I write about the social impact of entertainment and how media can be used for good. Views are my own.

© 2024 • All Rights Reserved
Zac Efron in Down to Earth. Image: Netflix

Zac Efron Wants You to Start Caring About the Planet

Travel blogs are usually a great way to get some exciting ideas for your next vacation. While Down to Earth does some of that by highlighting adventurous experiences and incredible restaurants, its real achievement comes from pushing a generation of people who grew up with Efron on their TV sets, inspiring them to think more critically about how their actions impact the earth and their bodies, even if the starting point is questionable pseudo-science. (Sorry, Darin. I will not be putting my bare feet on the grass after my next long-haul flight in an effort to reset my body-clock. Even Zac was skeptical of that one.)

I’m a huge advocate of celebrities using their influence to make the world a little bit better, and I think Down to Earth is an exact manifestation of that. For this reason alone, I’m a fan.

What is Down to Earth About?

In each of the first season’s eight episodes, Zac Efron and wellness expert Darin Olien travel to different parts of the world: Iceland, France, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Lima, Puerto Rico, London, and Iquitos. In each location, they explore how communities in these regions have innovated to live in healthy and sustainable ways. Usually, each episode features some combination of local infrastructure, cultural customs, sustainable foods, and interviews with locals about their lifestyle.

Investigating a bee farm on a rooftop in London. Image: Netflix

Why are Zac Efron and Darin Olien the Hosts?

Zac’s journey to working on this project might be surprising to some people. Several times throughout the series, Zac berates Hollywood and its impact on his outlook on life. Driving down a winding road in Sardinia, he contrasts his life in the spotlight against the happy, mentally sound lives of the people he met earlier in the day. On another drive escaping the buzz of New York, he shares how he feels like he’s “getting dressed for a runway show everyday,” knowing he needs to be prepared for the paparazzi. All these feelings about Hollywood culminate in a respectable acknowledgment of how he could be doing more with his platform, driving him to work on this show.  

There’s a glitch in the matrix… I haven’t contributed to society. I’d made TV movies. That feeling crushed me for a long time. I do want to stand for something in life. And that desire to make a difference is how I ended up here. In a rental car, with a health guru, on the way to an apple orchard.

Because success without purpose is a pretty meaningless life.

Zac Efron, Down to Earth, S1E5

Darin’s journey to this show is a bit easier to explain. Darin is the author of the book Superlife, a health and lifestyle guide that provides an overview of “the sole factors that determine whether or not we will be healthy, fit, and free of illness.” He’s also the creator of Shakeology, a liquid-based nutrition system. Zac first heard about Darin on a podcast, and really liked his philosophy. So they met up for lunch, hit it off, and as they say, the rest is history.

Looking over the French countryside. Image: Netflix

What Were Some of the Findings in Down to Earth?

  1. Blue Zones are areas where centenarians tend to come from. These areas include Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece. Some of the common norms across each of these regions include a focus on family and relationships, regular physical activity, and higher consumption of plant-based nutrition. It all sounds pretty intuitive, but I suppose the hard part is putting it into action.

  2. Water is way more complex than you thought. Apparently, purifying water strips it of all its nutritious, natural minerals. The volume of minerals can be measured through a metric called “TDS,” or Total Dissolved Solids. I don’t think my Brita filter is going to help me increase my natural mineral consumption, but at least now I know that it might matter.

  3. Even fountains are fancy in France. Speaking of water, did you know that you can find sparkling water fountains in Paris? We need to make this a thing in the rest of the world, ASAP.

  4. Any surface can be green. In the London episode, Zac and Darin explore the prevalence of rooftop gardens and green walls, both of which can help increase green space in urban environments. Watching the speedy installation of a green wall shows just how quick and easy it can be to transform the environmental footprint of your surroundings in perpetuity.

  5. Darin Olien really likes camu camu. It seems as if in every episode, Darin seeks out an illusive fruit called camu camu. After watching the entire series, it was still unclear to me what exactly that is. A quick Google search tells me that camu camu is a small, bushy, riverside tree from the Amazon rainforest in Peru and Brazil, and that the cherry-like fruit it bears is incredibly high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The more you know.

  6. We should be drinking our iced coffee with bataua milk. In the very last episode where Zac and Darin visit Iquitos, they drink a creamy, nutritious beverage called bataua milk, which comes from palm fruit. After their first couple of sips, the rich, nutty flavor is elevated with a splash of coffee. I’ve never had it, but it sounds delicious. If anyone knows where to find bataua milk in Los Angeles, give me a holler.
Enjoying bataua milk from palm fruit in Iquitos. Image: Netflix

Ultimately, Down to Earth is a fun and entertaining series that gets you thinking about sustainable living. It also helps that after watching an episode, you feel like you’ve embarked on a whirlwind adventure with a couple of good buddies. A lot of the information warrants some further research and fact-checking, but the fact that this series can inspire people to even start getting into a sustainable mindset speaks volumes about what Zac and Darin have accomplished here. If you’re looking for something uplifting to distract you from the modern-day madness that is 2020, give Down to Earth a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.

4 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2024 • All Rights Reserved