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There are many products we use in our everyday lives without giving them a single thought. Some of those items, like plastic water bottles, plastic grocery bags, electricity, and even gasoline, can have a pretty big environmental impact.
If you also want to make a difference, check out these five documentaries that will inspire you to consider how you use plastic and other products.
1. Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Source: Angela Sun/Vimeo
Journalist and filmmaker, Angela Sun, takes us to Midway Atoll, a large island in the Pacific that has become an enormous garbage dump, in her documentary Plastic Paradise. The environmental film exposes the problems our society has created by our rabid consumption and the impact it has on the world around us.
In the film, Sun explains that by the year 2050, the amount of plastic in the world will quadruple. If we all cut down on our consumption, though, perhaps we can make a difference in that number.
2. A Plastic Ocean
Source: A Plastic Ocean/YouTube
Director Craig Leeson and world-class free diver Tanya Streeter, with a team of researchers and scientists, explore the fragile state of our oceans in the documentary A Plastic Ocean.
Their four-year journey around the globe shines a spotlight on how ocean plastic has polluted our waterways. They explore how broken-up bits of plastic get ingested by sea life, how toxins are stored in the sea life’s tissues, and how those toxins eventually get consumed by humans, potentially leading to cancer and other health problems.
Human behavior is, regrettably, to blame for this predicament. “Everyone, everywhere, was sold a dishonest marketing concept: that we could use plastic, throw it away and it would be gone forever,” Leeson said in an interview. In reality, however, those plastic items we throw away are still around and doing a lot of damage.
Source: By the Brook Productions/Vimeo
It’s estimated that Americans throw away more than half a billion straws per day, often after only one use. These little plastic tubes wind up in landfills, litter streets, and clutter up oceans, where animals mistake them for food. The 2017 short documentary Straws, made by Linda Booker, reviews the history of drinking straws and addresses the present-day issues we face because of our obsession with single-use convenience products.
Viewers who want to take action can join in the No Straw Challenge, a movement urging people to not take straws at their local restaurants and ask them to remove them from their facilities entirely.
Source: Pump The Movie/YouTube
This film doesn’t focus on plastics (though there is a link between oil refinement and plastic production), but it does force the viewer to reckon with how humans use a specific product and how that daily use affects our environment. That product? Gasoline. Documentary filmmakers Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell created the documentary film Pump to show that there are less-polluting and less-expensive alternatives to gasoline.
Americans consume around 25 percent of the world’s oil, yet we account for less than five percent of its population. Alternative fuels have big advantages over gasoline, and electric-car purchases are rising, but more needs to be done to become less dependent on foreign oil. Pump is a great way to learn more about the other options out there.
5. Bag It
Bag It is a documentary that focuses on the world’s overuse of plastic bags and other plastic items. It’s a light-hearted film that is both educational and entertaining as it calls out our everyday use of plastic and other items we think can be recycled that actually aren’t recyclable at all.
This film leaves a lasting impression because it points out all the everyday plastic items you use that you may overlook. For example, milk used to come in glass containers — now it comes in cardboard containers with plastic caps. Where do those plastic caps go once you throw them out? Are they even recyclable? Think more about what you use, and you’ll find plastic all around you.
Making a difference in your environment starts with you. Take fabric bags to the grocery store, use a non-plastic water bottle, or cut down on your gasoline consumption. Even small steps can make a big difference.
Do you have any favorite docs that helped you reconsider how you’re making a difference for the environment? Share them in the comments below!
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