In his Netflix show Down to Earth, Zac Efron proves to be much more than Troy Bolton from High School Musical, or that hunky guy from Baywatch. Efron and his close friend Darin Olien (or as many people refer to him, the “Indiana Jones of Superfoods”), travel the world, learning how to live more sustainably. They tackle some of the world’s biggest environmental problems and share ways that different countries are combatting them effectively.
Part of the show’s appeal is getting to know the entertaining and humorous duo of Efron and Olien. The team visits eight incredible locations on their inspirational journey, and the ones that stood out to me the most include Iceland, France, Sardinia, and London.
In the pilot episode, Efron, Olien, and the crew explore the natural beauties of Iceland, a country that specializes in renewable energy. They tour a powerplant and learn that 100% of Iceland’s electricity is generated from natural, renewable resources such as volcanic activity underground and their 10,000 extraordinary waterfalls.
On their trip to France, viewers learn that they’ve been drinking water all wrong. In Paris, everyone drinks spring water, instead of single-use bottles that are bad for the environment, or purified water, which strips spring water of its many healthy, natural minerals. They ensure the best quality water is accessible to all of their people by providing over 1,000 public fountains throughout the city, which offer both regular and carbonated water for filling reusable bottles. If someone is without a reusable bottle, there are vending machines stocked with empty ones that they can purchase.
Another fascinating location was the Barbagia region of Sardinia, which is considered by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner as one of five blue zones around the world. This means that people live significantly longer than average, some even past the age of 100, with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. In this episode, we discover how these people manage longevity through diet, natural exercise routines, and ability to destress.
The London episode focuses on ways to decrease pollution. The city has a long history of polluting the air, streets, and rivers, which has been a significant health problem to the people living there. However, over the years, London has been making great strides in reducing this problem, such as their policy called “congestion charging.” This states that in order to enter London’s inner-city, where many of the tourist attractions are, each car must pay a fee of 11-12 pounds per day, and some higher-polluting vehicles up to 100 pounds. This has decreased car usage by 20% in the area. Viewers get to watch Efron and Olien join a volunteer group for the day where they pick up trash along the Thames River. Additionally, the duo put on their bee suits and learn the importance of honeybees to the environment.
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The message of Down to Earth is not necessarily that we need to apply all of these methods of sustainability into our lives. For instance, in one episode they literally bake a loaf of bread in the boiling sand of a hot spring. This has been a criticism of the show by some Americans, who think that these ways of living are not applicable to this country and are therefore irrelevant. However, the critics are missing the point. The purpose of the show is not to adopt these exact ways of living, but rather open our minds to new ideas. Whether it’s using more renewable energy, putting a greater emphasis on locally sourced food, or reducing the amount of pollution we produce, we can create our own sustainable practices that make sense for us as a nation.
In the words of Zac Efron in episode #3, “Question everything. Think differently. How you work, what you eat, how you learn, who you can be, what you want versus what you actually need. And remember that change is totally up to you, by challenging old ideas.”