HECTOR, N.Y. — Local bands like Donna the Buffalo, Big Mean Sound Machine and Sophistafunk may have drawn in the crowds, but the Grassroots Big Splash Sustainability Weekend aspired to be more than just a concert.

The three-day event, which spanned Labor Day Weekend, was educationally and environmentally focused, with sustainability at its foundation.

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The festival brought nonprofit sustainability groups, local businesses and concerned residents together to discuss solution-based alternatives to issues like hydrofracking and the storage of liquified petroleum gas.

Founded five years ago, The Big Splash festival was initially conceived as an educational weapon against hydrofracking. Audiences were drawn to the festival to hear local bands perform, and between sets they could browse the various nonprofit informational booths to learn about hydrofracking and sign petitions against it.

“When fracking became a threat to the area, we decided to do what we knew how to do: bring people together through music and dance,” said Lissa Farrell, a Grassroots organizer and the instructor of a yoga class recently added to the festival’s schedule.

Today, Big Splash has expanded in size and message. New additions to the program, such as yoga classes and a recycled instrument workshop for kids, have doubled the number of people camping out at the festival since last year, bringing in 1,500 attendees and 19 bands over the course of the weekend. And while hydrofracking is still a prevalent issue at Big Splash, the festival has shifted its focus toward renewable energy.

Selena Hodom, production manager for the Grassroots Festival, said the event aimed to “not only address the problems that we have environmentally, but to also present solutions to those issues, options for people to discover for themselves how they can contribute to helping the environment.” Hodom said that she believes Big Splash is the most important event that Grassroots puts on.

Donna the Buffalo performs at the Big Splash. (Alyssa Gilliam/Ithaca Voice)

Education about the environment and renewable energy was the main focus of the festival. From Big Splash organizers to nonprofit leaders and all of the various band members, everyone offered their own unique perspective on how to go green.

Some of the highlights:

1) Start small: Edgar Brown attended Big Splash as a volunteer for We Are Seneca Lake, an organization founded to protest the storage of natural gas in facilities within the Finger Lake area.

Brown said while some people find the prospect of a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle overwhelming, it doesn’t need to be a drastic life change. “It’s not going to happen all at once,” Brown noted. “Start small and be kind to yourself.”

He suggested that everyone should take a look at how they consume and the choices that they make for consumption.

“A very small thing would be plastic shopping bags. We don’t need plastic shopping bags and they’re made from fossil fuels, so to reduce the amount of waste we put back into the environment is one of the small things that we can do,” Brown said.

2) Make friends with the planet: Farrell, the yoga instructor for Big Splash, admitted that it may seem a little strange, but to her, making friends with the planet is one of the best ways to become more sustainable.

“The planet is our true home and it provides us with so much. To have a relationship with it is really important,” Farrell said. She explained that children have no problem with the concept, but adults can become too preoccupied with their busy schedules to think of the earth as a living thing.

Farrell said that she believes if we can start with our personal relationship with the earth, than it will naturally lead us down a path that will help us navigate issues that we’re facing.

3) Go solar: Hodom, the Grassroots production manager, advised everyone to educate themselves renewable energy options like solar power.

“Solar energy has made huge leaps and bonds in the last few years and companies are coming out with new technology every day. Know what your options are,” Hodom said. And the nonprofit organizations weren’t the only ones advocating for solar as a environmentally friendly alternative.

Sean McLay, guitarist for the band Funknut, said that in addition to recycling and composting with his family, he has also invested in solar power.

“All of the lighting in my tool shed comes from solar power,” McLay said, “I’ve been doing that for about six years now.”

4) Be selfless: Susan Oliver, owner of Barn-Livin’: Green Homes for Blue Collars, was tabling at the event to promote her eco-green barn homes. Oliver said that she strives to be sustainable in order to leave a better planet for her children and grandchildren.

Oliver said that her personal rule of thumb is always to give more back to the environment than she takes. She also explained that there is a negative stereotype sometimes associated with environmentally friendly businesses and events.

“I don’t think going green has to be where people are labeled as ‘tree-huggers’ or extremist,” Oliver said, “‘Green’ is just the concept of not being selfish.”

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