to spread awareness to others, to continue bettering yourself as a person. Not only is it something to watch: It’s something to act on. Here are 10 zero waste documentaries to motivate you.

This post contains some affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.



Sign up + get my free ebook, “10 Ways to Reduce Trash”

Learn how to start your zero waste journey with my these 10 innovative tips.

We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You


I’m well aware there are so many zero waste documentaries out there. These are just a few I love. They all touch on very important topics – not all of them plastic waste, either. They all have a very unique perspective that’s informative, education, but also motivational – if not inspiring. I know no matter which you end up watching, you’ll learn something, plus be entertained – and that’s what counts!


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

1. No Impact Man

Main gist: Follows the life of one man and his family as he tries to create no waste for a whole year.



A closer look: 

You rarely get to see the perspective of men in the zero waste movement. That’s because it’s a predominantly female run movement (which is cool, but it’s nice to see men get involved too).

With No Impact Man, that certainly changes. Colin Beavan, his wife and young child embark on a no-waste year in NYC. As a fellow New Yorker, I was hooked from the start.

You get to watch Colin as he goes about his days doing whatever he sees fit to save energy and reduce waste. Some would say he takes extreme measures at times too.

Ultimately, this film is great for a laugh, but also is quite motivating overall. It shows you living a life with less waste is certainly possible. Out of all the zero waste documentaries listed, this is definitely the most comical.

What I like most is that Colin doesn’t claim to have all the answers. He just does his best and lives as close to zero waste as possible, including all the mental, family, marital and social hardships along the way. Definitely go give it a watch!


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You


2. A Plastic Ocean

Main gist: Delves into our plastic addiction and how it hurts our oceans and marine life.



A closer look: 

A Plastic Ocean follows a filmmaker, Craig Leeson, and world record free-diver, Tanya Streeter, as they travel the earth to discover the shocking impact plastic has on our oceans and marine life.

It’s a very accurate portrayal of our plastic waste problem that is at times incredibly overwhelming. It’s heartbreaking to see how this plastic affects animals, but it’s something that must be talked about.

Craig is absolutely shocked at not only the plastic in our ocean, but how much we rely on it as a society. It’s everywhere and in everything we consume.

But this is not just a depressing documentary: Craig also talks about change, and what we need to do to help make that change. He has action steps and sound advice we should all follow to better ourselves and the planet. Definitely go give this documentary a watch!
10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

3. Sand Wars

Main gist: Explains how the planet’s sand reserves are being threatened, and how this impacts the environment as well as people.



A closer look: 

The world is running out of sand – and it’s hurting our environment in more ways than one. Sand Wars takes us around the world to witness this first hand.

Sand is needed to make so many things – from glass to concrete, it’s an essential resource we need to create the cities we are so familiar with today.

But three-quarters of the world’s beaches are in decline as victims of erosion or “sand mafias.” It’s almost like the new gold rush, only with much dire consequences.

This is a topic not many people are aware of, but honestly should be. Beaches and entire islands are disappearing – so we definitely need to do something about this ASAP. Definitely go watch this documentary!


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

4. Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Main gist: Looks into the mysterious great pacific garbage patch and how it is hurting the environment in so many ways.


A closer look: 

Every heard of the great pacific garbage patch? Plastic Paradise talks about how this huge garbage patch is having a huge impact on the species that call Midway home.

Journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover the mysterious phenomenon of the great pacific garbage patch.

It’s so hard to look at the amount of dead baby birds whose stomachs are filled with plastic. But this film forces you to, and it’s not doing it to be cruel. It’s doing it to educate us all on the stark reality.

Marine life is not the only ones being hurt either. The plastic we love so much is also an endocrine disruptor that’s literally polluting our bodies too.

This film goes into why plastic pollution happens, as well as what we need to do to fix things. Definitely go give it a watch!


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

5. Just Eat It

Main gist: A couple explore the truth about food waste and vow to quit grocery shopping, only living off of discarded food.



A closer look: 

Food waste isn’t cool. That’s why Just Eat It tackles the issue of food waste from farm and retail, right to the back of the fridge.

The most unique thing about this film? Jen and Grant, the filmmakers of Just Eat It, pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food.

That isn’t as gross as it sounds, trust me. There’s more food being discarded than you can even imagine – the reasons varying.

In order for food to be sold at the grocery store, it must meet very rigorous standards – no imperfections are allowed. So if anything is even slightly off, it will be rejected and dumped into the trash. Mind you, this is still perfectly edible food.


The scale of food waste is overwhelming to say the least, but this story will inspire you to do everything in your power to prevent it in your own home. Definitely give this documentary a watch!


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

6. Tapped

Main gist: Examines our relationship to bottled water and explains why it’s harmful to our environment and health.



A closer look: 

Ever wonder what the cost of bottled water is for the environment and our health? Tapped explores this very subject and enlists activists, environmentalists and community leaders to expose the truth.

There is a dark side to the bottled water industry they don’t want you to know about. Obviously, single use plastic is bad for the environment and that goes without saying. But there’s way more to it.

They’re literally taking your water and selling it to you. They’re literally drying up waterways just to make a profit. And worse, they’re polluting along the way.

Imagine how much emissions are created in the factories that make bottled water.

Worse yet, bottled water isn’t good for our health. Plastic leaks chemicals all the time – it’s an endocrine disruptor. Is that something you want to drink from?

The truth is hard to hear, but it will set you free (from bottled water). Everyone needs to watch this documentary!


10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

7. Living The Change: Inspiring Stories For a Sustainable Future

Main gist: Follows the lives of various people making incredible and positive changes to help the earth.



A closer look: 

Craving some inspiration and uplifting news? Living The Change explores solutions to the global crises we face through people pioneering change in their own lives and communities.

These people are making an impact in the best, most sustainable ways possible. It’s like a breath of fresh air to see there are people in the world who care – just like you!

One person started a local currency, another started organic waste collection, and yet another person went zero waste for a full year. It all goes to show anyone can make a difference, big or small.


I think we do our best work for the planet when we ourselves are inspired. It’s very hard to create change or stay motivated when you’re feeling depressed.

Out of all the zero waste documentaries listed here, I find this one to be the most positive and uplifting for sure.

People who are happy tend to be most motivated to make a change, after all. With that in mind, definitely give this documentary a watch.

10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

8. Wasted: The Story of Food Waste

Main gist: Examines food waste and ways those around the world are creatively preventing it.



A closer look: 

Can you believe 1.3 billion tons of food gets thrown out each year? Wasted: The Story of Food Waste takes you around the world and see how this is happening, and those fighting to prevent it.

We don’t need to produce more food. That’s definitely not the solution. We already produce enough food to feed the whole world.

However, in the United States, 40% of the food we produce is going to waste.

While there are several reasons for this, one thing is clear: Something has to change. It’s hurting our planet, hurting our wallets and hurting our stomachs.

What’s amazing about this film is that it provides cool solutions and interviews people actually putting those solutions to work. It will educate and motivate at the same time, which I love. Be sure to watch this documentary!

10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

9. True Cost

Main gist: Reveals the terrible environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry.



A closer look: 

Who makes your clothes? True Cost tells the story of these people, and the impact the industry has on our world (hint: It’s not pretty).

The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, but the human and environmental costs have increased drastically.

The fashion industry is the second most pollutant industry, after oil and gas. Not to mention there’s the human factor to all this: Workers are treated terribly and forced to work in terrible conditions to make your clothes.

Watching the people suffer for clothing – even so far as losing their lives – is utterly heartbreaking. And watching the planet suffer from the pollution caused by clothing is just as bad.

This documentary will really make you rethink where you buy your clothing. Plus, it provides doable solutions to this huge problem. Everyone should watch this documentary!

10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You

10. Minimalism

Main gist: Looks into the lives of minimalists and discusses our relationship with stuff, along with the problems of over-consumption.


A closer look: 

Would your life be better with less? Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, examines this very question.

You get to see inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life: Artists, journalists, scientists, families, entrepreneurs, and more. Even a former Wall Street broker!

We’re often always on the hunt for the next best item. We believe it will give us happiness, when really this hunt is just a vicious never ending cycle that makes us miserable.

By lessening the items we allow into our lives, we start to focus on what’s really important, and happiness follows.

While there’s nothing wrong with consumption, there is something wrong with compulsive consumption. Buying more stuff just to have the latest model, or just because you can, will eventually leave you depleted.

Plus, over-consumption also hurts the environment. The raw resources need to be extracted from the earth in order to make those items we crave and love so much.

Living a more minimalist life can help us become happier, and help the planet at the same time. Definitely give this documentary a watch.

10 Zero Waste Documentaries to Motivate You


What do you think of these zero waste documentaries? Would you give them a watch?

For more ways to pass the time, check out these zero waste books, or try your hand at making zero waste cookies.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to share it! If you like my content, sign up for my newsletter to get notified every time I write a new blog post. To support me even further, please consider buying me a cup of tea to help support my blog.

By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *