Green Learning On-Demand, thanks to Kanopy

Sustainability Movie List

Throughout the month of April, friends of the environment across the world will pause to reflect on the 50-year anniversary of Earth Day and the 148-year anniversary of Arbor Day. Through these uncertain times, there exists a wide variety of digital technologies to help the Notre Dame family take a deeper look at our relationship to our planet and our place within the global community even while apart. 

One of these resources is Kanopy, an on-demand streaming video service for educational institutions like the University of Notre Dame. Using your Notre Dame Net ID and password, all faculty, staff, and students can access the University’s digital collection of film resources on Kanopy – which includes documentaries, educational television programming, and even complete digital courses in a variety of topic areas. Searching for keywords including “sustainability”, “nature”, and “energy” at will lead you to hundreds of useful and diverse programs for those interested in our environment. Here are just a few of those resources that we are excited to watch this Earth Month using Kanopy.

If you have comments or suggestions for other films available on Kanopy, please email Caitlin Jacobs at

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Documentary (2014)

Food waste is one of the largest and most personal environmental challenges of our time. Canadian filmmakers Jen and Grant dive into the issue of food waste from farm and retail, right to the back of their own fridge. In a deliciously entertaining challenge, they pledge to quit grocery shopping and survive only on discarded food.

Nature: What Plants Talk About (2013)

Hardcore science is effortlessly integrated with a light-hearted look at how plants behave. Scientist J.C. Cahill takes us on a journey into the “secret world of plants,” revealing an astonishing landscape where plants eavesdrop on each other, talk to their allies, call in insect mercenaries and nurture their young. It is a world of pulsing activity, where plants communicate, co-operate and, sometimes, wage all-out war.

Plastic China: The Lives of Recycling Plant Workers in China (2016)

This acclaimed documentary illuminates the human side of the global recycled plastics economy by focusing on a plastics processing plant in a small Chinese town. The facility is operated by two families: the family of the owner and a family of employees. Eleven-year-old Yi-Jie works alongside her parents while dreaming of attending school. Kun, the facility’s ambitious foreman, hopes for a better life. The film examines global consumption and culture through the eyes and hands of those who handle its refuse.

Ice on Fire (2019)

An eye-opening documentary that focuses on many never-before-seen solutions designed to slow down our escalating environmental crisis, ICE ON FIRE goes beyond the current climate change narrative and offers hope that we can actually stave off the worst effects of global warming. This film is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and features beautiful footage of “a world worth saving”, and accounts from individuals who find themselves on the front lines of a changing climate.

Pearl Fisher (1985)

This short documentary records a critical moment in the history of Indiana’s freshwater ecosystems, which once hosted a large population of pearl-producing mollusks and other aquatic life. As the waterways changed in response to technological innovation, international trade, and resulting stresses on the environment, so too did life along the Wabash for hundreds of Indiana fishers. 

Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping (2016)

90% of the goods we consume in the West are manufactured in far-off lands and brought to us by ship. The cargo shipping industry is a key player in the world’s economy and forms the basis of our very model of modern civilization; without it, it would be impossible to fulfill the ever-increasing demands of our societies. Yet the functioning and regulations of this business remain largely obscure to many, and its hidden costs affect us all. 

Earth (2019)

Where do the materials we build with come from? In seven locations in North America and Europe, we observe miners, engineers, and foremen at work gathering the materials needed for construction and other industries. In closely observed, panoramic shots of plowing, hacking and roaring excavators, and in conversations with the people who operate them, the film ponders the question of how much earth has to make room for our resource-driven lifestyles.


Originally published by Caitlin Jacobs at on April 14, 2020.