Big Ideas for a Small Planet

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Big Ideas for a Small Planet TV Poster Image
Hip docuseries sells viewers on environmentalism.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Encourages viewers to be proactive and more environmentally responsible.


Dire predictions about the future of the environment may be scary to younger viewers. Brief footage of floods and other natural disasters.


Some fairly lighthearted cursing, like "bulls--t," "badass," "hell," and "screw."


Tie-in with Lexus hybrid cars. Some brands are visible in the background -- such as Coors Light, Honda, Firestone, and 7-11.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer visible.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary series takes a strong environmentalist stance. It's so persuasive, in fact, that it may result in tweens and teens encouraging parents to ditch their SUVs or buy hemp clothing. Interviews with experts and entrepreneurs sometimes contain lighthearted expletives. Each episode features a "Lexus hybrid living tip," and several other brand names appear on screen, usually in the background.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byebmipa August 24, 2009

the channel

what channel can I watch these episodes on?

What's the story?

In the documentary series BIG IDEAS FOR A SMALL PLANET, which airs as part of Sundance Channel's environmentally focused \"The Green\" programming block, each episode focuses on a single area of environmental interest, such as fuel, clothing, or housing. A regular cast of experts and a rotating pool of activists, entrepreneurs, and thinkers comment on and explore each featured topic. For example, the fuel episode profiles several folks involved in alternative-fuel projects -- like a struggling small-business owner from Southern California who installs second fuel tanks in diesel vehicles so they can run on vegetable oil. Another entrepreneur connects car buyers with biodiesel-ready vehicles, and a race-car driver talks about why he drives an ethanol-powered car.

Is it any good?

The exhortations to get involved in evironmental activism that accompany the individual profiles (along with expert commentary) are optimistic, inspiring, and often funny. Commentators are attractive, well-spoken, and witty -- which, along with the show's jump-cut editing and hip, uplifting music -- creates a program that's attractive to younger viewers without feeling overly pedantic.

But Big Ideas for a Small Planet clearly has a message, and those looking for absolute objectivity won't find it here. And some lighthearted cursing and product tie-ins make it a show that parents might want to watch with their kids -- or at least check in about.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about environmentalism. What makes someone an environmentalist? What is the media's role in spreading environmental messages? What point(s) is this series trying to make? What do you think producers want the show to accomplish? On a more personal level, what can families do to protect and improve the environment? What lifestyle changes could you make? What luxuries are you unwilling to give up in the name of going green? What should you do if family members disagree about how to pitch in?

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