“Down to Earth with Zac Efron” is my new Netflix obsession created by Zac Efron and Darin Olien. This duo opened up a conversation on humanity’s impact on the Earth as they traveled around the world exploring holistic health, environmental challenges, while also looking at solutions.
I’m sure everyone noticed that Zac Efron has been off the grid recently, I guess we finally figured out why. This show is a passion project for him. Zac notes in the show that he felt like he was spinning. He asked himself what he was doing with his life and how he could use his platform with a bigger purpose in mind. I think it’s safe to say he figured it out, and with a little help from a friend. So, who is Darin Olien? Well, if you’re in California, you probably have heard his name before. Darin is a deeply known exotic superfoods hunter, supplement formulator, and author of the book, “SuperLife: The five fixes that will keep you healthy, fit and eternally awesome.”
After watching the entire season through, with an open mind, I found myself loving the fact that this wasn’t just another travel docuseries. Zac and Darin took their celebrity platform and used it to educate the general public in a way that was raw and unfiltered. There are a total of eight episodes focusing on different countries with themes surrounding sustainability and environmental challenges. Countries include Iceland, France, Costa Rica, Sardinia, Lima, Puerto Rico, London, and Iquitos.
The show overall is enthusiastic about how we can protect our Earth from further damage but explains that we will disappear long before the Earth does. I recommend this show to anyone who wants to learn how simple things such as shopping for locally produced food, building a garden wall, or picking up trash, can help take care of our Earth, so it lasts longer for us to live on it.
Here are my takeaways from each episode.
Episode one was all about Iceland’s renewable energy. While Zac and Darin had some fun visiting Omnom Chocolate in Reykjavik and making their own chocolate bars (yum by the way), they also visited places such as the Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Station, which is the largest geothermal power plant in the world. Almost all of Iceland’s energy is from renewable origins such as geothermal power and hydropower. It was also interesting to learn about how waterfalls and volcanos can power homes, buildings, and even heat their roads, so they don’t have to shovel the snow off.
Explained by a professional in the Netflix show, Hellisheiði works by the wells that are drilled thousands of meters into the ground, which penetrate reservoirs of pressurized water. Some numbers for you, the water warmed by the Earth’s energy, can get up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit, and the maximum amount of electricity the station can produce is 303 Megawatts. That’s some massive power.
France, the city of lights, and water? Episode two is all about water. Before heading to France, Zac and Darin stop to see a water sommelier with Anna Kendrick at Petit Ermitage in Los Angeles. I didn’t even know water sommeliers existed before this. The visit did set up their trip to France because then they had a better understanding of how and why water has different tastes.
The city of Paris has a deep connection to water. Zac and Darin met deputy mayor Célia Blauel, to learn about contaminants, and warn everyone against single-use plastic. The United States could learn a thing or two about that. Not only do they have one of the best public water systems, but they also have a spiritual connection to it. The duo talked with a priest and doctor from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes (the beginning of the doctor’s interview is one of the most unfiltered scenes of the series, and slightly hilarious). The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a place people visit in hopes the water will provide healing to those who are ill, and they have the records to prove it has worked.
Costa Rica was one of my favorite episodes of the series. Zac and Darin visited an eco-village with a small environmental footprint as well as a wildlife rescue center. The wildlife rescue center does its best to nurse hurt animals back to health and release them back into the wild as soon as they can. They started out receiving around one to three animals a week to now receiving around three to four animals per day.
In the Limón Province, Punta Mona holds a community of 44 families from 28 different countries. They have a nontraditional school that includes teaching students learning various languages, building toys, and preparing their meals. One of the most intriguing and weird parts of this episode was learning about the way they produce power in their community. They collect solid waste (yup poop, I see you making that face) into bags and then use the methane produced to power the village. They are doing their best to leave a small carbon footprint, which is something we could all do a little better to save our Earth.
Have you ever wondered how people can live for so long? Well, the episode in Sardinia will give you an insight as it is a “blue zone,” which is an area that has a large number of centenarians, meaning people over 100. There are five “blue zone” locations: Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Nicoya, Costa Rica, and Ikaria, Greece. Also known as the “Power 9,” there are nine evidence-based commonalities with the centenarians in these locations. They are: move naturally, have a keen sense of purpose, de-stress, stop eating when 80% full, eat more fresh produce, drink a glass or two of wine a day, belong to a faith-based community, put family first and keep them close, and have a network of people who support healthy behaviors.
Zac met with a few different centenarians to see what their lifestyles were. He and Darin spoke to doctors who contradicted the diet, which previously restricted Zac to stay in shape for movies. He happily says in the show, “I’m so happy that I’m eating carbs again.” I’m happy for you too, Zac, welcome to the club.
The episode in Lima, Peru, was all about cryopreservation, otherwise known as preserving possibly wiped out DNA of a species. Potatoes were the species of interest in this episode. I liked how this episode focused on food, more specifically locally sourced food. A problem Lima has among other countries is biopiracy. Biopiracy is exploiting naturally occurring genetic material or biochemical. It occurs in agricultural contexts, too, though. Lima produces high-quality products like maca. Maca has been planted for centuries by indigenous peoples in Peru, both as a staple food product and for medicinal purposes. Maca exports have the potential to build new markets and income for Peruvian farmers; patents related to maca may take the opportunity away from the actual innovators of the crop.
Zac and Darin later met at a Michelin starred restaurant called Central, which is known for highlighting ingredients native to Peru. They were able to try vegan meals that Darin enjoyed and non-vegan meals that Zac could also enjoy.
A heart-wrenching episode was about Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico gets hit by many hurricanes, and unfortunately, they never fully recover from each of them. Zac met up with the San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz about how they are trying to heal after their latest hurricane, Hurricane Maria. In the time of restoration, they are finding sustainable energy methods to use and develop on the island, one being solar panels. Solar panels obtain clean, pure energy from the sun. As a result, when all of the power goes out during a hurricane, hope isn’t completely lost. Placing solar panels on homes or buildings fights greenhouse gas emissions, decreases our dependence on fossil fuel, and promotes our overall public health.
Zac and Darin also visited a farm supported by José Andrés’ organization World Central Kitchen which made thousands of meals of a day to help those in need after the hurricane. They stopped at one of the survivors’ houses to help clear debris that they hadn’t been able to clean up themselves along the way.
I know almost everyone dislikes bees, but they do amazing things for our ecosystem. On a green New York City rooftop, Zac and Darin met a beekeeper and his 150,000 honeybees and tasted some of their honey directly from the source. Bees pollinate, which helps plants grow, breed, and produce food. A majority of the plants we need for food rely on bees pollinating them. In fact, bees visit more than 90% of our global harvests to pollinate. Off in London, they examine more green roofs and walls. Green roofs and walls, known as green infrastructure, can help manage a building’s interior temperature, lessen stormwater flow, and have heating and cooling energy savings. Zac and Darin test their green thumbs by creating a green wall on a building with a little help from an expert.
London has been making efforts to diminish air, land, and water pollution, which includes decreasing the number of cars driving around the city every day. Visiting a pickup site hosted by Thames21, Zac and Darin see how trash can accumulate in the water quicker than we can clean it up. Thames21 shows them how they work with communities to improve rivers and canals for people and wildlife in London.
In the final episode of “Down to Earth with Zac Efron,” Zac and Darin head to Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is known as the gateway to the Amazon. Here they explore the Amazon River and the palm trees that provide resources to the natives. We are able to learn about some of the plants that grow near the river, including camu camu, una de gato, and wasai. Their plants have a long history of being used medicinally, whether that be for vitamin C, reduction of inflammation, pain relief, or other ailments. Some may be entirely against natural medication, while for others, it’s all they know, and it works just as well, if not better. Darin seemed to look way more at home in the jungle compared to Zac, I’ll admit.
As they moved through the jungle, they got to the Ayahuasca Foundation. Ayahuasca is one of the most misunderstood and infamous plants in the Amazon jungle. The mixture takes you on a hallucinogenic journey that can last for 10 to 12 hours. When performed by a trained shaman, it can be an effective and safe way for people to receive healing treatment. They do have other non-hallucinogen treatments that can physically help clear your body. The foundation is there to educate and support the conservation of indigenous knowledge and culture. It also supports the Amazon rainforest and encourages people to raise awareness about sustainability, permaculture, and harmonious environmental relationships.
That’s what the entire series is. It’s about raising awareness about our environmental challenges and discovering ways to protect the Earth so we can live a long, happy life on it.
So, as Zac said, “It’s a nice world we’ve got here; let’s make it last.”