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'Down to Earth with Zac Efron': A new Netflix documentary on sustainability

'Down to Earth with Zac Efron': A new Netflix documentary on sustainability

A wild Troy Bolton appears

Text: Anna Aye

Editor: Janice Sim


When Netflix revealed that it would be doing a new travel docuseries centered on exploring the effects of climate change and increasing ways to become more sustainable, I'll admit that I was pretty indifferent about it. But get this: Zac Efron — yes, that Zac Efron who will eternally remain to be Troy Bolton with the moppy bangs — was announced as the host of this new series, and I was confused, to say the least. The first thought that came to my mind was: What does this basketball-dribbling, time-travelling fratboy know about climate change?

Joined by Darin Olien, an environmental activist who travels the planet in search of exotic superfoods and ingredients for supplements, Efron galivants around the world to "form heartwarming and inspiring human connections". Together, they learn about the detrimental impact that the human race has inflicted upon the planet in our thirst for progress, and attempt to undo the damage that we've done. Along the way, the duo meet with many environmental activists and sustainability experts as they unveil the nitty-gritty, teeth-pulling efforts of protecting our planet Earth.

How did we get here?

Sustainable living have been gaining much traction as of late, and there's no excuse not to be informed on environmental issues when we live in the era of information. We've had a couple of documentaries touching on the need to become more ethical in our ways of consumption and to adopt more eco-friendly practices, but none of them were as big of a wake up call as this one. On a platform as major as Netflix, featuring a international hearthrob, this might be the fuse to activate the generation of TikTokers. They are after all, the children of the future.

Zac Efron

What makes Zac Efron the man of the moment?

What really made Zac Efron, child star and professional theatre actor, swap out his glamorous tinseltown lights for a damp, obscure forest? I feared it might be a thirst trap for viewership at first (he did mention having a safe word in the trailer). But in retrospect, Efron's always been heavily involved in eco-friendly endeavours, even hosting Discovery Channel's "Great Global Cleanup" on Earth Day, which featured other aspiring young activists learning how to live clean. He's also deeply passionate about Mother Nature and exploring the unknown — but will he succeed in influencing the rest of us to face the issue of climate change head on? It's hard to gauge at this point.

The big-bad S-word

It's tricky tackling the issue of sustainability — especially when the potential for greenwashing blinds you from retaining any sort of information. Let alone, everything is after all, made for television. While Efron's passion for saving the Earth may rub off on us as we watch his new docuseries, we need to answer the big question here, and that is: Are we actually going to clean up our act? Will watching a sweaty, shirtless Efron tread through the jungles and stomach pesticide be the catalyst we need to finally take the future of our planet's survival into our own hands? Or would it be just another addictive reality show capturing a celebrity's poor-man travel escapades?

Where is the representation?

France, Puerto Rico, London, Iceland, Costa Rica, Peru, and Sardinia are all the countries featured in this docuseries, so where's Asia in all of this? Somehow, with our tropical jungles and progressive infrastructure to promote sustainability — a no-brainer would have to be Japan — no country in Asia was represented in this grand influential stint to educate the world about change. Gotta add, I'm not holding my breath for a second season.

Netfix's Down to Earth with Zac Efron will premiere 10 July in the US.

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