13 sustainability podcasts that will keep your earbuds plugged in

Red ear buds
ShutterstockOlena Kurashova

It's easy to get lost in lists of podcasts about the environment, sustainability and all the intersections therein. It's harder to find a show that keeps your finger off the double arrow. But the right podcast offers hours upon hours of delicious ear candy that can better your brain and inform your work.

I've listened to dozens of podcasts and found a bunch that will keep you moving, whether you're commuting or literally running around. (We rounded up these 13 great podcasts last March and others years earlier — most of which are going strong.) Some of the best serials are by broadcast professionals, which are already easy to find. I focused more on shows that are harder to unearth. (As much as I was dying to hear "Hell or High Water," it's only a make-believe podcast from the novel Weather.)

These 13 solutions-focused podcasts, in random order, offer provocative conversations with sustainability stars, as well as music and thoughtful editing that make you happy to let the next episode autoplay.

Nori Carbon Removal Newsroom, Bite and Business of Fashion, Collage with logos for podcasts

1. Podship Earth

This prolific podcast, by California Secretary for Environmental Protection Jared Blumenfeld, kicks off with EPA chief Gina McCarthy and encounters many other high-level figures, including former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Inbal Becker-Reshef, director of NASA’s food security and agriculture program. Whether examining "green guilt" or the most recent COP talks, Blumenfeld's insider view is relevant and whimsical. He even talks with his parents.

2. The Drawdown Agenda

The podcast explores Project Drawdown, whose founder Paul Hawken appears in the debut episode, and whose executive director, Jonathan Foley, is in a recent show. It's an independent, detailed take on some of the 100 high-impact carbon-reduction solutions from the original "Drawdown" book, one by one, with longtime journalist Fergal Byrne conversing with members of the Project Drawdown team. Bryne also hosts the twice-weekly Sustainability Agenda podcast.

3. Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg

Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg is dedicated to highlighting hope in agriculture "on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories." That's also the gist of her podcast. Recent episodes feature Tina May, senior director of sustainability at Land O'Lakes, and Dan Sonke, agriculture sustainability manager at Campbell Soup Company, as well as Devon Klatell, food initiative director at the Rockefeller Foundation. Much of it is consumer-focused (such as featuring a Hollywood power couple's DIY hydroponic gardening systems), which is worth following if food trends are central to your work.

4. Bite

This show from progressive stalwart Mother Jones chews on matters related to food in unexpected ways, whether it's the "murder" of New Coke or "Chicken, waffles and smashing the patriarchy." You'll learn about Silicon Valley's office free-meal leftovers, millennial farmers and even carnivorism among arch-conservatives. Hosts Tom Philpott, Kiera Butler and Maddie Oatman keep it tasty, and the production values are top notch.

5. Nori Carbon Removal Newsroom

Startup Nori's team of blockchain geeks has solid podcast skills. Their carbon-removal platform can be hard to understand, but this show keeps things simple. Anytime there's a big corporate carbon-reduction headline, this podcast probably will talk about it. To go inside Microsoft's ballyhooed deadline of 2030 for carbon negativity, Nori talked with company Carbon Program Manager Elizabeth Wilmott. Nori also offers a Reversing Climate Change podcast.

6. Getting in the Loop

Industrial designer and researcher Katie Whalen offers this intelligent exploration of all facets of the emerging circular economy. It's useful whether you're new to circularity or an early mover in these, um, circles. Some episodes explore specific questions: Is there enough cobalt for electric cars? Where can you study the circular economy? Other episodes are broader overviews, such as understanding circular supply chain management. Whalen speaks with experts from the circular space including Kate Daly, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, and Ken Webster, head of innovation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

7. America Adapts

Host Doug Parsons is an ecologist who has worked for the National Park Service. He's also a fine storyteller who gets around, talking to all sorts of communities around the nation as they face the impacts of climatic change. He features women, LGBTQ communities and people of color in a trip to New Orleans. He travels to the Colorado Water Congress. He explores "Keeping history above water" in St. Augustine, Florida. Parsons' dispatches take the pulse of experts and "folks on the street" alike.

8. The Business of Fashion

London-based writer Imran Amed explores innovators, celebrities and activists in the Business of Fashion. Most episodes are not sustainability-focused, but there are plenty to merit the podast's place on this list, such as: "Woman are at the forefront of the sustainable fashion revolution," "Designing with biology" and "Blockchain explained." Eileen Fisher talks about "35 years of implementing sustainable thinking" in another show.

9. The Last Environmentalist

Host Josh Dorfman knows how to podcast, and he's back with a new title after hosting the "Lazy Environmentalist" podcast in an earlier decade. You'll meet "The billion dollar company with the mission to reverse global warming." You'll explore "The most comprehensive plan ever to reverse global warming." You'll learn how to "Invest like your future and the planet's future depends on it." Dorfman keeps the conversation moving, so you're not skipping away after 11 minutes. Since Dorfman knows the field, he interrupts his guests to give much-needed perspective.

10. Plastisphere

If it feels lonely to geek out about how plastic is produced and wasted, Plastisphere will keep you company. In seven episodes, independent journalist Anja Krieger delivers a rare, engaging deep dive into things such as confusion over bioplastics and waste picker economies. Binge on it to wise up about some of the science behind the many worlds of plastics.

11. TILclimate

TIL stands for "today I learned," and each week on TILclimate, there's a new quick lesson on some big concept, such as geoengineering, carbon pricing or the difference between energy and electricity. It offers answers to "stupid" questions that newbies may be embarrassed to ask, courtesy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But if you're already an expert, you can recommend these bite-size 101s to new hires or old friends.

12. Mothers of Invention

Yes, the last episode was released in May. But don't you want to hear former Irish President Mary Robinson laugh with comedian Maeve Higgins about the world's most pressing man-made problems? I did, and I let it play and play. The duo presents tales of ingenuity from women around the world, such as eco-fashion designer Thao Vu in Hanoi, Vietnam, and marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson in New York City.

13. Hot Take

Climate journalist Amy Westervelt, who also produces the binge-worthy Drilled true crime take on Big Oil, does this Hot Take on climate reporting. She and co-host Mary Annaïse Heglar don't flinch at the tough issues, embracing inclusivity as they "make the understory the story." Their media crtitique considers charged topics in mainstream and indie outlets, as well as social media and fiction. There aren't that many episodes at this point — the podcast launched in November — but their enthusiasm and pick of subjects make this worthwhile.

Tags: